When professors cross the line into antisemitism on social media

An overwhelming number of professors have taken to social media to espouse what can only be described as hatred for the Jewish people.
(Photo: Getty Images)

When searching for courses, one priority for many students like myself is having a meaningful relationship with a fun and engaging professor.

In a world where information is at the tip of our fingers and we make not only physical but also digital fingerprints, it is necessary to look at professors’ social media to understand their values, particularly when they are spreading hate speech.

At the University of Pennsylvania, where I attend, an overwhelming number of professors have taken to social media to espouse what can only be described as hatred for the Jewish people.

Across college campuses, there has been an uptick in antisemitism frequently spearheaded by professors, and social media platforms can be a great way to understand what professors truly believe. 

In the wake of the October 7th massacre, like many others, I immediately called loved ones and friends to check on whether they were safe and alive.

However, some professors at Penn had a very different reaction. As I register for classes next semester, it made me realize how important it is to seek out professors who uphold ethical standards.

You might have seen hateful social media posts from professors at your school — and here are just a few examples from Penn.

On October 7th, while searching on X for information about the massacre that had just occurred, I came across this tweet from English professor Huda Fahkreddine: “While we were asleep Palestine invented a new way of life.”

Fahkreddine must have recognized that her post was inflammatory, as the tweet has since been deleted. However, she continued her defamation of Jewish people when she posted on October 26:

“Gaza is not an open-air prison. Prisoners receive visitors and aid is allowed to be passed to them. Gaza is a Nazi-style concentration camp, a concentration camp under bombardment.” 

As someone who has family members who were murdered in the Holocaust, I find her desecration of the memory of those slaughtered by Nazis to be unacceptable.

However, Fakreddine disagrees with me, writing in a tweet on October 17, “The assumption that all Jewish people condone the genocidal Zionist project in Palestine is the epitome of antisemitism and a desecration of the memory of Holocaust martyrs.”

Not only is Fahkreddine dismissing our pain and history and exploiting it to further her agenda, but she is also turning our pain on us and making us out to be the culprits.

Fakreddine isn’t the only Penn professor sharing such views on social media. Bob Vitalis, a political science professor, felt it necessary to post on Facebook the logo of the al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas.

As if he didn’t realize what that logo meant, he casually captioned the post, “a quick easy way to reduce my friends’ list (and it will look cool on your jacket too).” 

As someone who took Professor Vitalis’ class, I knew he held negative beliefs about Israel, but did I think he would post the logo of a terrorist organization? No. Had I known, I would have avoided taking his class.

Meanwhile, Anne Norton, a political science professor, commented on an October 8th article that reported on how “Women were raped at the area of the rave next to their friends’ bodies, dead bodies…” 

Norton commented on the post, “Please don’t amplify this” (meaning, don’t amplify the barbaric murder of innocent Israeli civilians).

Norton also promoted misinformation. Responding to a post asking, “Is there any reason to think the hospital bombing actually wasn’t Israel?” Norton wrote “no.” This is despite evidence that the explosion was caused by a failed Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket.

When an institution tolerates professors who are spreading misinformation rather than educating with facts and critical thinking skills, we have a serious problem.

As students, we can anticipate propaganda-filled classes by examining a professor’s social media. While these messages won’t be included in the course description, they can be readily found online.

Norton, moreover, does not even think antisemitism on college campuses is a real problem. On a post on X that said that “Jewish Zionist students feeling unsafe on U.S. college campuses” is “absurd propaganda,” she retweeted the post saying “true.”

For Norton, the countless antisemitic hate crimes, including Jewish students being beaten, are simply propaganda.

These are only a few examples of antisemitic social media posts from Penn professors. It is concerning, to say the least, that some professors don’t even acknowledge the rise of antisemitism, antisemitism which, in part, is fueled by their colleagues.

While some professors may mask their beliefs while lecturing, this hatred could come out while grading papers and exams.

While, unfortunately, there are countless examples of professors espousing hate on campus, as the whole country witnessed at Cornell, many professors take to their social media accounts to show their true colors.

If Penn and other universities do not have the moral courage to remove these professors, students must take it upon themselves to look after their own safety.

If you want to take a class that will push you to think critically rather than indoctrinate you through spreading misinformation, it is necessary to research the professors beyond the course description. 

It is the sad reality that Jewish students across college campuses need to be more careful. While professors’ social media reflects what they are posting publicly, the difficult truth is that none of us know what they are saying in private.

It is a professor’s responsibility to educate and care for their student’s well-being and what we are witnessing on social media accounts is rejecting that very commitment.

Read more: We asked our university student readers how they’re feeling. The responses were harrowing.

Subscribe to This Week Unpacked

Each week we bring you a wrap-up of all the best stories from Unpacked. Stay in the know and feel smarter about all things Jewish.