In March 2014, Lamiya Khandaker, a student a Connecticut College started a firestorm by accusing Professor Andrew Pessin, an acclaimed philosophy professor at Connecticut College, of engaging in “hate speech” and “institutional racism,” based on a (possibly deliberate) misreading of a 7-month old Facebook post.
Administration officials at Connecticut College, acting with extreme haste and without ascertaining the facts (I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt and would hate to think that their actions were motivated by something infinitely more pernicious), stoked the flames of hate against Professor Pessin by linking his Facebook post with racist graffiti found on college grounds. It then followed up by scheduling an event featuring rabidly anti-Israel films and speakers. One of those speakers belonged to a pro-terrorist organization that condones violence against Israelis and whose members were pictured gleefully holding Ak-47s belonging to terrorist operatives and killers.
But Khandaker, the rabble-rouser who instigated the intellectual pogrom against Professor Pessin and who currently chairs the college’s Diversity & Equity panel on the Student Government Executive Board, has a dark, sordid history of her own. While in high school, she founded a chapter of the anti-Semitic group, Students for Justice in Palestine, an organization whose mantra is “from the River to the Sea, Palestine will be Free,” a euphemism for genocide and the annihilation of the Jewish State. Moreover, SJP thugs frequently disrupt pro-Israel or Jewish themed events in violation of applicable penal law statutes as well as university codes of conduct. The college watchdog group AMCHA lists at least 43 such incidents since October 2010.
And there’s more. Khandaker, who appears to specialize in analyzing ancient Facebook posts and misreading them, has herself come under scrutiny for some rather nasty posts of her own, which she has since deleted, along with her entire Facebook profile. In light of her Facebook posts, her association with the anti-Semitic SJP and her position as Chair of Diversity & Equity, I thought it fitting to ask Khandaker some pointed questions in open letter format; so here goes.
Ms. Lamiya Khandaker
Chair of Diversity & Equity
Dear Ms. Khandaker,
In July 2014, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey accused Israel and its leaders of "committing acts of genocide and surpassing Hitler in barbarism." Leading Jewish groups, including the American Jewish Congress, the Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, termed the offensive comments "anti-Semitic," as did Israeli and American political leaders.
In response to Erdogan’s comments, Jack Rosen of the American Jewish Congress noted that the Turkish PM was “arguably the most virulent anti-Israel leader in the world” who spews “dangerous rhetoric for political gain” and incites “the Turkish population to violence against the Jewish people.”
Erdogan’s comments were not anomalous. In 2013, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, citing Erdogan’s long history of spewing anti-Semitic venom, gave him the dubious distinction of being number two in its list of “Top Ten” anti-Semitic slurs.
On July 31, 2014 in response to criticism of Erdogan's comments, you made the following Facebook post; “Everything is anti-Semitic to people wtf. It’s pissing me off.” As Chair of Diversity & Equity at Connecticut College, I am requesting that you clarify and address the following points.
- When you noted “Everything is anti-Semitic to people,” were you referring to Jewish people, Israeli people, Jewish organizations or a combination of all of these? Or were you just referring to people as a whole, Jew or gentile, who you deem to be over-sensitized to anti-Semitism.
- When you made the Facebook post, were you aware of Erdogan’s long history of making anti-Semitic statements?
- In your capacity as Chair of Diversity & Equity, do you believe that your Facebook statement is consistent with that role?
- The Facebook post in question has been removed. Did you remove the post and if so, why? Are you embarrassed by it? Did anyone advise you to remove the post?
- Your Facebook account has been deactivated, have you posted anything else that can be construed as anti-Semitic and if so, will you reveal those posts?
- In light of your own Facebook post, do find your criticism of Professor Pessin’s 8-month old FB post, for which he offered a plausible clarification, to be hypocritical?
- You state that you felt “infuriated, repulsed, depressed and unsafe” as a result of Professor’s Pessin’s post. Do you think that Jewish students and the pro-Israel community at Connecticut College have a right to feel the same way in light of your Facebook post and in light of your position as Chair of Diversity & Equity? I note that unlike Professor Pessin, you have yet to offer an explanation for that specific post.
- In your letter to Professor Pessin, you noted that his post, “insinuated Palestinians (Not Hamas) [sic]…,” can you please tell me where in his post does he utter the word “Palestinian” in either singular or plural form?
- Before writing your first letter to the College Voice, did you bother reading Professor Pessin’s comments, both before and after the post in question, where he specifically refers to Hamas and terrorists?
- Did you coordinate your letter writing campaign against Professor Pessin with Michael Fratt and Katilyn Garbe and were you aware of the contents of their letter before it was published? More specifically, were you aware that Fratt and Garbe accused Professor Pessin of “directly condon[ing] the extermination of a people”?
- In a follow-up letter to the College Voice, you referred to David Bernstein, University Foundation Professor at the George Mason University School of Law, as a “Bigoted journalist” because he “simplified [you] to a Bangladeshi who wears an Islamic head covering.” However, you failed to note that Professor Bernstein only mentioned your appearance to highlight the fact that despite your ethnicity or religious beliefs, Professor Pessin always treated you fairly in the classroom and this fact, which you readily acknowledge, did not prevent you from misreading his half-year old Facebook post. Why did you omit Professor Bernstein’s analysis from your letter and in light of his analysis, what is your justification for calling Professor Bernstein a “bigot?”
- In light of your association with the anti-Semitic SJP and your Facebook post (or posts) do you think it is appropriate for you to retain your seat as Chair of Diversity & Equity?
- Are you prepared to offer Professor Pessin an apology like your colleague, Zachary Balomenos?
I eagerly await your responses to these questions. Please feel free to address any points that I neglected to note.
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