It's Not Just Students: Meet the Professors Leading the Academic Embrace of Hamas

Ohio State's Pranav Jani, a Students for Justice in Palestine faculty adviser, has long praised Palestinian terrorists

Poster for OSU's pro-Hamas rally (Twitter/Israel War Room)
October 19, 2023

An Ohio State University student group last week held a "day of resistance" rally that saw organizers defend Hamas terrorism and condemn Israel's "apartheid system." Behind that group is a socialist English professor who has long supported Palestinian terrorists and advocated for the end of the Jewish state.

Ohio State's Students for Justice in Palestine chapter counts as its faculty adviser Pranav Jani, a card-carrying socialist who began teaching at the university in 2004. Jani, who specializes in "Marxist theories of nationalism and colonialism," is a vocal supporter of the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, which seeks to wage economic warfare on Israel. Jani has also praised Palestinian terrorists—in 2013, he called on the Obama administration to help free Samer Issawi, a convicted terrorist who manufactured pipe bombs and fired at Israeli citizens during the second intifada. Years later, in 2019, Jani criticized a Canadian church for canceling an annual event held in celebration of Ghassan Kanafani, a leading member of the terrorist organization Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Jani's role as an Ohio State associate English professor and Students for Justice in Palestine faculty adviser reflects the rise in anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sentiments among university faculty, not just students.

At Cornell University, for example, history professor Russel Rickford told a crowd of students during a pro-Hamas rally that the terror group's attack on Israel was "exhilarating" and "energizing." At Albany Law School, assistant professor Nina Farnia praised the "Palestinian resistance" in the wake of the attack, which saw Hamas kidnap and execute women and children. "The Palestinians are a beacon for us all," Farnia said.

Israel on Campus Coalition CEO Jacob Baime urged university leaders to confront professors who glorify terrorism, telling the Washington Free Beacon that Students for Justice in Palestine and similar campus groups are "Hamas in America."

"They need to condemn and confront anyone who glorifies or minimizes the deaths or celebrates Hamas," Baime said. "And that especially includes SJP and its enablers in the faculty."

Jani, Rickford, and Farnia did not return requests for comment.

In addition to its rally, Ohio State's Students for Justice in Palestine chapter issued a statement following Hamas's attack that defended the terror group's "right to resist" and condemned "Israel's continued settler colonial violent murder of Palestinians." The chapter was one of many across the country to hold rallies and issue statements in support of Hamas following the attack.

At Yale, for example, student group "Yalies4Palestine" held an "All Out for Palestine!" rally, during which students called for Israel's eradication. The group also released a statement that expressed its "unwavering support of the Palestinian people’s right to resist colonial oppression" and accused "the Israeli Zionist regime" of being "responsible for the unfolding violence." At Stanford, meanwhile, pro-Hamas activists littered the campus with chalk messages and tapestries. "Viva Intifada," one message said. "The illusion of Israel IS BURNING," said another.

Lecturers at both of those schools have spewed similar rhetoric. Hours after Hamas's Oct. 7 attack, Yale professor Zareena Grewal—who teaches American studies, ethnicity, race, migration, and religious studies at the Ivy League institution—called Israel a "murderous, genocidal settler state" that terrorists "have every right to resist through armed struggle, solidarity." Stanford lecturer Ameer Hasan Loggins, who taught Colin Kaepernick at the University of California, Berkeley and credits himself with driving the former athlete's liberal activism, told some Jewish students to stand in a corner like "Israel does to the Palestinians."

That rhetoric has prompted some schools to lose support from top donors. Former U.S. ambassador to China and Russia Jon Huntsman said he will no longer give to the University of Pennsylvania, citing its "silence in the face of reprehensible and historic Hamas evil against the people of Israel." The Wexner Foundation similarly pulled their financial support from Harvard. It's unclear, however, if Ohio State and other top institutions will face similar reckonings.

Ohio State, which did not return a request for comment, openly touts Jani's role as "faculty adviser for the Students for Justice in Palestine" and promotes the English professor's Medium page, in which Jani has expressed support for both the academic boycott of Israel and for convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal. Jani also leads Ohio State's Association of University Professors, an informal faculty union that is "active in reclaiming higher education as an affordable and equitable public good."

"When you join the boycott of Israel you are responding to a call from Palestinian civil society and saying that no, we, as part of a global community that is committed to human rights, will not be silent while atrocities under a military colonial occupation go on month after month, year after year," Jani wrote in a 2016 essay. "If you refuse to see this line, you are also taking a stand: for the status quo. You are free to do so, of course. But then please don't speak to me about your anti-racism."

Students for Justice in Palestine is far from the only campus group defending Hamas. At Northwestern University, the school's Community for Human Rights last week said it "stands in solidarity with Palestinian freedom fighters" and described Hamas's attack as the first time "Palestinians have returned home" since "the imprisonment of 2 million Palestinians in an open air prison 20 years ago." The group's faculty adviser, global engagement programs associate director Patrick Eccles, did not return a request for comment.

Days later, on Tuesday, the university's Asian American Studies Program faculty issued a statement defending Hamas as a "political group."

"Over the last week, NU's campus has been plastered with anti-Palestinian war propaganda mimicking the Israeli state," said the faculty group, which is led by black studies professor Nitasha Tamar Sharma and anthropology professor Shalini Shankar. "One poster claimed that 'Hamas beheaded babies,' a statement that has been widely dismissed as false."

Neither Sharma nor Shankar returned requests for comment.