Published in Abu Yehuda, a blog about the struggle to keep the Jewish state:
Louis Shenker is, or was, a Jewish student at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst (UMass). He is no longer a student there, because after allowing a campaign of defamation, harassment, and threats of physical harm orchestrated by members of the faculty and administrators to force him to flee, the university has expelled him.
Louis Shenker is admittedly guilty of several thought-crimes. He is a conservative. He is a Zionist. And (has vehalila) he is a Trump supporter. Who knows, he may even enjoy trolling his progressive political opponents. Still, I don’t believe any of this is illegal in the US.
What is illegal (or at least grounds for civil penalties), and what the university may pay dearly for – $27 million if Shenker’s lawyers get what they are demanding – is trying to wreck someone’s life by spreading false information about him, and inciting violence against him.
His troubles began in December 2018, when he tried to protest an anti-Trump march, wearing a “MAGA” hat and carrying a sign. He was roughed up by the marchers, and a graduate student, Barucha “Beth” Peller, snatched his hat and refused to return it.
Peller turned out to be his teacher in a required course, but she did not recognize him without his MAGA hat, and so he received an A in the course.
In May 2019, the “Resistance Studies Initiative” at the university planned an anti-Israel event featuring Roger Waters, formerly of Pink Floyd, who of late has dedicated his efforts to attacking Israel. Shenker and two other Jewish students sued the university, demanding that the event be held off-campus. They lost, but apparently some graduate students and faculty were moved to act against what they perceived as the Zionist (and Trumpist) menace.
Louis Shenker had started to bother them. He had a popular podcast and a presence on Twitter (account since suspended) and other social media, which he used to promote his conservative views. They decided that he had to go.
In November 2019, when Louis stood up to challenge the speakers at yet another anti-Israel event, he put on a (new) Trump hat. And Peller recognized him. According to his lawyers, “He told her he knew who she was – that she was the person who had stolen his MAGA hat, and that he still wants it back.” But Peller, a long-time leftist/anarchist activist, went to the police and falsely claimed that he was a “white nationalist” and had physically threatened her. She got a protective order, and when he defended himself on Twitter, he was jailed for two days.
What he didn’t know (and what his lawyers found out only recently) was that a trap had been laid for him. Let me quote from the demand letter sent to the University by his lawyers:
…on October 13, 2019, UMass Amherst Associate Professor of Political Science Maryann Barakso, Associate Professor of Legal Studies and Political Science Lauren McCarthy, and Assistant Dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences Kelly Gray, acting within the scope of their employment, came to an agreement that Louis’s “views are not the kind that we want to cultivate at the university.” They formulated a plan to terminate Louis’s contractual relationship with the university by defaming him as a racist. The faculty and administrator employees then recruited graduate student employees active in the Graduate Employee Union (GEO) to help with the plan.
Within a month, the faculty, administrator, and graduate student employees set their plan in motion after Louis’s counter demonstration at the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) event, held at the UMass Amherst Fine Arts Center on November 12, 2019. University employees Barakso, McCarthy, Gray, Tyler Alan, Anna-Claire Simpson, and Beth Peller used Louis’s peaceful expression of his political and religious beliefs at the BDS event as a pretext to incite a violent harassment campaign against him, to file false charges of hate crimes against him, and to call for him to be expelled from the university.
In a series of emails obtained by Louis’ lawyers, the conspirators planned their campaign:
Barasko: We need to talk about Louis. He is becoming a major problem to a faculty member at our department and his views are not the kind we want to cultivate at the University. As you know he is Jewish.. so we have to be very careful and smart in how we deal with this problem.
McCarthy: I agree Louis is becoming increasingly hostile and threatening. We’ve dealt with other problem students in the past successfully and you know nobody likes a racist so we can handle it. I have a contact in UP that can make this work.
Barasko: Update. 1st step. Let campus know Louis is a problem, with the truth about his name out…any subsequent protest about him will lack credibility. The right RSO [registered student organization] has been inspired to post flyers.
When Louis returned to the campus, he found the campus plastered with hundreds of posters with his picture, accusing him of being a “white supremacist.” He became the subject of social media incitement to “smack the dogshit out of him.” Mass emails denouncing him were sent. A campaign of legal harassment was waged against him; on several occasions his lawyers saved him from being jailed on fabricated complaints of stalking Peller (actually, the reverse was true). His tires were slashed when he was due in court for a hearing.
