Rutgers University is no longer employing a former Syrian diplomat who defended the regime of President Bashar al-Assad during the country's ongoing civil war, the school confirmed on Thursday.
Mazen Adi first drew controversy in early November, after The Algemeiner reported that he had represented the Syrian government — which has been accused of carrying out mass killings, systematic torture, and chemical weapons attacks against civilians — at the United Nations in New York between 2007 and 2014. He repeatedly targeted Israel while at the global body, including by accusing "some Israeli officials" of "trafficking children's organs," according to a translation by a UN interpreter. Israeli officials say such charges amount to a modern-day blood libel.
After leaving Turtle Bay, Adi was hired by Rutgers — New Jersey's largest state-funded university — as a part-time lecturer in 2015. A former student told The Algemeiner on condition of anonymity that Adi defended Palestinian terrorism in class as a legitimate form of "resistance" to Israeli "occupation."
The university first defended Adi's "expertise in international law" once his background came under public scrutiny, and reaffirmed that he would teach an international criminal law and anti-corruption class during the spring 2018 semester. Rutgers President Robert Barchi personally confirmed at a town hall event later in November that Adi's history was "well-known to us and well-known to the people who employed him," and that the former diplomat "has not said or done anything in his academic life here that would be actionable."
Yet in a January 25th meeting with community leaders, including officials with the New Jersey State Association of Jewish Federations (NJSAJF), Barchi disclosed that Adi is no longer employed by Rutgers and has not instructed a class there for nearly three semesters.
"Part-time lecturer Mazen Adi is not currently employed at Rutgers and has not taught here since the summer of 2017," a representative for the school confirmed in a statement to The Algemeiner.
While Adi's name appeared in a schedule of Spring 2018 classes that Rutgers shared online in October, it was removed from another posted in January. He remains on a list of faculty and staff members in the Political Science Department.
The announcement was welcomed by Hillel Neuer, head of the monitoring group UN Watch, which has called for Adi's dismissal.
"If true, the apparent removal of Mazen Adi, who defended the genocidal policies of the Assad regime as its spokesman at the United Nations, is a small but important victory for moral clarity on our university campuses," Neuer told The Algemeiner. "UN Watch calls on Rutgers University to stop playing word games and confirm that this advocate of war crimes will never again teach their students about human rights and the laws of war."
Barchi's discussion last month with representatives from the Jewish community — which was reported on this week by the New Jersey Jewish News— touched on concerns raised about Adi, as well as other Rutgers faculty members who have made controversial remarks about Jews and Israel. These include Michael Chikindas, a microbiology professor who was disciplined after publishing multiple antisemitic and misogynistic social media posts, and Jasbir Puar, a women's studies professor who reportedly repeated allegations that "young Palestinian men ... were mined for organs for scientific research," and whose latest book accuses Israel of injuring Palestinians "in order to control them."
During the meeting, Barchi indicated that Rutgers would host a symposium on diversity, inclusion and tolerance on March 27, according to a statement released by NJSAJF. The event will "address concerns about anti-Semitism and other incidents of bias and hate on campus."
Geri Palast, executive director of the Israel Action Network, said the university president also "agreed to convene a high-level work group with representatives of the Jewish community to formulate together a statement of principles and policy as to how best to mitigate concerns of anti-Semitism in the future."
Keith Krivitzky, CEO of the Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey, told The Algemeiner that the meeting represented "a positive step," though "more needs to be done."
"University leadership should have been more forthright and proactive in responding to the concerns raised," Krivitzky said. "It took outcry and promoting to take some of these issues seriously, in particular behind the scenes by Jewish Federations and our partners on campus."
"I hope that the University administration continues to take these very real concerns to heart rather than hem, haw and hesitate due to concerns about political correctness on campus," he added.
Jewish leaders at Rutgers have in the past emphasized that while the university is not "a hotbed of antisemitism," statements by Adi, Chikindas, and Puar were seen as threatening to their community.
After Rutgers announced in December that it had removed Chikindas from the directorship of the school's Center for Digestive Health and barred him from teaching required courses, among other disciplinary measures, the Jewish campus group Rutgers Hillel observed that the professor's comments "do not take place in a vacuum."
"The revelation of his antisemitism occurred in the context of a campus Jewish community reeling from white supremacist flyers, swastikas on buildings, and the announcement that another Rutgers professor, Jasbir Puar, has published a book falsely accusing the world's only Jewish state of what amounts to a modern blood libel," the group noted.
It also pointed to Adi, who defended the "genocidal" Syrian government while supporting "the blood libel spread by Professor Puar that Israel harvests Palestinian children's organs for some nefarious cause."
Rutgers Hillel urged university leaders to exert their "moral authority" and condemn "the anti-Semitism voiced by Professors Puar and Adi," even if the university "lacks the will or ability" to take more significant action.