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'Zero tolerance': Unchecked harassment of Jews prompts financial threats against elite colleges

Georgetown suspends new academic hire, says it didn't know of her years of antisemitic comments. Online traces disappearing for Harvard students reported to FBI for alleged assault of Jewish peer.

Published: November 2, 2023 11:00pm

Updated: November 3, 2023 9:30am

Elite universities faced angry donors for tepid or equivocal statements in response to the Hamas terrorist attacks that killed a reported 1,400 Israeli civilians nearly a month ago. 

Now they're facing increasing demands to punish students caught harassing Jewish peers or otherwise violating campus conduct rules in their antipathy to Israel. 

Top law firms threatened the bottom lines of law schools by pledging Wednesday to stop recruiting from their student body without administrators showing "zero tolerance" for students' antisemitic actions. 

They cited both "rallies calling for the death of Jews and the elimination of the State of Israel" and "outside groups engaging in acts of harassment and threats of violence" on campus as unacceptable baggage for potential hires.

"There is no room for anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism or any other form of violence, hatred or bigotry on your campuses, in our workplaces or our communities," said the statement, signed by more than two dozen firms including Akin Gump, Cooley, Mintz Levin and Skadden Arps.

The Justice Department charged Cornell student Patrick Dai on Tuesday with "posting threats to kill or injure" Jews, including specific threats to "shoot up 104 west," a kosher dining hall next to the Cornell Jewish Center, and "bring an assault rifle to campus and shoot all you pig jews." He faces up to five years in prison.

Harvard, home to a letter signed by dozens of student groups blaming Israel "entirely" for the attacks, is silent on two students' alleged assault of a Jewish Harvard Business School student who was passing through an anti-Israel "die-in."

Video posted by The Washington Free Beacon, reportedly recorded by the Jewish student, shows students at the die-in harassing and closing in on him as he pleads with them to let him go home.

He repeatedly tells the throng not to grab or touch him, which they repeatedly deny doing even while yelling "shame." Protesters hold up blankets to block the recording as he looks for a way out.

The video freezes when purporting to identify Ibrahim Bharmal, one of nearly 100 student editors of the Harvard Law Review, and divinity school proctor Elom Tettey-Tamaklo among the harassers. Another video shows the throng surrounding and trapping the Jewish student as he tries to leave.

Bharmal and Tettey-Tamaklo are two of many students from recent anti-Israel activism profiled by Canary Mission, which creates digital dossiers on alleged campus antisemites from public sources.

The group, which does not disclose its principals or contributors, told Just the News it "confirmed the identification" of Bharmal and Tettey-Tamaklo after the Free Beacon identified them "and then undertook our own detailed investigation."

The Free Beacon reported that the incident was reported to Harvard Business School administrators. It said it viewed a report to the FBI that names Bharmal and Tettey-Tamaklo as attackers and refers to them as "employees of the University" who "have not yet been dismissed from their posts." 

"The FBI is aware of the allegations, however, as a matter of longstanding policy, we cannot confirm or deny the existence of an investigation," the bureau's national press office told Just the News.

Hedge fund magnate and Harvard alumnus Bill Ackman put Harvard on the defensive Wednesday night by asking why the students in the mob had not been "immediately suspended" for violating the school's conduct codes.

"How would Harvard respond if the affected student were Black, Latino or LGBTQIA? How does this man remain Editor of the Harvard Law Review?" he wrote on X, referring to Bharmal.

The Dean of Students Office page for Tettey-Tamaklo, a onetime intern for former President Jimmy Carter's research center, is now marked "access denied."

The Review removed its Board of Editors page, which names Bharmal but provides no contact information, on Thursday afternoon after Just the News asked how it would respond to the allegation against Bharmal. The page was last archived Thursday morning

Harvard, its law and divinity schools did not respond to queries on how they are addressing the reported assaults by students in positions of authority.

Other universities have been quicker to act. 

New York University said it was investigating students recorded tearing down Israeli hostage posters, and its law school is investigating since-removed Student Bar Association President Ryna Workman for using the SBA newsletter to declare "Israel bears full responsibility" for the Hamas attacks. Workman lost a lucrative job with law firm Winston & Strawn as well.

The nonbinary Workman has been unapologetic, refusing to condemn Hamas when asked by ABC News and defacing Israeli hostage posters. NYU and its law school didn't respond to queries on whether the Workman investigation now includes defacing posters and the status of the earlier poster investigation.

Georgetown didn't dawdle when a student noted that its brand-new School of Foreign Service assistant director of academic and faculty affairs, Aneesa Johnson, had a history of publicly slurring Jews

Less than 24 hours later, Dean Joel Hellman said SFS had put an unnamed "recently hired staff member" on administrative leave pending investigation of "hateful, antisemitic social media commentary" going back eight years.

Canary Mission flagged Johnson's 2015 tweets calling Zionists "bitches" because "they're dogs" and mocking a devout Jewish man as a "thief" who "grew up looking like a shaytan," which is Arabic for Satan.

"If verified, we will take immediate and appropriate action," Hellman said, claiming SFS wasn't previously aware of the new hire's commentary. 

Student Rachel Wolff, president of its Federalist Society chapter, said she'd rather fail her program than talk to Johnson, who joined Georgetown from Fairfax County Public Schools. George Mason law professor David Bernstein called Johnson's hiring "a Title VI complaint waiting to happen," referring to the Civil Rights Act provision relevant to anti-Semitism.

It's not the first time Georgetown has investigated a new hire for social media comments. 

Georgetown Law put Ilya Shapiro on leave before he even started as executive director of the Center for the Constitution, for criticizing President Biden's promise to consider only black women for a Supreme Court vacancy. 

It cleared Shapiro four months later because he wasn't an employee when he spoke – grounds that led Shapiro to quit rather than face a likely future investigation for comparable speech as an employee.