As it works to play down accusations that Oberlin College’s so-called “Professor of Peace,” Mohammad Jafar Mahallati, was involved in crimes against humanity, the liberal arts college is now confronted with new allegations of antisemitism as it continues to provide a platform for an academic who has urged the destruction of Israel.
The Jerusalem Post can reveal that Mahallati, a professor of Islamic Studies at Oberlin, delivered a speech when he was the Iranian regime’s ambassador to the UN in 1988, stating: “The establishment of the Zionist entity was itself in violation of provisions of the United Nations Charter.”
Asaf Romirowsky, the executive director of the over 40,000-member organization Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, told the Post that “Oberlin has a long history of hiring individuals who are propagandists and antisemites as we saw with the now dismissed instructor Joy Karega who claimed that Israel was behind 9/11.”
He added that “The latest employment of Mohammad Jafar Mahallati who openly calls for Israel elimination is emblematic of the growth of propaganda in the academy under the guise of ‘scholarship.’ These scholar activists use and abuse their podium in the worst way possible teaching students platitudes and agitprop rather than critical thinking and looking at factual data. This is another example of how cancel culture materializes through professors who advocate for the eradication of an entire nation showing their true antisemitic colors.”
The Post analyzed the entire UN archived material of Mahallati’s speeches and letters while he was at the UN during the 1980s, particularly while he served as the Islamic Republic’s top envoy to the United Nations from 1987 to 1989.Mahallati labelled Israel the “Zionist entity” and frequently dismissed Israel’s legitimacy as a state, according to academic and policy experts, who reviewed Mahallati’s language
Mahallati defended the first Palestinian Intifada—a series of violent protests against Israel—as “the heroic uprising of Palestinians,” at the UN in 1989.He appeared to advocate for a global jihad against Israel. Palestinians are setting an example for Arabs and Muslims across the world in connection with the “holy struggle against oppression and Zionism,” Mahallati said at the UN, also in 1989.Mahallati frequently designated the entire state of Israel as Palestinian territory.
“Palestine is an Islamic territory, an Islamic heritage, and it remains an Islamic point of identity. The land of Palestine is the platform of the ascension of the Prophet Mohammad; its significance is that it contains the first kiblah direction−towards which Muslims prayed. Its occupation by Zionist usurpers is a transgression against all Muslims of the world and its liberation is therefore a great religious obligation and commitment,” Mahallati said at the UN that same year.
Ellie Cohanim, the US State Department’s former deputy special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, told the Post : “The Iranian regime engages in what I call an ‘obsessive antisemitism,’ and Iran’s former ambassador to the UN is no exception. The fact that Oberlin College would hire such a person, never mind give him tenure, is a stain on an institution that is meant to educate young Americans. Mahallati has not yet accounted for his role in the cover-up of the 1988 mass extrajudicial killings of political prisoners in Iran, with estimates of 5,000- 10,000 Iranians murdered by the regime.”
Cohanim, who fled the Islamic Republic as a young child due to Islamic-animated antisemitism, added that Mahallati’s “1989 statements at the UN glorify terrorism and what he calls ‘martyrdom,” he denies the Jewish people the right to live in any part of their ancient homeland, and he attempts to revise history by calling Israel an ‘Islamic land,’ knowing very well that Judaism predated the rise of Islam by thousands of years and that Israel is the birthplace of the Jews.
“This man is no ‘Professor of Peace.’ He is in fact a professor of propaganda and Oberlin College holds a responsibility to fully investigate Mahallati’s antisemitic statements and his knowledge of the 1988 Massacre in Iran,” Cohanim said.
Mahallati wrote in his October 2020 letter to the Post, that “[I] dedicated my life to research, teaching and writing about peace and friendship.”
However, the UN documents show Mahallati lashed out at his country’s peaceful Baha’i community. Mahallati said in 1983, according to the UN: “The problem was not religious but political; the Baha’i community conducted immoral activities under the cover of religion.”When asked about Mahallati’s Baha’i remark, Diane Ala’I, the representative to the United Nations for the Bahá’í International Community, told the Post that” Although they were made during the early years of the Islamic Republic of Iran, they are nonetheless baseless and unfounded slanders and propaganda against a group of innocent Iranians, persecuted solely because of their religious beliefs.”
She continued that “Since then, of course, the international community has become well aware and condemned the purely prejudicial persecution of the Bahá’ís at the hands of the Iranian government and of their rhetoric in denying this persecution. You can find the extensive reports of the UN and other bodies as well as an archive of the documentation of persecution of the Baha’is in Iran.”
When questioned about the criticism of his tenure at the UN and his UN speeches against Israel and the Baha’i community, Mahallati wrote the Post by email: “Greetings! I am on sabbatical leave for the spring of 2021. I will respond back whenever I can. Thank you for contacting me.”
Dr. David Jacobs, a 1992 graduate of Oberlin College and Chairman of the Ontario Specialists Association in Canada, told the Post that ”“It is a basic expectation that a university properly vets their staff, and when a serious concern is raised, that they address it with a fully transparent process.“
He added that “An atrocity was committed by a regime that Mr. Mahallati represented in no less of an internationally recognized forum than the UN. Whether he had real knowledge of the events or not doesn’t change the impact the events had on the victims and their families. Given his position as a ‘professor of peace’ he must understand that it is not up to him or Oberlin College to decide whether there will be forgiveness from the aggrieved families, but up to the families themselves.”
The Post sent emails to the Oberlin College communication office and the college’s spokesman Scott Wargo. An administrative assistant for the communications department wrote the Post: “I have forwarded your email to Scott Wargo and the media relations team. The team is working remotely but someone will get back to you as soon as possible.”
The Post reached out to Corey Barnes, the chairman of the Oberlin College religion department, the alumni association, as well as to Rabbi Megan Doherty, the director of Hillel and Jewish Campus Life at Oberlin College.The Post also contacted the Oberlin College Student Senate on Twitter.
Lawdan Bazargan, an Iranian-American whose then 29-year-old brother Bijan Bazargan was murdered by the regime in the 1988 massacre for declining to answer questions about his beliefs on Islam and politics, told the Post: “Mahallati used his time as the ambassador of the United Nations to lie, distort the truth, and deny the Islamic Republic of Iran’s atrocities.”
She added that “What makes the families of the victims the most upset is that he is teaching in higher education, pretending to be a peace scholar. A man who was working for a brutal Islamic regime, helping them conceal crimes and lying to the world as a diplomat, now teaches ethics and morality. This hypocrisy is too much to bear and is frankly, unacceptable.”
Mahallati wrote in the October letter to the Post: “I categorically deny any knowledge and therefore responsibility regarding mass executions in Iran when I was serving at the United Nations. I was in New York the entire summer of 1988, focusing on peacemaking between Iran and Iraq, and did not receive any briefing regarding executions. There was not a single communication from Tehran to Iran’s UN embassy informing Iranian diplomats of those incidents.”