A Kent State University professor with a history of controversy is at it again.
Associate professor of history Julio Pino posted an inflammatory open letter on an academic website on Saturday, charging pro-Israel academics with complicity in the deaths of Palestinians in Gaza.
"Dear academic friends of Israel: I hold you directly responsible for the murder of over 1,400 Palestinian children, women and elderly civilians over the past month," Pino, a Muslim, wrote on the academic site History News Network. "This is not symbolic or even legally justified homicide on your part but actual, cold-blooded, calculated killing, for which you are culpable."
Pino wrote that his colleagues virtually fired the weapons that killed more than 1,400 Palestinians in recent weeks.
"Your names are scrawled on every bullet fired, bomb dropped, body buried and burnt forehead in Gaza. May your names become a curse word on the lips of every justice-loving person on earth, along with 'Obama' and 'Netanyahu'."
He went on to compare modern Israel to Nazi Germany.
"You have chosen to openly work for and brag about academic collaboration with a regime that is the spiritual heir to Nazism," Pino wrote.
He closed the letter with a promise to continue his support of the Palestinian cause. The Cuban native and professor of Latin American history finished with two salutations: "Hasta la victoria siempre!" and "Jihad until victory!"
While the Spanish phrase means "ever onward to victory," "Jihad" is an Arabic word meaning "struggle" that has become synonymous for some with Islamic holy war and terrorism.
Pino said Monday that the phrase "Jihad until victory" should not be seen as sympathetic to Islamist terrorism.
"If you take jihad as Muslims understand it, which is every kind of struggle, not just military struggle, then you can see what I was doing is urging people to do whatever they can to stop this genocide," he said. "Support medical aid to Gaza, write letters, whatever is available to people to stop the slaughter."
The university has typically distanced itself from Pino's comments, although KSU officials have defended his right to academic freedom and his constitutional rights to free speech. In a brief statement Monday, KSU decried Pino's letter without mentioning him specifically.
"We condemn the professor's statement as reprehensible and irresponsible," the university said in the statement. "At Kent State, we value collegiality and mutual respect. Assailing the public with broad statements of culpability violates these principles."
University spokesman Eric Mansfield said KSU had no additional comment beyond the statement.
Pino said he was active in Palestinian solidarity as a student at UCLA and converted to Islam in 2000.
In 2007, Pino was accused by a conservative blogger of having authored anti-American posts on a jihadist website, and KSU came under fire for employing him. A university investigation found that no campus computers or servers were used to make the posts.
In 2009, Pino apparently was investigated by the Secret Service for other allegedly making comments made on a similar website.
For now, Pino said he hasn't received KSU's statement or heard anything from university administrators.
"I respect their right to repudiate what I said, in the same way that Kent State has always respected my right to express my opinion as an individual," he said.
Pino's entire letter can be viewed at http://hnn.us/article/156524.
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