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This article contains explicit and potentially offensive terms that are essential to reporting on this situation.
StopAntisemitism, a watchdog group founded in 2018, dubbed an assistant business professor its “Antisemite of the Week” and a “Professor of Hate” in July, citing his tweeting that “Israel and Ukraine are societal cancers and must be eradicated” and “#FreePalestine by any means necessary!!”—among other posts.
The organization, which was founded by an Instagram influencer with an M.B.A. and last year named Kanye West the “Antisemite of the Year,” wrote its own tweets about Kareem Tannous, the professor at Cabrini University, outside Philadelphia.
“They had tagged the president of the university,” Tannous said.
He said Cabrini fired him the next month as if he were an “at-will” employee, violating his contract and due process rights as a tenure-track professor. Next, Gwynedd Mercy University, also in Pennsylvania, fired him after he taught just one class, he said.
“I don’t bring this stuff up in my class,” Tannous said. “This is something I speak on my own time.”
Tannous’s lawyer says he now plans to sue Cabrini, StopAntisemitism, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and possibly others, making legal claims including defamation, breach of contract and tortious contract interference.
Jason Holtzman, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, which is part of the federation, said he and the federation president objected to Tannous’s tweets earlier, in a February 2022 letter to Cabrini. Holtzman noted Tannous’s tweets on Jan. 27, 2022, International Holocaust Remembrance Day—including a tweet saying, “Tired of hearing about the #holocaust when the descendants of these same people are killing my people indiscriminately.”
“It’s so egregious, it’s so far out of bounds,” said Holtzman, who also noted the Texas synagogue hostage situation that January. “We would not have sent this letter if it were simply him criticizing Israel.”
A Cabrini spokesperson said the university is “unable to comment” because “this is a personnel matter.” A Gwynedd Mercy spokesperson confirmed Tannous worked as an adjunct instructor for “a very short period of time” but said, “We are not going to comment on the specifics of a personnel matter.”
StopAntisemitism, however, said in an email Tuesday that “Tannous is an unapologetic antisemite, and StopAntisemitism applauds his firing. Tannous has employed the most vile slurs against Israel, referring to it as a ‘Zionazi’ apartheid state and a ‘societal cancer’ that must be dismantled ‘by any means necessary.’”
The group said his tweets “created a manifestly unsafe environment for Jewish students. Calling for the elimination of the world’s only Jewish state isn’t part of legitimate political discourse; it’s genocidal. In response, StopAntisemitism created a pathway for people to report Tannous’ bigotry directly to university leaders. Cabrini University listened to their voices, and we appreciate their making the right decision.”
There have been debates on college campuses, including George Washington University, about when criticism of Israel and its violence against Palestinians crosses the line into antisemitism against Jews in general. Tannous, who said he’s from a family of Christian Palestinians, said he’s not “anti-Jew.”
His Twitter usage before and after he said Cabrini fired him has included violent references and conspiratorial language.
On Saturday, he tweeted, “When peace comes we will perhaps in time be able to forgive the zionists for killing our sons, but it will be harder for us to forgive them for having forced us to kill their sons. Peace will come when the zionists will love their children more than they hate us.”
Those are altered quotes attributed to former Israeli prime minister Golda Meir, who died in 1978—they are in A Land of Our Own: An Oral Autobiography, though a Jewish Press writer has cast doubts on their authenticity.
“All I did was switch from Arab to Zionist,” Tannous said.
In April, Tannous tweeted, “And then these animals have the gall to broadcast holocaust remembrance. #zionism is the disease and #FreePalestine is the cure!”
Someone replied with this:
“This Remembrance is a damn joke, Zionists don’t even believe in Judaism. A pretext to distract the world from their actions. But their dirty house of cards will crumble. They‘ll be in mass graves insha’Allah [God willing], although not a single grave of them should remain in #Palestine.”
Tannous liked and retweeted that tweet to his followers.
“That’s very wrong, I’m sorry, that is very wrong,” Tannous said when Inside Higher Ed read to him what he had liked and retweeted. He also said Monday’s interview was the first time he had ever heard what that tweet said.
He has also repeatedly used the term “zionazi” to describe Israel and Ukraine and said Hitler was a Jew.
“CBSNews fuck you and israel the racist colonial apartheid regime,” he tweeted in May. “Hitler is a jew and made an agreement with the zionists.”
This month, he shared a Times of Israel story headlined “U.S. authorities arrest Israeli accused of defrauding $47 million from Orthodox Jews” with a tweet that just said “In their blood …”
“It was an Israeli” who allegedly defrauded, Tannous told Inside Higher Ed when asked about that tweet. He said he wasn’t referring to Orthodox Jews.
On Saturday, he shared a video of an Israel defender and wrote “Definition of the r-word”—meaning, as he acknowledged, “retard.”
“That’s what she’s acting like,” Tannous told Inside Higher Ed.
Also this month, he tweeted a video showing an animated creature looking up at the World Trade Centers, accompanied by this: “The US Government when they found a way to distract people from the trillions of dollars they mysteriously lost on September 10, 2001.”
Asked whether he believes the U.S. carried out the Sept. 11 attacks, he said, “They had a hand in it.”
“I’m a free thinker, I have a brain, I don’t just believe what NBC, CBS puts out there,” he said.
In July, in its own tweet about Tannous, StopAntisemitism tagged the university’s Twitter account and the account of Helen Drinan, who had become interim president of the financially struggling university less than two months before.
Tannous said Drinan and others brought up the tweets in a Zoom meeting they pressured him into and then fired him by sending a letter to his parents’ house.
“I’m taking about politics, the state, not the people,” Tannous said.
“She refused to read my tweets in context,” he said.
A spokesman for the American Association of University Professors said Tuesday that its Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure and Governance was unfamiliar with the situation, which The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Sunday.
“We have not been contacted by this professor and would not be able to comment until further investigation is done,” the AAUP spokesman said.
Cabrini’s Faculty Assembly chair also didn’t respond to requests for comment.