Columbia Must not be a Platform for Antisemites

Columbia University (Shutterstock)

I was recently shocked to discover that my alma mater, Columbia University, is hosting an extremist antisemite under the auspices of the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), for a reading of his viciously anti-Jewish book of “poetry” entitled Rifqa. The dangerous and violent content of this book and El-Kurd’s other public statements should render him persona non grata at any serious academic institution.

El-Kurd is a throwback to the most lurid anti-Jewish fantasists of the Middle Ages. In his book “Rifqa,” El-Kurd alleged that Jewish Israelis and Zionists eat the organs of Palestinians, writing: “they [Israelis] harvest organs of the martyred [Palestinians], feed their warriors our own.” In May 2021, El-Kurd tweeted that Zionists have an “unquenchable thirst for Palestinian blood.” In June 2021, he claimed that Zionism is inherently linked to “blood thirsty[sic] and violent” actions.

El-Kurd’s grotesque claims of Jewish cannibalism bring to mind the pogrom that was conducted in my home country of Iran in the 1910 Shiraz blood libel, when the Jews of Shiraz, Iran, were falsely accused of ritually killing a Muslim girl. The entire Jewish quarter was pillaged and 12 Jews were murdered. The canard that Jews use the blood of non-Jewish children for ritual purposes, which originated in Medieval Europe and only penetrated the Middle East in 1840 which terrible persecution in Damascus, was heavily promoted by the Nazi Reich and remains a shockingly common trope under the regimes that borrowed most directly from its ideology, Ba’athist Syria and the Palestinian Authority.

In Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969), the Supreme Court of the United States held that in order to lose First Amendment protection as incitement to violence, speech must be “directed to inciting imminent lawless action and is likely to produce such action.” In Virginia v. Black (2003), the Supreme Court upheld a Virginia statute making it illegal to burn a cross in public with the intent to intimidate others. In so doing, it defined true threats as “those statements where the speaker means to communicate a serious expression of an intent to commit an act of unlawful violence to a particular individual or group of individuals,” and clarified that the speaker “need not actually intend to carry out the threat.” It is in this context that we must understand Mohammed El-Kurd’s accusations that Jews are cannibals who eat the internal organs and drink the blood of children from other religions: throughout history such accusations have directly served to incite violence against innocent Jewish civilians.

El-Kurd has also denied the ancient Jewish connection to the Land of Israel in disturbing racialized terms. In February 2021, he tweeted: “How are Israelis gonna say they’re indigenous to Palestine but can’t walk outside without getting sunburned?” Similarly, in March 2021, he tweeted: “‘ancestral homeland?’ Then explain why y’all can’t walk around Jerusalem without getting sunburnt?”

El-Kurd has additionally repeatedly referred to Israelis and Jews as “Nazis.” In June 2021, El-Kurd tweeted that “Zionist settlers… are the sadistic barbaric neonazi [sic] pigs that claim to be indigenous to our land.” On May 12, 2021, he tweeted: “I don’t care who this offends they have completely internalized the ways of the nazis.” The same day, he tweeted to a non-Israeli Jew: “YOU ARE KILLING MURDERING BOMBING ETHNICALLY CLEANSING COLONIZING LYNCHING KRYSTALLNACHTING US IN REAL TIME CURRENTLY RIGHT NOW AND YOU HAVE THE NERVE TO MAKE HOLOCAUST ANALOGIES…”

There is nothing to be gained and much to be lost by Columbia University providing a platform to such an unhinged progenitor of vicious snd dehumanizing hate speech. Most immediately, the hosting of the speaker may foreseeably lead to direct attacks, including physical violence, against Jewish and pro-Israel students on Columbia’s campus and in the rest of New York City.

Earlier this month, American University faced a similar choice after it initially decided to sponsor a campus speech by El-Kurd.  The American University administration listened to its at-risk students, heard their pain, and made the decision not to endorse a divisive and disturbing message of Jew-hatred. American University pulled its sponsorship of the event.  Columbia should follow suit and not provide this vile figure with a platform to spew his bigotry.

About the Author
Dr. Sheila Nazarian is an Emmy Nominated, Board Certified Plastic Surgeon with a private practice in Beverly Hills. She founded the Nazarian Institute where she helps medical professionals develop their business skills by Thinking BIG – Branding, Innovation, Growth. Dr. Nazarian stars in the Emmy Nominated Netflix Original Series, Skin Decision: Before and After. She also enjoys being an influencer on social media, talking about Jewish identity and combatting antisemitism.
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