Shady far-right groups behind Texas Tech professor’s suspension

A man speaks in a crowd of people

Jairo Fúnez-Flores speaks at a Palestine vigil in March. 

Charles H.F. Davis III Campus Abolition Research Lab

Palestinian scholarship and education have been a consistent target of Zionism’s settler-colonial violence against Palestinians.

As we enter the seventh month of Israel’s genocide of Palestinians in Gaza, this targeting, originally identified as “scholasticide” by Palestinian scholar Karma Nabulsi in 2009, has escalated.

Israel has destroyed or severely damaged all 12 of Gaza’s universities and institutions of higher learning, struck more than 80 percent of all schools across the Gaza Strip, and killed 95 university professors and 261 teachers.

“Israel kills poets, artists and academics who can mobilize people with their work and give Palestinians a shared cultural sense,” writes Sewar Elejla. “The killings are undertaken so that the goals of Zionism – Israel’s state ideology – can be attained … Israel has a 75-year history of killing Palestine’s great minds.”

Educators and students in the US are not being physically exterminated by Israel’s genocide. Nevertheless, it is important to understand the connection between scholasticide in Palestine and the Zionist imperative to eliminate any and all criticism of the Israeli colonial project within US educational spaces.

This is a process that unfolds with full US institutional support. Assassinating Indigenous Palestinians and repressing critics abroad both serve Zionism’s broader goal of achieving impunity for its colonial project.

Heightened backlash

Of course, none of this is exactly new: as far back as 1984, Edward Said wrote of how a “disciplinary communications apparatus exists in the West both for overlooking most of the basic things that might present Israel in a bad light, and for punishing those who try to tell the truth.”

But this dynamic has dramatically sharpened following 7 October. The backlash to US students and faculty who speak out against Israel’s atrocities is alleged by some commentators to have been so intense that it has resulted in a rate of politicized professional retaliation unseen since the McCarthy era and the Vietnam War.

As students and faculty brave arrests, violent police repression, firing and suspension for taking part in demonstrations to call for a direct end to their universities’ complicity in genocide and Zionist colonization, universities across the country are proudly entrenching themselves as punitive zones prepared to abet genocide in Gaza by stamping out criticism of Israel and Zionism by whatever means necessary.

And it’s not only physical acts of protest that are met with ceaseless repression. On 4 March, in a move that echoes the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s firing of Steven Salaita, Texas Tech University suspended Jairo Fúnez-Flores for his Tweets on X (formerly Twitter).

Fúnez-Flores is assistant professor of curriculum studies and teacher education.

While Fúnez-Flores was eventually reinstated on 12 April after an investigation by the University’s Office of Equal Opportunity found no evidence of discrimination, the details of his case are worth revisiting at length as they provide broader insight into the repressive atmosphere at universities at this moment in time, and the potential dangers faced by outspoken faculty.

Spurious narrative

Although university officials described Fúnez-Flores’ tweets as “hateful, anti-Semitic and unacceptable,” which was given as the reason for the suspension, they did not provide a direct example of anti-Semitic content to media either during his suspension or following his reinstatement.

This is because they couldn’t. An avowed supporter of Palestinian liberation, Fúnez-Flores, whose research interests include decolonial theory, is clearly anti-Zionist. To consider that anti-Semitic can only be done by enforcing a false conflation between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.

But this remains a dominant strategy for Israel and its allies to make support for Palestine costly for dissenters.

“We take the First Amendment’s application to public universities seriously; however, we are also committed to providing a safe learning and working environment that is free from harassment, including anti-Semitic harassment, and will not tolerate behavior that crosses the line into harassment and interferes with or limits the ability of an individual to participate in the educational activities of Texas Tech University (TTU),” university president Lawrence Schovanec and Texas Tech’s System Chancellor Tedd Mitchell wrote in a joint statement justifying Fúnez-Flores’s suspension.

Shovanec and Mitchell also referenced the “Dear Colleague” letter sent by the Department of Education to schools across the US on 25 May 2023, as further justification for their actions. This letter, purportedly written as a reminder to US schools of their duty to “provide all students, including Jewish students, a school environment free from discrimination,” was part of the Biden administration’s first ever “US National Strategy to Counter Anti-Semitism.”

It was a plan that, as Ali Abunimah wrote last year, legitimizes the false conflation of anti-Semitism and support for Palestinian freedom by laundering the repressive Anti-Defamation League’s spurious narrative that Palestine activism and advocacy on college campuses somehow threatens Jewish students.

An outside organization

But there are also more local forces at play.

As with many instances of individuals facing workplace retaliation for their views on Palestine, Fúnez-Flores’s story begins with an outside organization.

On 22 February, a far-right publication called Texas Scorecard ran a hit-piece against Fúnez-Flores titled “Texas Tech Professor Publicly Expresses Anti-Semitism.”

