by Rebecca Anna Stoil, Jerusalem Post Correspondent | JPost.com | October 30, 2011
WASHINGTON – A university in Ohio won kudos from the Anti-Defamation League on Friday for censuring a faculty member who yelled “Death to Israel” during a speech on its campus.
Kent State University President Lester A. Lefton lambasted history professor Julio Pino for heckling Ishmael Khaldi, Israel’s former deputy consul in San Francisco, during a talk on the school’s campus.
Lefton described Pino’s behavior as “reprehensible, and an embarrassment to our university.
Khaldi, the first Beduin to serve in the Foreign Service, finished his speech on Tuesday night, and opened the floor to questions. According to Kentwired, an independent news site at the university, the first question came from Pino, who said that Israeli humanitarian aid was funded by blood money gained from the deaths of Palestinian children.
Khaldi told Pino that his comments were “not respectful to me,” and Pino responded that Khaldi was not respectful to him, and that “your government killed people.”
After the exchange, Pino stormed out of the silent auditorium yelling “Death to Israel.”
As criticism of Pino’s comment spread, Lefton issued an official statement, in which he wrote that “it may have been Prof. Pino's right to do so, but it is my obligation, as the president of this university, to say that I find his words deplorable, and his behavior deeply troubling.
“We value critical thinking at this university and encourage students to engage with ideas that they find difficult or make them uncomfortable,” Lefton said. “We hope that our faculty will always model how best to combine passion for one’s position with respect for those with whom we disagree. Calling for the destruction of the state from which our guest comes (as do some of our students, faculty and community members) is a grotesque failure to model these values.”
On Friday, the Anti- Defamation League praised the Lefton “for his clear statement condemning the behavior of a professor who interrupted a speech by a guest lecturer, a former Israeli government official, with the cry “Death to Israel!” “We welcome President Lefton’s clear condemnation of Professor Julio Pino’s deplorable conduct,” said Nina Sundell, ADL Ohio Regional Director. “Statements such as ‘Death to Israel’ extend beyond legitimate political discourse. When the statement is shouted by a university professor at a university student organization event on campus, it is even more harmful.”
The National Conference on Jewish Affairs issued a statement.
“We are appalled that such a man should remain in a position of leadership, especially one that molds the minds of young people and our future citizens. Such blood-curdling, inciting rhetoric — calling for the death of an entire people — may be acceptable in certain countries in the Middle East, but is unacceptable here in America,” the organization said in its statement.
Pino, who is a tenured professor at the northeastern Ohio campus, cultivates a revolutionary image. On his Facebook page, he says that he is inspired by, among others, former Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and the late Red Army Faction co-founder Ulrike Meinhof, alongside philosophers Rosa Luxemburg and Friedrich Engels.
In April 2002, Pino wrote a guest column in the campus newspaper in which he praised Ayat al-Akhras, a teenage Palestinian suicide bomber who had murdered Rachel Levy, 17, and security guard Haim Smadar, 55, at a supermarket in Jerusalem’s Kiryat Hayovel neighborhood the previous month.
The column was titled “Singing out Prayer for a Youth Martyr,” and in it, Pino wrote that Akhras “died a martyr’s death... in occupied Jerusalem, Palestine.”