Florida State University's student senate narrowly voted to keep its president despite his history of anti-Semitic comments.
FSU student senate president Ahmad Daraldik wrote "f— Israel" and "stupid Jew" in social media posts and created a website comparing the "occupation of Palestine" to the Holocaust. He defended his past behavior in a video circulated prior to the vote.
"I was a child living under an oppressive occupation, where my voice was not heard. So, when I saw a post of a child with a soldier's foot on their chest and a gun to their face, I had no time," Daraldik said. The picture referenced by Daraldik was selectively edited to look like an Israeli soldier was pointing a gun at a Palestinian child. The full picture shows the foot does not belong to an Israeli soldier. Daraldik, who did not return a request for comment, stood by his "stupid Jew" comment.
The student senate voted 19-16 to keep Daraldik as president. The vote came less than two weeks after the senate impeached Denton for expressing Catholic teaching on abortion and transgenderism in a private GroupMe chat with fellow Catholic students. Denton is filing an appeal to FSU's Supreme Court over his removal from the leadership role with the help of the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a religious liberty law firm.
ADF attorney Tyson Langhofer told the Washington Free Beacon that the controversy illustrates a "troubling" pattern of religious discrimination at taxpayer-funded universities.
"Students don't give up their religious freedom when they step onto a public university campus. ... We find it rather ironic that the new president would be allowed to remain in his seat after having issued what is clearly derogatory and racist statements towards Jewish students. It shows the double standard," Langhofer said. "Speech that is more popular on campus, the same students allow those types of comments to go on, but punish religious or conservative students. … We find that very troubling and problematic."
FSU did not return a request for comment.
Lauren Callahan, the student who started a Change.org petition to oust Denton from student senate leadership, defended Daraldik and his past posts.
"Daraldik is currently under scrutiny for Facebook posts he made in 2012 and 2013 while living in Palestine. I am not a member of the Jewish or Israeli communities, but in my opinion, Daraldik was a young teenager, and I believe there is a difference between this current situation and the removal of Senator Denton," Callahan told the Free Beacon. "Denton, when he made his comments, was a reasonably educated adult and knew what he was saying. Daraldik was barely a teenager and was raised with a different background."
Jewish groups, however, said that Daraldik has continued to express anti-Semitic sentiments well beyond his teenage years. StandWithUs, a pro-Israel advocacy group and campus anti-Semitism watchdog, said that the senate president had "equated Israelis with Nazis in a video earlier this month, showing that he has not meaningfully changed his views." The group called on FSU to address his leadership in a letter sent to university president John Thrasher and the school's board of trustees.
"Daradlik defended his viciously hateful website during the student senate meeting this past Wednesday ... and equated Israelis with Nazis in a video earlier this month, showing that he has not meaningfully changed his views," the letter reads. "This apparent double standard begs the question of why there appears to be a zero-tolerance policy for bigotry directed at some kinds of students at FSU, but not at Jewish or Israeli students."
FSU Hillel director Dan Leshem joined in the calls for the school's administration to hold Daraldik accountable for his comments. Leshem described how Jewish students shared their stories of anti-Semitism in the public comment section of the Wednesday night student senate meeting.
"We are incredibly proud of the bravery, eloquence, and passion of the students who spoke up about the pernicious effects of antisemitism at [Wednesday] night's student senate meeting," Leshem said. "We continue to call upon FSU's administration to distance itself from this student's hateful rhetoric, and we call on the student to make a sincere apology and commit himself to learning about how harmful his words have been for Jews and others on this campus."
Despite the outcry from multiple Jewish voices, the university has made no promise to remove Daraldik from his role, though Thrasher condemned anti-Semitism on Wednesday.
"Anti-Semitism and religious discrimination have no place at Florida State University. I am aware of a controversy involving the FSU Student Senate President who has posted offensive anti-Semitic rhetoric online," Thrasher said. "I want to take this opportunity to unequivocally state that we will not tolerate discrimination against groups or individuals."