Nov 17 (Reuters) – Last week, two University of Arizona professors were suspended and a University of Southern California professor was relegated to remote teaching while the school investigated him, all after being recorded by students while talking about the war in Gaza.
They are examples of the way the war between Israel and Hamas, set to become a campaign issue in the 2024 presidential race, is engaging U.S. university professors expressing their views on the conflict.
Israel has vowed to crush the Hamas militant group that controls Gaza since its fighters killed 1,200 people and carried off 240 hostages in a deadly rampage on October 7.
Since then, Israel has bombed much of Gaza into rubble, ordered the depopulation of the entire northern half of the enclave, and rendered about two-thirds of Gaza’s residents homeless.
The University of Arizona said Thursday that it had temporarily replaced assistant professor Rebecca Lopez and community liaison Rebecca Zapien and was investigating them after a group called the Israel War Room posted on X what it said were audio recordings of classroom conversations involving the two.
The group called the recordings “biased, anti-Semitic, patently false and in support of terrorism.”
Among the comments in the recordings, one woman can be heard saying that Hamas appeared to be an anti-Zionist group rather than anti-Semitic, while another woman compares Hamas to the revolutionary African-American Black Panther party in that it was a “resistance group”. .”
Neither Lopez nor Zapien immediately responded to requests for comment.
“This suspension, implemented without due process, sends a chilling message to AU students, staff and faculty who believe in Palestinian freedom, dignity and human rights,” said Maha Nassar, associate professor of modern history of the Middle East at university.
The University of Southern California said Friday that economics professor John Strauss will hold classes remotely until the end of the semester. According to a relationship from the university’s student newspaper, Strauss was filmed by a student protester saying “everyone should be killed and I hope everyone is killed” as he walked past pro-Palestinian protesters on the Los Angeles campus.
Strauss told the newspaper he was referring to Hamas militants, not Palestinians in general. He did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.
“We cannot discuss the details of matters that are pending investigation,” the university said in a statement about the incident.
Reporting by Andrew Hay; editing by Donna Bryson and Rosalba O’Brien
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