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August 11, 2016 12:28 am

EXCLUSIVE: After U of Tennessee Downplays Campus Antisemitism, Covert Watchdog Releases Expanded Dossier, Says Prior Report Only ‘Tip of Iceberg’

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An anti-Israel "apartheid wall" at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Photo: Students for Justice in Palestine at UTK Facebook page.

An anti-Israel display at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Photo: Students for Justice in Palestine at UTK Facebook page.

The recent exposure of antisemitic and racist behavior by a ring of students at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) represents only the “tip of the iceberg,” the leading campus watchdog group which first brought the issue to light told The Algemeiner on Wednesday.

Canary Mission — a secretive group that monitors anti-American, anti-Israel and antisemitic activities on college campuses — made the claim in response to a statement by UTK on Monday downplaying an exclusive report by The Algemeiner which revealed antisemitic and racist online postings by persons affiliated with the school. 

“The story published in the Algemeiner on August 4 highlights seven social media posts by just six of our students over a span of five years,” the school told, a local ABC affiliate. “Several are no longer enrolled as students and are no longer part of our campus community.”

In addition, a spokesman for UTK told The Algemeiner that the report “far exaggerated the climate on our campus,” adding that UTK “does not condone the statements included in the story [and] we believe those current and former students were within their constitutional rights to post their personal viewpoints.”

But new information provided by the covert watchdog to The Algemeiner shows a scope of antisemitism and racism on campus that extends far beyond the six current and former UTK students originally named by Canary Mission. “The full picture is far more shocking,” a Canary Mission representative, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Algemeiner.

According to the group, 14 current students, eight former students and one individual — who “is not a student but an agitator” — with ties to UTK’s Muslim Students’ Association (MSA) and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapters are responsible for a total of “97 highly racist, bigoted, antisemitic or threatening posts” on social media. “You can be sure that there are more we did not find,” the watchdog added.

“The posts highlighted in the [original] report were intended to be an alert for the UTK administration and the public at large to investigate the matter further,” Canary Mission said.

In The Algemeiner’s original report last week, Canary Mission said it had uncovered a “cesspool” of extreme Jew-hatred and other forms of bigotry at UTK. This, the group said, is being spread by students connected to the school’s branches of SJP and MSA.

One UTK SJP member proudly praised Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, tweeting, “Had to write about a leader for DCL class. Wrote about Hitler. Cuz he’s a boss,” and a recent UTK graduate attacked a Jewish social media user, referring to “dirty filthy Jews.” The founder of UTK’s SJP chapter tweeted support for terror against Israel

According to Canary Mission’s latest data, released on Wednesday, authors of the racist postings include the founder and president of UTK’s SJP, as well as the group’s vice president and the president of UTK’s MSA branch. A breakdown of the social media posts (up to date as of publication time) provided by the watchdog, shows that 34 posts were made by MSA members, 25 by SJP members and 38 by joint members of both the MSA and SJP.

utk graphic 2 updated


“The vast majority of the posts were made by individuals within the past two years, while they were students at UTK and active in their MSA or SJP chapters. As the administration noted in its response, the highlighted posts span a period of five years. This indicates a long-standing problem and ought to prompt more concern, not less,” the watchdog told The Algemeiner.

“When UTK claims that ‘several are no longer enrolled as students and are no longer part of our campus community,’ they are being misleading. Graduates often remain active in the SJP and MSA campus communities for years following their graduation,” Canary Mission said, adding that it has uncovered in one such instance a 2009 UTK graduate being active in UTK’s SJP within the past year.

utk graphic 1

“When students graduate, does the effect of their hate speech spread to others during the prior three or four years abruptly vanished?” the watchdog questioned. “We know from experience that when hate speech, bigotry and promotion of violence is left unchecked, the situation on campus escalates until many groups no longer feel safe on campus.”

The 97 posts span a wide range of offenses, Canary Mission said, including inciting and threatening violence, antisemitism, racism against black and white people, homophobia, praise for Hitler and endorsing terrorism and terrorist organizations.

utk graphic 3

In January 2015, UTK SJP retweeted an antisemitic graphic featuring an iconic photo from the Holocaust, alongside an image of Israeli soldiers, comparing them to Nazis.

SJP photo 1

In April 2016, UTK SJP member Ameen Abdel-Khalek used derogatory language in reference to the LGBTQ community, tweeting:

ameen abdel khalek photo 2

In October 2015, Fatima Itmaizah — the vice president of UTK SJP, who also goes by Fatima Elharithi — switched her Facebook profile picture to a graphic promoting violence against Jews.

fatima itmaizah photo 3

The photo was posted as a wave of religiously motivated terrorist violence swept across Israel, leaving scores of Israelis injured and dead. 