In December 2019, the Campus Anti-Fascist Network published an online petition accusing Louis of being “an extreme alt-right personality who uses incel* language,” and demanding that the UMass Amherst administration “move swiftly to take protective action to protect the campus from Shenker – including expulsion and a no-trespass order.” Almost 500 professors and 650 students nationally have signed it, as well as Roger Waters, Linda Sarsour, and Cornel West. Many other leftist organizations and social media “influencers” picked up the story, accusing him of being a violent and dangerous fanatic, and in some cases inciting violence against him.
His address (he lived at the Chabad house on campus) was made public.
Louis fled from the campus and was unable to take final exams. The university did not respond to his complaints, but, acting on a complaint from Peller, informed him that he was being investigated. And then it expelled him permanently for not taking his exams.
This was a criminal conspiracy to deny this young man a future, aided and abetted by a major university. To quote Justice Clarence Thomas in another context, this was a “high-tech lynching.”
American universities have become fertile ground for outbreaks of mob psychosis, in which the victim, who has somehow transgressed the increasingly extremist progressive ideology – especially in regard to Israel – is hounded from the campus. One high-profile case which comes to mind is that of Andrew Pessin, Professor of Philosophy at Connecticut College, who was forced to leave his post for a year after a social media comment of his that was critical of Hamas was misinterpreted as a racial slur against Palestinians. The college did nothing to protect him when the discourse took an antisemitic turn. After receiving death threats, Pessin took medical leave. To add insult to injury, the college gave a “scholar activist award” to the student, an activist in Students for Justice in Palestine, who initiated the witch hunt. Pessin, unlike Louis Shenker, is the opposite of provocative and even apologized for his comment (in my opinion, he shouldn’t have – the misinterpretation was deliberate, intended to attack a pro-Israel advocate). There are numerous other similar cases.
UMass has about a week to respond to the demand letter that was sent by Louis Shenker’s lawyers. If it knows what’s good for it, it will agree to a settlement that justly compensates him for the maltreatment he received at the hands of its employees.
* “Incel” stands for “involuntary celibate.” Incels are men who blame their lack of a sexual partner on women, and express themselves in violent and misogynist language. Several mass murderers have been characterized (or self-identify) as incels.
ATTORNEYS FOR EWI AND APT SEND DEMAND LETTERS TO UMASS AMHERST ON BEHALF OF LOUIS SHENKER
Here is their press release:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 28, 2020
Karen Hurvitz, Esq., HurvitzLaw@comcast.net
Ilya Feoktistov, Esq., firstname.lastname@example.org
ATTORNEYS FOR JEWISH PRO-ISRAEL AND PRO-TRUMP STUDENT EXPELLED FOR HIS BELIEFS SEND DEMAND LETTER TO UMASS AMHERST
Faculty Decided Student’s “Views Are Not the Kind We Want to Cultivate at the University;” Had Student Arrested on Fake Hate Crime Charges
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS—May 28, 2020. Attorneys for Massachusetts Jewish civil rights groups Education Without Indoctrination and Americans for Peace and Tolerance announced today that they have sent demand letters to the University of Massachusetts (UMass) on behalf of Louis Shenker, a Jewish former student at the UMass Amherst campus expelled for having the wrong beliefs about religion and politics.
Last fall, a group of administrators, faculty, and students at UMass Amherst decided that Louis’s “views are not the kind we want to cultivate at the University,” that Louis is “hijacking the Jewish narrative on campus,” but that, because Louis is Jewish, they “have to be very careful and smart in how [they] deal with this problem.” The group devised a plan to get Louis expelled by defaming him as a racist and white supremacist, so that “any subsequent protest about him [being Jewish] will lack credibility.” At the direction of faculty, UMass Amherst graduate student union members posted hundreds of flyers all over campus with Louis’s picture and home address, warning: “ALERT! WHITE SUPREMACIST LOUIS SHENKER UMASS STUDENT.” Photos of the flyers taken at various places around the campus went viral on UMass-connected social media, appended by calls for violence against Louis, like “watch out for this pussy ass bitch, if you see him smack the dogshit out him”.
According to Attorney Karen Hurvitz, executive director of EWI: “What followed was a concerted campaign, massive in scope and motivated by bias against Zionism, Judaism, and unpopular political beliefs, to intimidate Louis into silence, incite violence against him, prosecute him for hate crimes based on false testimony, and have him expelled from UMass Amherst.”
