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July 28, 2023 2:23 pm

San Diego Human Relations Commission Hit By Further Resignations Over Antisemitism Scandal

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avatar by Ben Cohen

Members of San Diego’s Human Relations Commission in an official publicity shot. Photo: San Diego Human Relations Commission

Two members of San Diego’s Human Relations Commission have resigned from their posts as the controversy over antisemitic comments made at a meeting of the body earlier this month — in which the assembled commissioners were falsely told that Judaism instructs its followers to “kill Palestinians” — continues to roil on.

The two individuals who resigned — county District Attorney Summer Stephan and county Sheriff Kelly Martinez  — were the only elected officials serving on the 31-member commission, the San Diego Union Tribune reported on Friday.

Stephan and Martinez’s resignations came amid calls for a radical overhaul of the commission, which was established in May 2020 to “promote positive human relations, respect, and the integrity of every individual regardless of gender, religion, culture, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, or citizenship status” and answers to the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, the county’s legislative branch.

“We want this HRC, we want it to succeed — but it’s failing,” Sara Brown — the regional director of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) in San Diego — told the Union Tribune. “If this commission is to succeed, they have to take a really hard, long look at themselves…The culture of the commission needs to change.”

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It was Brown who exclaimed, “Are you serious right now?” in response to the speech delivered to the commission by Khaliq Raufi on July 18.

At that meeting, which was recorded, Raufi told those in attendance that he had read a few verses of the Book of Deuteronomy — the fifth and final book of the Torah — calling it the “Book of Jews.”

“It states, ‘go kill Palestinians — wipe them all out,’” Raufi claimed. “It’s a teaching that they, on a daily basis, teach their followers in their synagogues. So how are we gonna resolve that?”

Raufi resigned from his post following a meeting with San Diego County Supervisor Joel Anderson, who had earlier denounced his “ignorant” and “hurtful” remarks.

However, in a letter to Anderson confirming his resignation, Raufi notably avoided mentioning the words “antisemitism” and “Jews” and did not offer an apology, complaining instead that the commission had let him down.

“[A]fter careful consideration, I’ve realized that I no longer feel the Human Relations Commission is a safe space for people to freely express their beliefs and engage in community building,” Raufi — who emigrated to the US from Afghanistan in 1992 — stated. “It’s essential for this body to foster an environment where all members feel respected and heard, and I feel that this principle has not been fully upheld within the current dynamics of the commission.”

Raufi delivered his speech during a debate concerning a controversy at the commission the previous month, in which another commissioner — George Khoury, a supporter of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) — denounced Israel as a “racist, fascist state” as he described how his Palestinian family fled from Jerusalem during the 1948 War of Independence.

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