Free speech has been costly for Joy Karega.
The Oberlin College assistant professor of rhetoric and composition has been placed on paid leave and barred from teaching at the college while a faculty investigation is conducted over her anti-Israel Facebook posts in February.
The Tower, a pro-Israel website, captured screenshots of the posts she has since removed.
In one, Karega said the Mossad, Israel’s version of the CIA, “orchestrated” the January 2015 massacre by two Muslim brothers at Charlie Hebdo, a satirical newspaper in Paris that frequently ridiculed Muslims. Karega posted that it was “obvious” Israel was responsible for the October downing of a Malayasian airliner over Ukraine.
She also posted that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria was not an Islamic terrorist group, but a CIA and Mossad front. “There’s been too much information out here for the general public not to know this,” Karega wrote.
College spokesman Scott Wargo, in an Aug. 3 written statement, said that since March the college has been investigating the “grave issues surrounding the anti-Semitic postings” by Karega and her “professional fitness.”
The investigation was prompted by numerous complaints about the remarks and a request from the college’s board of trustees to “challenge the assertion that there is any justification for these repugnant postings.”
College president Marvin Krislov, who is Jewish and had relatives killed in the Holocaust, also criticized Karega. He wrote in March on the college’s website that he was personally offended by her remarks but also strongly believes in academic freedom.
“Cultivating academic freedom can be difficult and at times painful for any college community. The principles of academic freedom and freedom of speech are not just principles to which we turn to face these challenges, but also the very practices that ensure we can develop meaningful responses to prejudice,” Krislov wrote. “This freedom enables Oberlin’s faculty and students to think deeply about and to engage in frank, open discussion of ideas that some may find deeply offensive.”
Wargo said the investigation is ongoing. He didn’t say when a decision would be made on whether Karega,who doesn’t have tenure, may be fired.
“The Oberlin (College) administration will continue to respect this process as it plays out,” he said.
On Facebook, Karega responded by challenging Internet trolls to “keep on, keeping on” and thanked supporters. “I am more than blessed and grateful to have people adequately prepared, equipped, and more knowledgeable than me working on my behalf,” Karega wrote.
She wouldn’t comment in an email but provided a statement from her father, attorney, Chui Karega, that said college administrators were “pandering to the dictates of vocal and wealthy religious zealots. ” Chui Karega wrote that the punishment went against the findings and recommendations of faculty and violated his client’s rights as a faculty member.
He said Karega wants to continue teaching at the college. “It is truly regrettable that an institution such as Oberlin College, with a historical legacy of activism and social justice, particularly in terms of of African Americans, is being used as a personal tool of religious extremism by a small number of people,” Chui Karega said.
During a phone interview, Chui Karega said some of the comments in the posts were not his daughter’s. He said she reposted some comments, including one saying ISIS was a CIA-Mossad front, as part of efforts to start a dialogue on Israel. Karega said The Tower misrepresented some his daughter’s posts.
“They made it look as though they were her allegations when, in fact, she was engaging in a conversation in the public,” Chui Karega said. “She’s a professor of rhetoric and composition, that’s what she does for a living.”
Karega said the matter was confidential and it was “outrageous” for the college to put his daughter on leave and publicize it.
He said the college was trying to deceive students and the faculty and the public. “They put out a statement that says she’s being relieved of her responsibilities at this time and then withhold all the information that confirms their behavior is unwarranted,” he said.
Evan Goodenow can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @GoodenowNews on Twitter.