Attorney Ilya Feoktistov, executive director of APT, explained: “The University of Massachusetts promises all its students a welcoming educational environment free from discrimination. The truth is that this promise applies only to those students who have the kind of’ political and religious views that university employees ‘want to cultivate at the university.’ Louis never would have agreed to matriculate at UMass Amherst if he had known that all those guarantees of free expression and appreciation for divergent views, which the university gives to students in exchange for their tuition dollars, were fraudulent.”
To avoid paying treble damages and attorneys’ fees in litigation, the university and its employees must make Louis a reasonable offer of settlement within 30 days from their receipt of the demand letter.
“If they fail to do so,” said Attorney Hurvitz, “they will be sued.”
EWI ATTORNEY SUCCESSFULY DEFENDS UMASS AMHERST STUDENT IN 5 CASES BROUGHT TO STIFLE HIS POLITICAL AND RELIGIOUS SPEECH
Her article about the student's ordeal is published in the American Thinker, and reprinted here:
February 16, 2020
Louis Shenker, a 21-year-old junior at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, just wanted his MAGA hat back from the graduate student who ripped it off his head on campus. He wore the hat to a December 6, 2018 protest organized by the university’s graduate student union against Trump and local police. Video shows that when Louis, who is 5’6’’ and 140 pounds, arrived wearing the MAGA hat and holding a large sign, he was immediately surrounded by a hostile mob of older grad students cursing at him and calling him a white supremacist. A woman lunged from the mob and snatched Louis’s MAGA hat. Careful not to get caught on camera hitting Louis with their hands, they instead mobbed him like a colony of enraged penguins, using their bodies to push him from all sides, occasionally pecking at his head with their cardboard signs, and chanting in unison: “THE PEOPLE, UNITED, WILL NEVER BE DEFEATED.”
“Get the f**k out of here, you shouldn’t be in an anti-racist march!” screamed the hat thief. A soft-spoken professor in the crowd warned Louis: “It’s actually dangerous for you to come by yourself like that.” As the protesters began to march and Louis tried to keep up while pleading for his hat, many of them, including several graduate student union members dressed in United Auto Workers gear, elbowed Louis into walls, lampposts, and other obstacles. “You act like a Nazi, you’re going to get treated like a Nazi,” a female protester yelled at the Jewish grandson of Holocaust victims. Louis left without his hat.
A month later, Louis was horrified to recognize the woman who stole his MAGA hat as Beth Peller, a 36-year-old grad student who would be teaching his mandatory freshman writing class. Louis could not change his schedule, so he shaved his head and mustache, prayed that she would not recognize him, and wrote the essays she assigned with the correct leftist opinions she all but demanded. Beth regaled her students with war stories about her time organizing violent anarchist movements, but never recognized the seemingly complaisant student as her victim from the protest. Louis got an A.
On November 12, 2019, Louis found himself sitting behind Beth Peller at an anti-Israel event, called Criminalizing Dissent, organized by the head of his university’s communications department, Professor Sut Jhally. Featuring Linda Sarsour and terrorism supporter Omar Barghouti, who was skyped in from Ramallah, the event promoted the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. The university’s chancellor criticized the conference, warning that it “could very well alienate many of our Jewish students,” but did nothing to stop it.
A proud Zionist Jew, Louis let university police know that he planned to challenge the speakers at an appropriate moment. Just before he stood up in protest, he put on his new “Keep America Great” hat, and Beth, who had been smiling at him until then, looked at him with the shock of realization. He told her he knew who she was -- that she was the person who had stolen his MAGA hat, and that he still wants it back. He made his brief protest, thanked the police for letting him do it, and left.
Louis soon learned that he had poked an entire hive of leftists at Amherst and the surrounding Hampshire County. With help from two lawyers, one of whom is active with the anti-Zionist group Jewish Voice for Peace, Beth filed a sworn affidavit in district court in Northampton, MA. The affidavit falsely alleged that Louis is a “self-avowed white nationalist who “intended to inflame violence” against her; that Louis was “whispering threats in [her] ear” at the BDS event; and that Louis had “talked about guns and decapitating small animals with his hands” while in her class. Based on these fantasies, a judge issued an Abuse and Harassment Prevention Order against Louis, which directed him not to contact her. It was served on Louis that night, while he was having Shabbat dinner at his synagogue.
