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February 14, 2023 3:04 pm

US Withdraws Nomination of Activist Who Accused Politician of Being ‘Purchased’ by Pro-Israel Groups


avatar by Andrew Bernard

Professor James Cavallaro at an IACHR meeting, 24 March 2014 (Photo: Wikipedia)

The United States has withdrawn its support for a human rights activist who accused US House Minority leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) of being “Bought. Purchased. Controlled” by pro-Israel groups, State Department Spokesman Ned Price said Tuesday afternoon.

The announcement comes a day after an exclusive Algemeiner investigation revealed that Prof. James Cavallaro had a multi-year history of incendiary posts critical of US foreign policy, Israel, and pro-Israel elected officials.

Speaking at a State Department press briefing Tuesday afternoon, Price told The Algemeiner that Cavallaro’s statements “clearly do not reflect US policy.”

“They are not a reflection of what we believe, and they are inappropriate to say the least,” Price added. “We have decided to withdraw our nomination of this individual.”

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Price said that the administration was not previously aware of Cavallaro’s comments and that they had informed him that his nomination was being withdrawn on Tuesday morning.

Cavallaro had been nominated Friday by the US government to a 2024-2027 post with the Organization of American States (OAS), a regional body headquartered in Washington, DC, that promotes security, democracy, and economic development in the Americas. Cavallaro had been nominated to be a commissioner with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), an agency within the OAS.

In one Dec. 2022 tweet, now deleted, Cavallaro invoked language and imagery often associated with antisemitic claims of pro-Israeli political and financial control over US domestic politics.

“Bought. Purchased. Controlled,” Cavallaro wrote alongside a link to an article about the funds raised for Rep. Jeffries by AIPAC and other pro-Israel groups.

In other tweets, Cavallaro characterized Israel as an “apartheid state” and accused the US and Israel of “atrocities.”

In an 11-part Twitter thread he posted on Tuesday, Cavallaro claimed that the State Department had told him that his description of Israel as an “apartheid state” was the reason his candidacy was withdrawn.

“Today, the State Dept informed me that they were withdrawing my candidacy because of my view that the conditions in Israel/Palestine meet the definition of apartheid under international human rights law.” Cavallaro wrote. “I reminded @StateDept officials that @HRW, @amnesty, @btselem & @HumanRightsHLS have issued reports naming the conditions in Israel/Palestine as apartheid.”

Cavallaro’s comments extended far beyond criticism of Israel and included extensive criticism of then-candidate Joe Biden, whom Cavallaro in separate tweets in March 2020 had called “a senile gaffe machine with a reactionary […] racist, pro-war record,” a “nasty MFer”, and “incoherent.” In May 2020, Cavallaro called for “a commission to review all documents related to Tara Reade,” a woman who accused Joe Biden of sexual assault during the 2020 Democratic primary. Cavallaro’s Tweets suggest he supported Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) during that primary.

Among other comments about elected officials, Cavallaro referred to Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) in November 2021 as a “Shameless Motherf*cker”, and said in 2019 that Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) should resign because of what he said were her “repeated moral failings.”

Cavallaro began mass deleting Tweets from his timeline on Monday after The Algemeiner reached out to him for comment.

“I have removed many of my previous tweets because I was proactively & in good faith addressing concerns the @StateDept had raised during the vetting process about public expressions of my personal views on U.S. policy,” Cavallaro wrote.

Cavallaro did not respond to multiple requests from The Algemeiner for comment.

In his thread explaining the withdrawal, Cavallaro compared his situation to the initial decision to withhold the appointment of Ken Roth to a position at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, a decision Harvard then reversed.

Censorship of human rights advocates who denounce apartheid in Israel also affects countless Palestinian academics, activists & students who do not have the platform that @KenRoth or myself have,” he said.

The Simon Weisenthal Center (SWC) on Tuesday welcomed the withdrawal of Cavallaro.

“The US did the right thing – Cavallaro should never have been nominated in the first place,” SWC said in a statement. “Anti-Semites in 2023 should never be nominated for positions of responsibly in our government much less in the field of human rights.”

In the wake of the State Department’s decision, figures in academia and the human rights community came to Cavallaro’s defense on social media.

“We may have different views about Israel, but I know @JimCavallaro as a deeply dedicated Human Rights expert/advocate and am appalled that his nomination has been withdrawn,” said Michael Roth, President of Wesleyan University, where Cavallaro is a professor.

In addition to Wesleyan, Cavallaro teaches courses on human rights law and practice at Yale Law School and UCLA Law School, and he has previously taught at the law schools of Harvard and Stanford. The University Network for Human Rights, where Cavallaro serves as executive director, supervises “interdisciplinary engagement in human rights practice at universities across the country and beyond,” according to its website.

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