The scenic Ohio-based Oberlin College has been rocked again by a major antisemitism scandal with the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights investigating the college for failing to stop harassment of Jewish students.
The new federal probe is just the latest setback for the liberal arts college, which has been reeling from a 2021 Fox News Digital report that its “Professor of Peace” Mohammad Jafar Mahallati called for the eradication of the Jewish state when he served as the Islamic Republic of Iran’s ambassador to the U.N. in the late 1980s.
According to a late September U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) letter, “OCR will investigate whether the College failed to respond to the harassment of students based on national origin (shared Jewish ancestry).”
The OCR letter was sent to Oberlin College alumnus Dr. Melissa Landa, who filed the formal complaint in 2019. Landa told Fox News Digital: “Before Professor Mahallati deleted his students’ blogs, I read them along with other alumni, and saw that they reflected his violent antisemitic teachings. Through his lectures and his readings, Mahallati taught his students that Israel is an apartheid, settler-colonial regime and that Hamas is a benevolent organization that represents the will of the Palestinian people.”
Landa spoke to “The Big Money Show” on Fox Business in early November about the alleged outbreaks of antisemitism at Oberlin College.
The OCR investigation into the management of Oberlin College and Mahallati coincides with Hamas’ mass murder of 1,400 people in southern Israel on October 7. The massacre has catapulted Hamas’ lethal antisemitism and violent jihadi ideology into the spotlight. Landa said, “Mahallati endorsed the terrorist group that was responsible for the worst massacre of the Jewish people since the Holocaust. For this reason alone, Oberlin should terminate his employment.”
Landa, who graduated from the college in 1986, said “Oberlin College is happy to see Jewish students attending Shabbat dinners and baking challah on Friday afternoons. But there is intolerance for Jewish students and faculty who wish to express their Jewishness by supporting Israel. There is a fundamental lack of understanding that for most Jews, a connection to Israel is central to their Jewish identity and an expectation that to be accepted on Oberlin’s campus, all expression of that Zionist expression must be forfeited.”
Andrea Simakis, director of media relations for Oberlin College, told Fox News Digital, “On September 29, the United States Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) notified Oberlin of a 2019 complaint pertaining to alleged harassment of Jewish students on campus. This complaint was filed by a 1986 Oberlin graduate. Oberlin is cooperating with the OCR and working to respond to the request.
She continued that Professor Mahallati is on sabbatical this semester. Professor Mahallati has stated that he believes in the right of all people to exist in peace and endorses a two-state solution that would allow the people of Israel and Palestine to peacefully coexist.”
Landa submitted a dossier to the OCR of the alleged anti-Jewish and anti-Israel incidents from 2014 to 2017, including student comments about Judeophobia on campus.
According to Landa’s complaint, in the Autumn of 2016, “Oberlin students enrolled in Religion 270 with Professor Jafar Mahallati of Islamic and Peace Studies post anti-Israel blogs online that reflect the professor’s lectures and assigned readings.”
The complaint asserts that Mahallati’s course teaching involved claims that “Israel is a colonialist state” and “Israel is an apartheid state.” The complaint cites him in connection with “support for Hamas and terrorism.”
Numerous Fox News Digital press queries to Mahallati were not returned.
Simakis said, “Oberlin abhors antisemitism and all forms of hate, discrimination and harassment. The college works every day to ensure that our campus is safe for all students, faculty, and staff, including those who identify as Jewish. Antisemitism has no place on our campus.”
Landa fired back that “To correct this oppression, harassment, and ostracization of Jewish students, Oberlin should adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism. Alumni made this request to President Ambar a few years ago, but she ignored our communication.”
Oberlin College’s highly controversial President, Carmen Twillie Ambar, has refused over the years to meet with the family of members of murdered Iranian dissidents whose killings were reportedly covered up by Mahallati, according to two Amnesty International reports.
Fox News Digital has been told by critics that Ambar’s chief of staff, David Hertz, is said to vehemently oppose the college’s adoption of the IHRA definition. Hertz declined to respond to a Fox News Digital press query.
In a fact sheet supplied by the college Mahallati has denied that he was complicit in the clerical regime’s mass murder of 5,000 Iranian political prisoners in 1988.
The federal investigation into alleged Jew-hatred at Oberlin College is unfolding at a time when the U.S. Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona announced on Tuesday that he would pull the plug on federal funding for colleges if they fail to combat antisemitism. In 2023, Oberlin College received over $5 million in federal grants.
Andrew Patinkin, Oberlin class of 2019, told the Jewish Press that the bashing of Israel is “pervasive” at the college. The 2016 Jewish Press titled its article about pro-Israel students at Oberlin: “At ‘Liberal’ Oberlin No Speech Rights for Non-Haters of Israel.”
Dr. Frieda Fuchs, an Oberlin-based academic who has previously taught at the college, told Fox News Digital that “Oberlin College has taken limited steps to ensure a balanced approach to the Israel question. Presently, pro-Palestinian students dominate the discourse surrounding the ongoing conflict. While it is commendable that Jewish students receive counseling, support, and comforting meals from organizations like Chabad, there is room for a more proactive engagement from all students.”
Fuchs, a veteran campaigner against antisemitism in Oberlin, noted, “As long as Oberlin College maintains a culture of passivity on the Israel issue, the challenges related to anti-Israel sentiments will persist. Empowering students to take a more proactive stance and address the issues surrounding the Israel narrative is crucial. Overcoming the fear of potential social or academic repercussions, along with the support of campus leadership, is essential for students to express their perspectives and contribute to a constructive dialogue.”
In 2016, after a high-intensity campaign to oust an Oberlin professor, Joy Karega, who wrote a series of antisemitic Facebook posts blaming Israel and Jews for 9/11, the college grudgingly fired the non-tenured academic.
The prominent Iranian-American human rights activist Lawdan Bazargan has campaigned to compel Oberlin to fire Mahallati’s from his college position since 2020.
Landa and Bazargan spoke at a protest against Mahallati on the campus of Oberlin in November 2021. Bazarga’s brother Bijan was murdered by the regime for his left-wing views in 1988. Bazargan told Fox News Digital, “Oberlin College maintains that Professor Mahallati ‘believes in the right of all people to exist in peace.’ Mahallati’s silence on the October 7, 2023, attack by Hamas terrorists against Israel raises questions about his stated beliefs.”
Iranian dissidents from Bazargan’s organization have accused Mahallati of being loyal to the Islamic Republic of Iran. The U.S. government has classified Iran’s regime as the world’s worst international state-sponsor of terrorism.
Bazargan said “Mahallati has not publicly condemned the atrocities committed by the gender-apartheid Islamic regime of Iran against women, children, and youth. Despite the regime’s well-documented human rights abuses, there is a conspicuous absence of critique from Mahallati on these issues. Furthermore, documents suggest that Mahallati glorifies Hamas terrorists and labels Israel as an apartheid state, yet he has never articulated his perspective on the two-state solution or acknowledged the rights of Jewish people to a sovereign state.”
She added, “Oberlin College’s continued support for Mahallati is a shameful endorsement of Mahallati’s views and a disregard for justice, accountability and human rights.”
Oberlin College has a long tradition of radical activism. In 2019, the owners of a local bakery were awarded $44 million after being falsely accused of racism by students and members of the school administration.