Louis took to Twitter to complain about what happened to him, and Peller immediately went to the Northampton Police Department (NPD) to file another false affidavit alleging that Louis had threatened her life on Twitter. NPD self-identifies as a “progressive” police agency and Peller’s attorneys, who practice criminal law in Northampton, have a lot of influence there. Although the tweets that Peller showed the Northampton cops were not directed at her and did not contain any violent threats, the police filed a criminal complaint against Louis for violating the order anyway. He was arrested in the parking lot of his synagogue, spent two nights in jail, and was released under a gag order forbidding him to post about Beth, the order, or UMass on social media.
The court imposed no gag on Beth and her supporters. And so when Louis returned to school, he found the campus plastered with 200-300 posters of his face framed by big block letters: “ALERT! WHITE SUPREMACIST LOUIS SHENKER.” UMass Amherst social media were buzzing with photos of the posters taken at various places around the campus. “[W]atch out for this pussy ass b*tch,” read one caption on Snapchat, “if you see him smack the dogsh*t out him.” Perhaps not coincidentally, one of the tires on Louis’s car got slashed the night before his first court date, making him late.
The incitement against Louis continued. An attorney for Beth Peller drafted an online petition that called on the UMass Amherst administration “to take protective action to protect the campus from Shenker -- including expulsion and a no-trespass order.” The petition remains open. To date, 480 professors from across the country, including Cornel West and Judith Butler and at least ten professors from Louis’s own university, together with prominent BDS activists like Linda Sarsour and Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, have signed on to the Soviet-style denunciation. So have at least 645 “students, workers, and staff” at UMass and other schools.
Meanwhile, according to Beth Peller, Northampton police were trying to have Louis rearrested on stalking charges, so that he could be jailed as a dangerous person pending trial. By this time, we had the order against Louis vacated for lack of evidence, but the local district attorney’s office insisted on prosecuting Louis for the alleged violation anyway. Before we also got this charge dismissed for lack of probable cause, the government tried three times to have Louis’s bail revoked. Within minutes of the order’s being vacated, however, Peller’s attorney applied for another one on the same basis. That application was denied, as was a third attempt, supported by a fifth fabricated affidavit. Peller’s lawyers also filed an application for a criminal stalking complaint against Louis, which was similarly denied for lack of probable cause.
Beth Peller has just filed an appeal against Louis. She has also contacted the FBI, which is seeking to interview him about the matter. Meanwhile, Louis has been forced off campus by violent threats, could not take his exams, and will not be able to attend classes this term. He has been constructively expelled and deprived of his education.
In its policy against discrimination and harassment, UMass Amherst talks a big game about protecting its students’ rights to free speech. Any student or teacher “who acts to deny, deprive or limit the educational, employment, residential and/or social access, benefits, and/or opportunities of any member of the campus community” due to “political belief or affiliation” will be disciplined. “When brought to the attention of the University, the University will take actions appropriately to respond to, stop, remedy, and prevent the reoccurrence of any such discrimination.”
UMass Amherst has broken this promise to Louis. We have repeatedly filed grievances on his behalf against Peller and her co-actors and have been met with stony silence. Instead, Louis has been notified that the university is investigating another complaint -- by Peller against him.
Louis’ ordeal is a glimpse of the far left’s “cancel culture” as it pushes the Overton Window on free speech from Twitter bans to outright criminalization of dissent. We believe that more malicious prosecutions like Louis’s are likely; brought, at first, in progressive enclaves like Northampton where the far left holds real political power. Much as occurred in the Jim Crow South, authorities in such places are increasingly choosing to enforce their political ideology instead of the rule of law entrusted to them. The American left these days is unable to accept defeat under fair rules of play, whether in elections or in judicial proceedings. To avoid defeat, leftists will continue searching for ways to criminalize dissent. Indeed, Beth Peller’s attorney argued to the court in Northampton that defamation and offensive speech can and should be criminalized. This is a dangerous trend, and is becoming one of the major civil rights issues of our time.
Attorneys Karen D. Hurvitz and Ilya I. Feoktistov represent Louis Shenker. Attorney Hurvitz devotes her practice to fighting anti-Semitism in K-12 and higher education. Attorney Feoktistov is the Executive Director of Americans for Peace and Tolerance.
