University walks back hiring of Holocaust center director who accused Israel of 'genocide'

The University of Minnesota withdrew its decision to hire Raz Segal as its new director for the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies because he previously called Israel’s military actions in Gaza a 'textbook case of genocide.'

The University of Minnesota recently withdrew its decision to hire Raz Segal of Stockton University as its new director for the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies because he previously called Israel’s military actions in Gaza a “textbook case of genocide.”

The move comes in response to an open letter signed by hundreds of faculty at UMN and other schools, who criticized the university’s plan to hire Segal, an outspoken critic of Israel who has voiced support for recent anti-Israel demonstrations across the US.

“This is an outrageous violation of both academic freedom and the integrity of the faculty hiring process,” the faculty members wrote. “These objections to Dr. Segal’s appointment stem from a political disagreement with his academic scholarship, his perspective as a scholar of genocide and his defense of anti-genocide protest.”

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Interim UMN president Jeff Ettinger stressed the importance of listening to the opinions of faculty and students in considering potential new hires because of the “community-facing and leadership” responsibilities attached to the role.

“In the past several days, additional members of the University community have come forward to express their interest in providing perspective on the hiring of the posit[i]on of Director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies,” Ettinger reportedly wrote in a statement. “Because of the community-facing and leadership role the Director holds, [i]t is important that these voices are heard.”

In October of 2023, Segal wrote an op-ed condemning Israel’s responses to the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks, which in his view serve to perpetuate the “racist regime of Israeli apartheid.”

“Israel’s genocidal assault on Gaza is quite explicit, open, and unashamed,” he wrote.

Menachem Rosensaft, adjunct Professor of Law at Cornell Law School and general counsel emeritus of the World Jewish Congress, voiced support for UMN’s decision to ultimately not hire Segal. In an interview with Campus Reform, Rosensaft said that Segal is “absolutely the wrong person” to serve as director on grounds that his “absolute bias against Israel” would preclude him from fulfilling the role fair-mindedly.

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Rosensaft also stressed the importance of preserving open dialogue around the conflict in Gaza, noting that its absence can lead to violent anti-Semitism.

“The only hope at maintaining some kind of normalcy is … people on both sides of the issue being willing to listen to one another and not to engage in anti-Semitic or any other bigotist rhetoric, but instead to be willing to hold reasonable discussions on the topic,” Rosensaft told Campus Reform

“Those institutions that have done so, like the university where I teach, Cornell, have managed to keep things under control with a reasonable amount of mutual respect that hasn’t degenerated into the type of extremism that we’ve seen at places where Jewish students get attacked simply for being Jewish or for not being willing to renounce or repudiate their support for Israel,” he added.

Campus Reform has reached out to the University of Minnesota, Jeff Ettinger, and Raz Segal for Comment. This story will be updated accordingly.