Pa. prof’s rhetoric comes under lawmakers’ scrutiny

(JTA) — Two Pennsylvania lawmakers have written to the president of a private university in the state about a professor who made anti-Israel statements at a rally.

Kaukab Siddique, 67, an associate professor of English and literature at Lincoln University in Oxford, said at a Labor Day rally in Washington, D.C., that "We must stand united to defeat, to destroy, to dismantle Israel — if possible by peaceful means." He added, "Dear brothers and sisters, unite and rise up against this hydra-headed monster which calls itself Zionism."

Following last week’s release of a videotape of the rally, state Sens. Daylin Leach and Anthony Hardy Williams, both Philadelphia-area Democrats, wrote to Lincoln President Ivory Nelson to find out if his "anti-Semitic diatribes" were being heard as well inside the university classrooms at the historically black university.

"We support academic freedom, and certainly a professor has the right to criticize Israel, or any other entity or policy he wishes," they wrote. But, the lawmakers said, ‘the Holocaust is not a theory or opinion. It is historically documented fact, denied only by those with a hateful or anti-Semitic agenda."

Siddique, a Muslim originally from Pakistan, had questioned the validity of the Holocaust at the rally, according to reports, as he has done in published articles.

A tenured professor who has taught at the university since 1985, Siddique told the Philadelphia Inquirer that "I got a little fired up and said a few things that were pretty strong. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t say them again." He also said that he is "against Israel, not against Jews."

Lincoln, while a private university, receives public funding and offers reduced tuition for Pennsylvania residents. Notable graduates include Thurgood Marshall, Langston Hughes and Cab Calloway.