In January 2013, Mohamed Ali — who ran for the position of UTK MSA’s head of public relations — shared on Twitter a meme, composed of four photos illustrating an imagined dialogue between Hitler and Holocaust victim Anne Frank.

Mohamed Ali photo 4

In March 2012, Sonya Hadjerioua, a 2015-2016 Executive Board member of UTK’s MSA, posted another racist tweet, writing:

sonya hadj photo 5

Considering the evidence gathered by Canary Mission and UTK’s muted response to the revelations, the watchdog group told The Algemeiner that the university “seems to have their head in the sand.”

“They have a serious problem on their campus and their response is to pretend it doesn’t exist. Parents will feel safer about sending their children to UTK if the administration accepts the reality and deals with it,” the group said.

“These posts reflect the uncensored and authentic character of the leadership and members of SJP and MSA on the UTK campus, deserving of condemnation to the highest possible degree,” Canary Mission said. “We hope that this new information will re-prompt the administration to seriously examine the climate at the university.”

On Tuesday, two major Jewish campus groups rebuked UTK for failing to outright condemn the antisemitism, telling The Algemeiner that the school’s approach to the issue was reckless.

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, co-founder of the AMCHA Initiative — which combats, monitors and documents antisemitism at institutions of higher education in America — and Aron Hier, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s (SWC) campus outreach arm, were also reacting to the statement released by UTK on Monday.

The college must “vociferously condemn and repudiate any and all antisemitic statements and activities by past and present members of the campus community,” SWC’s Hier told The Algemeiner, while Rossman-Benjamin described the administration’s response as “irresponsible.”

“What UTK should have said was this type of speech is heinous and despicable and call it out as antisemitism, plain and simple,” she said.

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  • E Pluribus Wombat

    Another school I will never interview anyone from.

  • campus rapeCulture

    Oh please, everyone knows HATE SPEECH is mostly directed at Christian White Males on college campuses around the country. There are entire courses of Study on White Privilege and how evil whites are throughout History. It is open HATE SPEECH against Whites.

  • Anti-semitism in the heartland of Evangelical Christians, who historically have been the most ardent supporters of Israel. What is going on!!!! Although there are some that have gone overboard, the majority are not anti-semitic but pro-humanity. It has become common knowledge that Israel has for so long treated the Palestinians inhumanely in a very subtle and subversive fashion so as to hide it from the rest of the world. Well, the world now know what is going on and is withdrawing its support of Israel in many ways. This trend will continue until Israel changes its ways or ceases to exist.
    I have been a big supporter of Israel for decades, but can no longer do so – this saddens me, but I have to follow my conscience. Morally, the US can no longer send tax payer dollars to Israel while it continues to persecute the Palestinians. The populous support in the US for Israel is quickly eroding. Politicians will find themselves out of office if they continue to vote supportively towards Israel.

  • I think we should all deluge Tennessee university on the Jew hatred being promoted. If a Jew is attending the school, they could be considered at risk and their civil rights are being affected. I think Alan Dershowitz should take this as a case. Hear me Alan?

  • John

    This seems to be a growing problem not only in the universities in the US, but worldwide. Freedom of speech is one thing, but when it promotes hate, fear, and violence against people of a particular color, culture or religion it can only be called one thing racism. Let these individuals try and express their freedom of speech in the middle east, China, Russia, or North Korea and they will end up in prison or worst. They take advantage of the freedoms of the western world to promote their agenda and even if some of their members have good intentions they need to look at the message their leaders promote which is spreading division and exclusion at any cost. For this to be allowed into our educational system is a travesty of justice and these University leaders and others should be ashamed of themselves. Go ahead and use the litmus test of allowing this type of demonstration and intimidation against any other groups (white, black, Hispanic, Native American, Arab, Catholic, Armenian, Muslim, etc.)and maybe then you can see what type of fear, intimidation, conflict, and violence this type of action would produce. In addition, add the element of terrorism into the mix such as Radical Islam or other types of fringe elements and pretty soon groups like these may become a terrorist organization or at the least a recruiting group for them to exploit and use.

