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U of Minnesota withdraws Holocaust Center employee who accused Israel of genocide

University of Minnesota “suspended” the search for a new director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies after initially engaging with an Israeli who accused Israel of genocide less than a week after October 7.

Jewish groups opposed Raz Segal’s proposed hiring when they learned of it last week, and two members of the center’s advisory board – one of whom is Jewish – resigned over the appointment. Segal, who is currently director of the graduate program in Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Stockton University in New Jersey, wrote a controversial op-ed on October 13 in the progressive magazine Jewish Currents. in which, citing his experience as a “genocide researcher”, he stated that the Israeli military campaign in Gaza was “a textbook case of genocide unfolding before our eyes.”

The university initially defended Segal’s hiring at the Twin Cities campus, saying in a statement over the weekend that “the search committee enthusiastically recommended him for this important position” after assessing “the strengths and weaknesses/pros and cons of each candidate” being interviewed.”

But in the face of mounting pressure – including board resignations, as well as opposition from the local Council on Jewish Social Relations on Monday, the school changed course.

“Over the past few days, additional members of the university community have come forward to express their interest in providing perspectives on the position of director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. Given the principal’s community-facing and leadership role, (i) it is important that these voices are heard,” interim president Jeff Ettinger said in a statement, according to TC Jewfolk.

The statement added that Ettinger “has paused the director selection process to allow next steps to be determined.”

Some well-known Jewish scholars also began to criticize Segal’s nomination. “There would, of course, be no problem if the center was headed by someone who was critical — even sharply critical — of the policies of the Netanyahu government or any other Israeli government,” Menachem Rosensaft, an adjunct professor of law at Cornell University and former adviser to the World Jewish Congress, wrote on Tuesday in an article in the Times of Israel. “On the other hand, Segal’s radical views lie so far outside the mainstream that they amount to Hamas-like support for the genocidal elimination of the state of Israel.”

The directors of the Minnesota and Dakota Jewish Community Relations Council praised the university’s reversal and pushed for local Jews to be given a greater say in the center’s eventual hiring. They said that unlike previous years when the position of center director was vacant, this time the search committee did not consult anyone from the JCRC.

“We expect that as the university determines its next steps, the consensus of the Minnesota Jewish community, as well as mainstream Holocaust and genocide scholars, will be honored,” Principal Steve Hunegs and Associate Executive Director Ethan Roberts said in a statement.

The university’s Jewish community has been upset in recent weeks. Vandals He smashed several windows and doors at the Minnesota Hillel over the weekend. And last month, as part of a controversial agreement that the university administration reached with the pro-Palestinian camp movement, camp officials presented a formal argument for Israel’s renunciation to the school’s regents (with Hillel student representatives presenting a counterargument).

Segal, who praised the camp movement, is not the only Holocaust and genocide researcher to call Israel’s actions in Gaza genocide – although he was one of the first and most outspoken. Dozens of other faculty members working in this discipline he signed on to an open letter that Segal led a few days after October 7 which condemned Hamas’ actions, arguing that Israel’s campaign in Gaza at the time “raised the issue of genocide.” Israel, which appeared before the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide, has vehemently denied the allegations.

The rise of such views among some Jewish and Israeli scientists has caused concern among some pro-Israel Jewish groups that organized at some universities to keep left-leaning Jewish faculty members away from key positions related to anti-Semitism.

IN her resignation from the advisory board of the Holocaust and Genocide Centerfaculty member Karen Painter cited Segal’s essay in Jewish Currents as the reason she considered his hiring unacceptable.

“Dr. Segal placed himself at the extreme end of the political and ideological spectrum with his writings on Israel and Gaza, including an essay in which he accused Israel of genocide a week after the October 7 terrorist attacks,” wrote Painter, whose husband, former George, administration official W. Bush Richard Painter, filed complaints that launched a federal Title VI anti-Semitism investigation into the university.

Bruno Chaouat, former director of the center of Jewish origin, also resigned from this nomination.