A ring of anti-Semitic students at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) has turned out to be larger than originally thought, Canary Mission, a clandestine campus watchdog organization revealed on Monday.
By: Lea Speyer/The Algemeiner
According to Canary Mission, newly discovered postings by the group — which it previously described as a “cesspool” of racism — included calls for terrorism against Jews and the mocking of the Holocaust.
In all, far above 100 tweets and social media postings featuring radical and racist rhetoric have been uncovered and connected to the network, which consists of dozens of current UTK students and alumni.
“The expansion from 23 people to 34 shows that there was more people involved than we realized,” a Canary Mission representative, speaking on condition of anonymity, said. “Sadly, there could very well be even more radicals that we have not yet uncovered.”
The students, according to the watchdog group, have ties to UTK’s Muslim Students’ Association (MSA) and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapters.
“So far, this is the worst case we have uncovered,” Canary Mission said.
Canary Mission’s expanded dossier shows that the posts span a wide range of offenses, including incitement to and threats of violence; anti-Semitism; racism against both blacks and whites; homophobia; praise for Hitler; and the endorsement of terrorism and terrorist organizations.
Newly added to Canary Mission’s database of offenders are several UTK alumni, including Mohanad Alhams, who graduated in 2015 and was a member of the SJP and MSA groups. In several anti-Semitic tweets in 2013, Alhams mocked Holocaust suffering:
Summer Awad — a 2016 graduate who was a member of UTK’s SJP chapter and is a supporter of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement — shared an image on Facebook in June featuring the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem alongside five hands representing various forms of Palestinian aggression against Israel.
The image was accompanied by a poem which read: “…We will scream out the names of the martyrs and paint with their blood the proof of our claims…Do you hear our war cry…Do you see our weapons?”
However, one of the most surprising finds, the watchdog said, were the “familial connections that came up,” including brother and sister Ameen and Sarah Abdel-Khalek.
“Radical terror supporter Ameen Abdel-Khalek’s sister is a fellow UTK student and SJP and MSA member. She is as radical an endorser of violence and terror as he is,” Canary Mission said.
In October 2015, Sarah tweeted a video of two Palestinians beat-boxing in praise of terror group Hamas, PLO founder Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Fatah party.
That same month, amid a wave of terror in Israel, Sarah tweeted a graphic in support of three Palestinian terrorists who were killed while carrying out attacks.
Ameen’s social media accounts, Canary Mission found, are rife with posts spreading terrorist groups’ incitement, propagating anti-Semitic blood libels and stereotypes, inciting against homosexuals and transexuals, and demonizing Israel.
Ameen’s social media accounts, Canary Mission found, are rife with posts spreading terrorist groups’ incitement, propagating antisemitic blood libels and stereotypes, inciting against homosexuals and transexuals, and demonizing Israel.
Another familial connection discovered by the watchdog is between UTK student Afeef Youssef Kamah — a “radical Hamas and Hezbollah supporter” — and his mother, Suhad Ziadeh-Kahah, who “regularly participates in UTK SJP activities.”
Canary Mission told The Algemeiner it hopes that by going public with its information, “UTK’s administration will finally publicly condemn the vile bigotry, antisemitism and support for terrorism among their students.”
“We also demand that National SJP and National MSA, at the very least, publicly condemn their UTK chapters,” the watchdog added.
Greg Kaplan, UTK’s Hillel faculty adviser and a member of the university’s Diversity Task Force, told The Algemeiner that despite the revelations, the school has a “very healthy campus climate.”
“Diversity is a major issue on campus right now and a big part of the curriculum. We are trying to make sure UTK has a more tolerant environment,” he said. “I was surprised to read about the antisemitic behavior from students at this university, because certainly they are not paying attention in class. This is a very serious situation that is being monitored very carefully.”
Responding to The Algemeiner’s request for comment, Karen Simsen, director of media and internal relations at UTK, stated:
The university is committed to supporting an environment in which tolerance, civility, freedom of expression, and responsible citizenship are integral parts of our learning experience.
Our campus principles of civility and community encourage all members of the volunteer family to consider how others view and relate to the world and to remember that we are all part of a larger diverse campus.
The university does not condone the past statements that have been noted in The Algemeiner’s reports and social media posts attributed to members of our campus community by the Canary Mission.
We have made it clear to our campus community that bigotry toward anyone — especially specific ethnic, religious or marginalized groups — is not consistent with the values of the University of Tennessee.
We have addressed the information brought to our attention through our standard processes for responding to incidents of bias.
Staff from the Office of Student Conduct reviewed the reported posts for potential violations of our student code of conduct; staff in the Office of the Dean of Students combed through past reported incidents of bias in search of any related historical issues.
Our campus police department has been alerted to the issues in order to explore any potential threats or security concerns.
Our dean of students, Melissa Shivers, has had several meetings regarding these issues. These meetings have involved student leaders and advisors from our Jewish and Muslim student organizations to discuss the reports and any underlying issues.
She has reported that despite the respectable differences between each organization, the consensus is that the three groups are in solidarity with each other and disagree with the assertions alleged in the articles regarding an inhospitable campus climate.
During the same meetings, students were advised on what they should do if they feel unsafe, threatened, harassed or targeted.
We have also had many discussions with community leaders and alumni to address their questions regarding these reports and to share with them the measures we take to monitor and address issues that arise about our campus climate.
Canary Mission released its second extensive report revealing anti-Semitic and racist online posts by persons affiliated with UTK on August 11th. The move, the group said, was in response to UTK’s downplaying of The Algemeiner’s initial exclusive report on the issue on August 4th.