  • cbanalyst

    These (stupid) students forget that Israel is the only Democracy in the mid-east and also our only ally. Palestinians keep firing rockets into Israel so what do they expect?
    Because this is the America where we have free speech, there can be no restriction on ignorant speech, no matter how provocative it becomes. You can’t fix stupid.
    Inflammatory speech by supposedly intelligent students should be instantly challenged by other students who disagree.

  • Ben Brehmer BS’72

    A couple of thoughts- I thought hate speech laws applied to everyone- so what is going on with this? The University needs to invite these groups and or individuals to leave the campus. I understand that they claim to have freedom of speech and they certainly have that right, however this is not what the university is about and has the university has the responsibility to exercise its right to protect ALL students.
    Also to those who have the idea that Mr. Hitler was such a grand leader- I hope that you are blond and blue eyed otherwise you might find yourself getting on his bad side. I would advise those who think that these references to Hitler are a sign of learning you need to visit Dachau, yes even 70 years later. Th

  • Lawrence

    Antisemitism and anti Israel sentiment is a big problem on campuses all over the world, particularly with the BDS movement. Beside earning a degree, attending college is supposed to expose students to different experiences and knowledge on a multitude of subjects to expand your mind and become more worldly. What is taking place on college campuses is the exact antithesis. Over the last several years, large sums of money have been donated to schools in order to increase influence on curriculum and propagate antisemitic and anti Israel hatred to run full speed ahead. In some schools textbooks are checked, teachers are selected, and course curriculum must be approved to make sure it meets the standards of pro Palestinian bigoted objectives are met.I even heard of a case where a student was kicked out of the class for being pro Israel. The question becomes, what can we do about it. There are advocate groups such as Christians United for Israel and others who developed training to students in order to counteract BDS and other forms discrimination. The most effective way to stop this problem is for students to take the initiative themselves and learn about the issues, instead of blindly adhering to demagoguery.The leadership of colleges should also implement policies that won’t tolerate these kinds of activities so that all students can attend college without thuggery, coercion, and violence. Of course, they won’t do this if their getting paid off. Legislators should cut off all funding until they correct this injustice. There are ways to stop this toxic environment but there isn’t enough will.

  • nat cheiman

    Get them out of these institutions

  • Edward Brandwein

    We have a fifth column growing in the US. Very bad indeed.

  • barbara strudler

    A debt of gratitude is owed to the Canary Mission, Ms. Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, the AMCHA Initiative, Mr. Aron Hier of the Wiesenthal Center, and the Algemeiner. They are all
    brave, repulsed by hatred and bigotry, and possessed of the courage to face down the cowardliness and irresponsibility of administrators who need to learn the difference between
    free speech and hate speech.

  • Lia

    Whose money keeps this uni afloat? Turn off that tap.

  • Get a life! You sound like a bunch of Democrats!!! There are a whole lot more important things
    Than worrying about people exercising their Free Speach. Things must be slow this week
    For this Crap to make the headlines.

    • pw

      For those not familiar with genocide and the holocaust this can easily say that this is nonsense and nothing to worry about. Many people including my family thought the same thing during WWII when the propaganda started. Unfortunately, it grew and became part of the common language. We as people are flawed and if we do not keep these types of things in check (knowing that it will always occur in small numbers) it can take on a life of its own. As the famous poem goes:

      First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
      Because I was not a Socialist.

      Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

      Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Jew.

      Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

      • pw

        I should have mentioned that I am republican and agree that political correctness is silly and way overdone. We shouldn’t being saying happy holiday’s to someone celebrating Christmas and we shouldn’t be giving all kids trophies so they don’t feel bad. This drives me crazy as I believe it does you as well.

        That said, there is a solid difference between people spreading hate / lies with the purpose of turning general opinion against a group such as Jews and giving too many trophies out.

    • Lena

      Woo, a right wing crap for brains.

    • Phil

      History has proven that incitement leads to violence and death. It happens every day today and happened in the past. There have already been Jews and others attacked by the BDS, “pro-Palestine,” and Muslim student groups on US college campuses. This is happening all over the U.S. They have no tolerance for others and prefer fear and violence to open discussion. Is this what we want our kids to experience in college?

    • John LeFevre

      Exactly! But let me get this straight: They let a munch of Muslims into UT, then expect them to be lovey dovey with gays & Jews? Do they even know the laws of these people’s religions, where they come from and/or their basic creed? Here’s something for UT: Other than the Welsh kid’s name, I’m not seeing anything remotely American. Sounds to me like UT would be on the right track keeping them out of Memphis, Knox, Chat & Nash campuses. No Muslims, no anti Jew rhetoric. Problem solved.