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Student alleges antisemitism at UNLV, inaction by Whitfield, Regents

A Jewish student has filed a federal lawsuit against UNLV, the Board of Regents, university President Keith Whitfield and several pro-Palestinian groups, claiming that he has suffered from on-campus antisemitism and discrimination and that the faculty and the administration failed to do anything about it.

The lawsuit, filed Sunday in District Court in Las Vegas, alleges that UNLV violated federal antiterrorism laws by permitting pro-Palestinian groups to stage protests on campus, acting as a “stand in” for Hamas, an antisemitic terrorist organization held responsible for last October’s deadly attack on Israel.

Lawyers Sigal Chattah and Joseph Gilbert, on behalf of plaintiff Corey Gerwaski, allege that defendant AJP Education Foundation Inc. is run by Virginia-based American Muslims for Palestine that controls the actions of other defendants Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), National Students for Justice in Palestine and Nevadans for Palestinian Liberation, as part of an international pro-Palestine, anti-Israel campaign on college campuses.

Alleged ‘unchecked spread of antisemitism’

“This suit targets the longstanding, unchecked spread of antisemitism at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, which, following the October 7, 2023 Hamas attacks, has erupted in on-campus displays of hatred, harassment, and physical violence against Jewish students on campus, and more specifically Plaintiff herein,” they claim in the lawsuit.

“In short, Defendants act as Hamas’s public relations division and recruit students as domestic foot soldiers not only to disseminate Hamas’s propaganda but also to foment violence, chaos, and fear across the United States and at UNLV to intimidate students and faculty and coerce change in American policy.”

The lawsuit also alleges that “UNLV has also provided substantial assistance to these radical pro-terrorist organizations by allowing them to terrorize and demonize students on UNLV’s campus.”

A similar federal lawsuit was filed on May 1 in Virginia against the American Muslims for Palestine and National Students for Justice in Palestine, alleging the groups are “aiding and abetting terrorists.”

UNLV spokesman Francis McCabe responded to Las Vegas Review-Journal request for comment Tuesday, stating in an email: “We are aware of the complaint. UNLV does not comment on active litigation.”

Attempts to reach the UNLV chapter of SJP were unsuccessful as of Tuesday evening.

The Nevada lawsuit claims that Gerwaski, an observant Jew who wears a traditional kippah, or skull cap, on the UNLV campus, said he has been taunted by students while wearing it; a supervisor at his job at the Lied Library fired him after blatant disparate treatment; and, citing him as posing a “threat,” the supervisor had UNLV police him throw him out of the library when Gerwaski went there to study.

UNLV permitted the Nevadans for Palestinian Liberation group “to march with megaphones, disrupt campus activities, and chant slogans such as ‘From the river to the sea,’” (an anti-Israel slogan) and its participants “have personally verbally assaulted Corey because he wears a kippah,” the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit cites other examples of alleged antisemitism, such as UNLV Associate Professor Jason Woodbridge posting on social media “From the river to the sea” and photos of himself at pro-Palestine rallies.

Gerwaski testified before the Nevada Board of Regents on Dec. 1, citing examples of antisemitism on the UNLV campus and called them to take action, but nothing was done, according to the lawsuit.

On Feb. 27, an Israeli professor of physics was lecturing on the topic of black holes when he was escorted off campus by UNLV police after being interrupted by pro-Palestinian protesters, even though interrupting speakers is against UNLV campus free speech policy, the lawsuit claims.

Accusations of inaction

The lawsuit also states that Whitfield failed to respond to Gerwaski’s complaints about how the student was treated on campus.

Further, Whitfield, UNLV’s faculty and the rest of its administration did not provide a solution for Jewish students who felt they were mistreated because of their religion and ethnicity by pro-Palestinian groups at UNLV’s campus, which include non-students as members, the lawyers allege.

“Ironically, faculty and Administrators did conduct a meeting with Defendant SJP and other groups, but did not do anything to admonish them regarding their antisemitic rhetoric, but instead, Defendant Whitfield was more concerned about appeasing Defendants’ concerns,” the lawsuit states.

Whitfield, in response to the pro-Palestine groups’ demands, agreed to speak to the Investment Committee of the UNLV Foundation “to better understand our investment strategies” after the groups demanded the university divest from Israeli companies, the lawyers claim.

After that, the groups “did a victory lap on social media” in celebration of Whitfield’s concession, the lawsuit says.

The lawyers stated that to promote its cause, the SJP, the UNLV chapter, specifically used a “toolkit” from “overseas terrorist organizations” like Hamas, including templates with graphics for sending on X and other social media to announce campus demonstrations, such as the May 1 “Walk Out for Palestine” at the UNLV amphitheater asking students to leave their classes, and signs such as “Long Live Intifada” posted on the campus, the lawsuit alleges.

“UNLV allowed stickers and posters supporting intifada on the University campus without even bothering to remove or even attempting to remove these antisemitic messages targeting Jewish students,” the lawsuit alleges.

The lawyers for Gerwaski cited 10 claims for relief and damages in excess of $150,000, plus punitive damages and attorneys’ fees.

The claims include alleged violation of the U.S. Anti-terrorism Act, violation of Gerwaski’s equal protection rights, violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and violations of the plaintiff’s First Amendment right of freedom of religion.

Contact Jeff Burbank at jburbank@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0382. Follow him @JeffBurbank2 on X.

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