EWI OPPOSES APPOINTMENT OF RABID ANTI-SEMITE SARAH IHMOUD TO TENURE TRACK POSITION AT BOSTON UNIVERSITY
Karen Hurvitz, our attorney, who taught law at Boston University Law School, and has researched Ihmoud’s articles and organized a response, has written an accurate assessment of the situation in a letter to the Boston University's president:
Dear President Brown,
In these times of rising anti-Semitism, I have just learned that Boston University is considering appointing Sarah Ihmoud, a terrible anti-Semite to a tenure track position in its sociology department. I understand that letters of concern and alarm submitted to the president, provost, and others have been met with a “none of your business” type of response, together with assurances that the process is being handled “based on peer evaluation of a candidate’s scholarly and professional achievements within the appropriate discipline and according to established disciplinary criteria… consistent with our established criteria and processes.” The quote is from a form letter being sent out by President Brown.
In point of fact, I have learned from colleagues on the law school faculty, where I taught in the BU Defenders Program, that nothing about this potential hire is being handled in accordance with established criteria and processes. The hire is being considered as an accommodation to a recent law faculty hire — Ihmoud is his wife. The position was not advertised, and there was no applicant pool, as required by BU’s established — and written — practices and processes.
What is worse is that her “scholarly” achievements are works based on viciously defamatory and easily refuted assertions about Israel. For instance, she writes in In the Absence of Justice, a report she co-authored with Shaloub-Kevorkian, another rabid anti-Semite who claims that Israelis sell Palestinian body parts, do medical experiments and test weapons on Palestinian children — see that
Existing studies on gendered aspects of military occupation in East Jerusalem reveal that even in times of death, women are stripped of dignity and security, and their safe burial is jeopardized by the militarized regime (Shalhoub-Kevorkian 2013). Women are prevented from safely reaching health professionals and finding a safe place to give birth, and face humiliation in Israeli hospitals during treatment, operations, giving birth, miscarriages and more (ibid.). Gendered violence was also apparent when examining the effects of surveillance over women, mainly in relation to the immense security devices and cameras in and around homes, schools and streets (Shalhoub-Kevorkian, 2015). Sexual and psychological abuse and harassment of women at checkpoints, by Israeli soldiers was also another factor affecting women. harassment by Israeli soldiers, including being made to undress when crossing checkpoints, was found to have increased women’s sense of loss of their bodily integrity and added to their humiliation and oppression (ibid., p. 63).
In the Absence of Justice, Embodiment and the Politics of Militarized Dismemberment in Occupied East Jerusalem, Ihmoud and Shaloub Kevorkian, 2016
What should be apparent to anyone — not just a sociology professor — is that she and her co-author are citing themselves! Not only is this echo-chamber readily apparent, the “research” on which it relies is unverifiable because it is based on interviews with Palestinian women whom the researchers refuse to name, citing vague security concerns (and adding to the idea that no one is safe from Israelis). In fact, as the article at the website I provide above points out, these assertions are false. Her other articles contain similar outrageous propaganda.
Boston University has strict policies on academic integrity. Boston University is actually holding a workshop on Academic Honesty today! Take a look:
"This interactive workshop explores the importance of academic integrity in higher education, and addresses the following important questions: What is academic integrity? Why is academic integrity important? What are some of the values associated with academic integrity? Why is integrity important in the realm of higher education? How does the concept of academic integrity transition into environments outside of higher education?"
1:00pm on Thursday, November 7th, 2019
100 Bay State Road, Room 545A
Boston University is also a member of the International Center for Academic Integrity
But all these standards and workshops mean nothing if Boston University is considering hiring Sarah Ihmoud. If Boston University expects its students to have academic integrity, it must demand the same of its faculty. If Boston University wants to have good standing in the community of scholars, it must enforce rules of scholarly integrity. Please don’t make this shameful hire.
David Gerstman, of the Jewish News Syndicate, has just published an article which examines many of her articles; he concludes that they "reveal a pattern of false, anti-Israel claims that, if not as vitriolic as that found in Jadaliyya, nevertheless confirm her as a politicized, biased scholar who consistently distorts sources and history to fit her views." We have sent the President this article.
The Dept. of Sociology at BU has rejected Ihmoud, but the Dept. of Anthropolgy has yet to decide. We will update as developments occur.