As the war in Israel rages on, some of the top universities in the United States are facing increasing pressure to punish their faculty members who are openly condoning the terror attacks that rekindled the deadly conflict.
The large-scale surprise attack Hamas unleashed on Israel last week has prompted a slew of college professors to express solidarity and sympathy with the attackers on social media. Some now find themselves targets of student-led campaigns calling for their ouster.
Yale Students: 'Freedom of Speech Cannot Be Abused'
One such petition is directed at Zareena Grewal, a Yale University professor of "American Studies, Ethnicity, Race, Migration, and Religious Studies." On Oct. 7, shortly after the Hamas attack unfolded, Grewal posted on X a series of messages praising what she called a Palestinian "resistance."
"My heart is in my throat. Prayers for Palestinians. Israeli [sic] is a murderous, genocidal settler state and Palestinians have every right to resist through armed struggle, solidarity. #FreePalestine," wrote Ms. Grewal, who describes herself in her X profile as a "radical Muslim."
The professor followed up with several other posts doubling down her support of the attack, including one that argued that "no government on earth is as genocidal as this settler colonial state," referring to Israel.
An online petition calling for Yale to immediately fire Ms. Grewal, which was reportedly started by a third-year student, has amassed over 10,000 supporting signatures in a matter of 13 hours. More than 50,000 people have signed the petition at the time of this publication.
"Freedom of Speech cannot be abused. And when one is in a position of authority and power, they must be held responsible for that speech," the author of the petition argued. "Speech that promotes, advocates, or supports violence, murder, or terrorism cannot and should never be tolerated."
Ms. Grewal has not responded to the backlash and locked her X account. Yale University, however, defended her right to free speech.
"Yale is committed to freedom of expression, and the comments posted on Professor Grewal's personal accounts represent her own views," Karen Peart, a spokeswoman for the Ivy League school, told student newspaper Yale Daily News.
Leslie Brisman, an English professor at Yale, said that he found the petition as saddening as his colleague's pro-Hamas posts.
"What kind of a university would it be if everyone had to see a conflict from one side only?" Mr. Brisman told the News.
Columbia Professor: Hamas Attack 'Awesome,' 'Astounding'
Similarly, a firestorm was sparked at Columbia University by Joseph Massad, a tenured Middle Eastern Studies professor with a long history of controversial remarks, including a 2013 column in which he suggested that there was a Zionist–Nazi collusion aimed at terminating non-Zionist Jews during the Second World War.
On Oct. 8, the first day following the Hamas attack, Mr. Massad published an article on the pro-Palestinian blog The Electronic Intifada, hailing "the stunning victory of the Palestinian resistance" against "cruel colonizers."
"The sight of the Palestinian resistance fighters storming Israeli checkpoints separating Gaza from Israel was astounding," he wrote. "No less awesome were the scenes witnessed by millions of jubilant Arabs who spent the day watching the news, of Palestinian fighters from Gaza breaking through Israel's prison fence or gliding over it by air."
An online petition called out the professor over his celebration of Hamas' initial success, claiming that such behavior would put "many Jewish and Israeli students on campus at risk."
"Many students have expressed that they feel unsafe in the presence of a professor who supports the horrific murders of civilians," wrote Maya Platek, a third-year student whose LinkedIn profile shows she has been writing for the Israeli military's Twitter account. "We call on Columbia University to hold Massad responsible for his comments and immediately remove him from the Columbia faculty."
The petition has garnered over 43,000 supporting signatures in two days since its creation.
Columbia University has yet to put out an official response to the petition. However, an open letter condemning the call to fire Mr. Massad is being circulated among students, faculty members, and affiliates of Columbia's department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies (MESSAS).
"We condemn the incendiary and defamatory petition ... calling for Professor Massad's removal from the faculty of Columbia University for exercising his right to academic freedom," the letter declared, highlighting Ms. Platek's record of working for the Israeli military.
The letter has over 400 signatories at the time of this publication, including more than 200 people affiliated with the MESSAS.
Expert: Colleges 'Hide Behind Free Speech'
It's important that American universities show moral clarity while still protecting students and faculty members' rights to free speech, argued Gabriel Scheinmann, the executive director of Washington-based foreign policy think tank Alexander Hamilton Society.
"Undoubtedly, we should all be supporting free speech—in particular, university campuses," he said Monday in an interview with The Epoch Time's sister media NTD. "[The students] are there to be able to seek the truth and be able to explore things they can't explore in other settings."
Unfortunately, according to Mr. Scheinmann, a lot of universities have issued statements that "hide behind the concept of free speech."
"There are two problems with this approach in the way they've done it," he explained. "The first is that calling for violence is not free speech, and that is a lot of what is happening here: the dehumanization of Israeli civilians, the justification and glorification of terrorism.
"The second is the double standards," he continued. "If you were to take a lot of the statements made by some of these [student] groups, or some of these professors against Israel and Jewish people writ large, and substituted it for a different minority group in America—there's absolutely no way that the university presidents would stand up for the right of the KKK to call for the elimination of African Americans in this country.
"The problem is the double standard when it comes to questions about attacks on Israeli civilians by a terrorist group, and ultimately, attacks on Jewish citizens not only there on campuses, but of this country."