The focus is back on a Kent State faculty member with former ties to a jihadist website.
Julio Pino’s shout of “Death to Israel” at a public lecture by a former Israeli diplomat “was not surprising,” said Jennifer Chestnut, executive director of the Jewish organization Hillel at Kent State, who attended the speech.
“If he will say this in public, what will he say in the confines of his own classroom when it’s just him at the podium?” she asked.
The KSU student news site KentWired reported that Pino, 50, disrupted the Tuesday night lecture by Ishmael Khaldi, who rose from living in a Bedouin tent to the top ranks in the Israeli government.
Pino asked Khaldi how Israel could justify providing aid to countries such as Turkey with “blood money” from the deaths of Palestinians, according to the student website.
The two traded barbs, then Pino stormed out and Khaldi fielded more questions from the 100 people in the audience.
“Is this what that professor is telling you?” he asked at one point. “It is my responsibility to tell you the truth and build relationships.”
Chestnut, the head of Hillel, said Pino distributed anti-Israel fliers in the back of the room and had done so at other events on campus in the past.
Pino, an associate professor of history, could not be reached for comment.
The native of Cuba and convert to Islam has been a lightning rod on campus for a decade.
In 2002, he wrote a column in the Daily Kent Stater eulogizing an 18-year-old Palestinian suicide bomber. In 2005 and 2006, he wrote letters to the student-run paper criticizing American policy in the Muslim world.
One letter from Pino later appeared on a jihadist blog, www.?global.war.bloghi.com, to which he told the KSU administration that he had contributed. The website no longer exists under that name.
“You attack, and continue to attack, us everywhere,” read both the letter and submission to the website. “The ill done to the Muslim nations must be requited. The Muslim child does not cry alone; the Muslim woman does not cry alone; and the Muslim man is already at your gates.’’
The university fired his department head in 2007 when he allowed Pino to take a fully paid, six-week professional leave to the United Arab Emirates to learn Arabic.
The university said John Jameson did not follow university protocol in approving Pino’s travel. Jameson said officials were anxious about further bad publicity about Pino and yanked his title and ordered Pino back to campus in retribution.
In 2009, the U.S. Secret Service acknowledged that it was investigating Pino “as an individual who came to our attention who needed to be interviewed.”
Resident agent in charge David Lee said then that officials went to Pino’s home in the “ongoing” investigation and declined to elaborate.
In the latest dust-up, KSU student and event organizer Evan Gildenblatt of Cincinnati, in a guest editorial Thursday in the student media, criticized Pino for abusing his powerful influence over students.
The column by Gildenblatt, who is majoring in conflict resolution and minoring in Jewish studies, called for more understanding between people of different faiths.
“He came with a premeditated plan to disrupt the program, and completely disregarded one of the main messages of the evening: peaceful coexistence through respectful dialogue,” Gildenblatt told the Beacon Journal.
University President Lester A. Lefton released a statement Thursday afternoon saying that Pino treated Khaldi “in a way which I find reprehensible, and an embarrassment to our university.”
Lefton, who is Jewish, said he found Pino’s words “deplorable and his behavior deeply troubling.”
“We hope that our faculty will always model how best to combine passion for one’s position with respect for those with whom we disagree,” Lefton said.
KSU spokeswoman Emily Vincent said the university has received about two dozen complaints about Pino in the past two days.
The Beacon Journal received more than a dozen emailed complaints from various parts of the country in less than an hour Thursday evening.
Pino has tenure, or virtual lifetime employment, in his $73,631 job.
They fired the Department Chair for allowing Pino to go to Saudi Arabia and study Arabic? What are the chances they’ll fire this bigot? What would happen to a faculty member who stood up and shouted Death to Cuba! or Death to Saudi Arabia? Would that individual have his or her job the next morning?
Doorbells ringing… time to run up the dentists’ bills.