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US Gov Launches Probe into Florida University For Alleged Anti-Palestinian Discrimination Against Student Who Compared Israel to Nazi Germany

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The Florida State University stadium. Photo Credit: Pixabay.

The US Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has opened a formal investigation into alleged anti-Palestinian discrimination at at Florida State University against a student with a history of derogatory comments towards Jews and Israel, a pro-Palestinian nonprofit announced last week.

Ahmad Daraldik, a Palestinian-American student at Florida State University (FSU) who spent much of his childhood living in the West Bank, filed a complaint in April 2021 against the university alleging anti-Palestinian discrimination in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.

Two years later, the Education Department is now launching a probe to examine whether FSU allowed a hostile environment to form on campus and reinforced such a climate in violation of Title VI, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance.

Palestine Legal, which is providing legal support to Daraldik, describes itself as an organization that helps “college students, grassroots activists, and affected communities who stand for justice in Palestine.”

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FSU and the Education Department didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment for this story.

Daraldik alleges he was subjected to repeated discrimination at FSU. According to the 2021 complaint, he received anti-Palestinian and anti-Muslim messages such as “you stupid Palestinians,” “deport him to Gaza,” and “dumb ass monkey a** piece of Arab s***.”

According to Daraldik’s complaint, such comments contributed to a hostile environment in which people felt free to discriminate against him.

In 2020 Daraldik wrote numerous comments on his social media profiles of an antisemitic nature, including “f*** Israel” and “stupid Jew.” He also compared Israel to Nazi Germany.

Jewish and pro-Israel organizations, as well as Florida state officials, criticized Daraldik for his comments, which pro-Palestinian groups including Palestine Legal and Students for Justice in Palestine, defended as speaking out against what both organizations described as Israel’s “occupation” of Palestinian territory.”

Then-FSU President also issued a public statement referring to Daraldik’s online posts as “offensive” and “antisemitic,” saying the school has no place for discrimination.

Daraldik issued a public apology for the antisemitic comments in June, saying they were made in ignorance when he was a young teenager.

“I came to FSU for the opportunity to learn and grow in a safe environment,” Daraldik said of the investigation, according to a press release from the advocacy group Palestine Legal. Instead, I was met with racist attacks and smears just for being a Palestinian student leader and for speaking about my life as a Palestinian growing up under Israel’s violent system of apartheid. I hope this investigation will lead to accountability so that no other student has to face the racism and discrimination I’ve experienced as a Palestinian student at FSU.”

FSU isn’t the first school to be investigated by OCR for alleged anti-Palestinian discrimination. Last month, the Education Department office opened a similar investigation into George Washington University (GWU). According to Palestine Legal, the probe was the first of its kind examining allegations of discrimination targeting Palestinians.

Just one month earlier in April, OCR opened an investigation into GWU to determine whether administrators allowed a professor to discriminate against Jewish students. StandWithUs, an educational nonprofit, filed a civil rights complaint alleging the university would not intervene when Professor Lara Sheehi, who teaches a mandatory diversity course, invited an antisemitic speaker to address her class, launched a smear campaign against Jewish students, and later filed disciplinary charges against them in retaliation after they accused her of antisemitism.

GWU is hardly alone. State University of New York (SUNY) New Paltz, for example, is also under investigation, with OCR seeking to determine whether the school refused to intervene when Jewish students were expelled from a campus group for being Zionists.

U.S. colleges and universities have seen a surge in anti-Jewish and anti-Israel activity in recent years, according to government agencies and advocacy groups that track such incidents. Earlier this year, the Anti-Defamation League reported that antisemitic incidents on campuses increased by 41% in 2022 compared with the prior year.

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