The California college student who delivered incendiary “antisemitic hate” during a commencement speech sparked “outrage” among students in attendance with her unchallenged rhetoric.
“The speech definitely soured my graduation,” one Jewish El Camino Community College student told The Post about his spoiled big day. “I definitely felt singled out.”
Jana Abulaban, the 18-year-old who crammed several inflammatory anti-Israel claims into her two-minute speech to some 5,000 attendees at the Torrance, Calif., campus ceremony, included accusations that the “oppressive apartheid state of Israel” is “killing and torturing Palestinians as we speak.”
“Part of me wanted to leave,” added the grad, who said he felt “outed.” “It just wasn’t appropriate for a speech.”
Despite the smattering of enthusiastic applause from some members of the audience, Abulaban’s charged rhetoric spoiled the day for many.
“From who I talked to, they were outraged that was allowed to be said,” added the student.
The gobsmacked grad told The Post he “felt uneasy” when Abulaban, a self-described “Palestinian refugee” — who was really born and raised in Jordan — launched into her hateful and “hurtful” diatribe.
“I was kind of telling myself, ‘Are you kidding me? You’re using a platform that you earned as student government president to put out this message that clearly pushes further division instead of a message of inclusion,’” he said.
The school’s YouTube page, which still has the entire event posted, caught a flurry of comments about the hate-filled speech.
“The fact that no one derailed this event to protest the slanderous appropriation of the trauma of South Africans, nor appeared to be shocked at what was said, tells me everything I need to know about how unsafe Jewish and Israeli students will become on campus,” said one commenter, noting Abulaban’s loose use of the term “apartheid.”
Watchdog groups are demanding answers — and accountability — from the school.
“Whoever greenlighted Abulaben’s hate-filled speech falsely vilifying the world’s only Jewish state must be held responsible,” blasted Liora Rez, executive director of StopAntisemismnow.org.
As for the school brass signing off on the speech, the Jewish student said the school “doesn’t like controversies,” noting, “I was surprised that the school OK’ed it.” The watchdog, like many other organizations, shared their outrage on social media.
In a statement Wednesday, Superintendent Brenda Thames finally condemned the speech, saying Abulaban was “not authorized to speak other than to introduce another speaker” and that she “took it upon herself to make an anti-Israel statement.
“Her statement was not approved by El Camino College officials and does not reflect the values and views” of the school,” Thames’ statement continued.
Thames’ statement added that the school has since directly conveyed the “inappropriateness” of the remarks to Abulaban.
Though the school insisted it had no prior knowledge of the content of the speech, Abulaban told The Post on Monday that she ran it past her advisor, Ricardo Gonzales, two days in advance, when he “basically backed me up on it,” she said, adding, “he said that obviously my voice is my speech.”
The school paper, the Union, included gushing comments from Gonzales last week: “Jana is by far one of the most integral service-based, equity-minded and innovative leaders that I have seen in this institution for a long time.”
Gonzales, who didn’t return multiple messages from The Post, made $105,411 in 2021, according to public records.
The disillusioned classmate whose big day was ruined predicted an ominous future for Jewish students at the school, asserting the speech set “a bad precedent” for incoming Jewish students, though he himself faced no backlash for his faith while at school.
“Most Jews try not to be open about it, because they know that a lot of college campuses aren’t that welcoming,” he said of the general college climate.
He also ripped the school for slow-walking its statement, but said, “I believe them when they said the speech wasn’t fully approved by the college. I heard that most speakers go off-script.”
Abulaban’s speech — which closely echoed the roundly maligned CUNY Law School commencement speech by Fatima Mousa Mohammed, who infamously claimed Israel was guilty of indiscriminately killing Palestinians — inspired a fresh wave of outrage.
“…from coast to coast, Islamist terrorist sympathizers are spreading propagandist lies about half of the world’s Jews and the one Jewish nation,” tweeted lawyer Stacey E. Burke, adding, “The scary part is many are and the institutions (many of which receive both state and federal funding) are okay with it and approve it. They lie about that later if trouble arises, but they approve these words. It’s who they are and what they believe.”
Chaya Leah Sufrin, executive director of Long Beach Hillel, a Jewish organization which services the El Camino campus, told The Post that Jewish students are “up in arms” over the charged speech.
“It’s horrendous,” said Sufrin, adding, “The fact that the student used this platform to single out the only Jewish state in this way. It’s like, why?”
The 76-year-old California public school’s “Statement of Values” espouses “integrity” as part of its five pillars, which include acting “ethically and honestly” in addition to embracing “our similarities and differences to promote an inclusive campus community.”
But prospective parents aren’t buying it.
Sebastian Kessel, a dad of a high school senior about to apply to El Camino, was “horrified” by the speaker’s political tirade.
“There’s been an increase in radical speech in college — and in the name of tolerance, we’ve become more intolerant,” the LA-based Kessel, a descendant of Holocaust survivors, told The Post.
He’s awaiting the school’s response before he decides whether to let his daughter apply.
“The reaction of the school will be more telling than the speech itself,” said Kessel. “If the school declines to take action, even a token action, then that sends a pretty big message to Jews in the area: Stay away because you’re not going to be protected.”
The dad, who classified himself as “politically to the left,” continued, “What kind of father would I be if I put my daughter in that environment?”
Kessel said the school delivered the correct response to the controversy.
“I am actually pleasantly surprised by the clarity and strength of it,” he said. “I was expecting some sort of equivocal ‘it’s wrong but she has a right’ and instead we got a very clear condemnation of the act. I’m saddened that this even took place but pleased at the college’s reaction.”