Authored by Kristen Stanciu, the article was a clear attempt to ensure that Texas Tech take action against Fúnez-Flores for his views.

Employing a format evocative of anti-Palestinian blacklist sites such as Canary Mission, the piece opens with a lede stating Fúnez-Flores “publicly posted anti-Semitic remarks,” then proceeds to enumerate a cached list of Fúnez-Flores’s Tweets from 11 February 2024 to 7 October 2023 in a deceptively clinical manner suggesting expressions of support for Palestinian liberation are self-evidently declarations of anti-Semitism.

The majority of interviewees, including Dallas Jewish Conservatives president Benji Gershon, directly call for Texas Tech to fire Fúnez-Flores. The piece also cites Texas Tech’s Code of Ethical Conduct, suggesting the university has run afoul of its own protocol, and ends by uplifting Florida Governor Ron Desantis’ attacks on higher education as an example of the possibility for “serious reform of higher education.”

A quick glance at Stanciu’s other articles reveals a repeated anxiety about Chinese Communist Party “infiltration” of Texas Tech and business institutions, often described as a “red threat”.

In short, the article was an unsubstantiated partisan attack, and not the kind of material university officials genuinely concerned with student well-being ought to have ever been swayed by in the first place. Yet the attack seems to have borne fruit: Fúnez-Flores told The Electronic Intifada that a day after the piece appeared in Texas Scorecard, he was called into a meeting with the university’s dean, where he was confronted with screenshots of his tweets and questioned about their contents, including the use of profanity.

Ten days later, on 4 March, Fúnez-Flores said, he received an email from Texas Tech president Schovanec informing him that he was being officially placed on suspension due to the anti-Semitic nature of his tweets. Immediately after he was suspended, Schovanec and Mitchell released their statement to the media, suggesting that the outcome had been planned in advance.

A partisan organ

It’s unclear why Texas Scorecard chose this specific moment to target Fúnez-Flores.

What is clear is that the Scorecard is not an independent, impartial publication, but a partisan organ that emerged from a constellation of powerful, highly conservative and anti-democratic local organizations and business interests.

Texas Scorecard began as a publication of the Tea Party-aligned conservative advocacy group Empower Texans, which was largely funded by Tim Dunn, an oil billionaire dubbed by TexasMonthly as “the billionaire bully who wants to turn Texas into a Christian Theocracy.”

The publication also describes Dunn as “the largest individual source of campaign money” in Texas “by far.” Though Texas Scorecard supposedly became independent of Empower Texans in 2020, it continues to run material critical of political candidates opposed by Dunn, who uses his inordinate wealth to sway elections and promote far-right, Christian nationalist causes with astroturfed media outlets and PACs such as Empower Texans and Defend Texas Liberty PAC.

In October 2023, Jonathan Stickland, the then-president of Defend Texas Liberty, hosted white supremacist Nick Fuentes.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who received $3 million from the organization, pledged that his campaign would spend the same amount on Israel bonds after initially framing the meeting between the Hitler supporter and Defend Texas Liberty PAC as nothing more than “a serious blunder.”

The Texas Tribune reported that Defend Texas Liberty, funded by Dunn and Texas billionaire Farris Wilks, is “a key part of a sprawling network of campaigns, institutions, dark money groups and media companies that they have funded to push their far-right views.”

Dunn reportedly gave at least $9.85 million to Defend Texas Liberty PAC since the start of 2022.

Not the first time

As The Austin Chronicle revealed, Texas Tech’s suspension of Fúnez-Flores is not the first time that Texas Scorecard has initiated a campaign against Texas Tech, of which Dunn himself is an alumnus.

Maggie Q. Thompson reported that Dunn also vice chairs the board of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, which is dedicated to defunding public education. As Thompson argues, attacks on Texas Tech reveal how Texas Scorecard serves as the “propaganda arm” of the movement to “eliminate public education altogether.”

However, Fúnez-Flores’ suspension from 4 March to 12 April may be the first time that Texas Scorecard succeeded in directly pressuring the university administration to do its bidding.

The suspension of Jairo Fúnez-Flores, then, had nothing to do with genuine concern for anti-Semitism or student well-being, and the university’s initial capitulation to anti-democratic Christian nationalist forces reveals the degree to which unconditional support for Zionism is weaponized to inoculate institutions and powerful actors from charges of anti-Semitism – even when these institutions are directly tied to literal anti-Semites.

On their part, students called for Texas Tech to reverse its decision and reinstate Fúnez-Flores. On 5 March, Texas Tech Students for Justice in Palestine issued a statement of support for Fúnez-Flores.

“The widespread punishment of university faculty is parallel to the recent pervasive destruction of myriad academic and cultural landmarks in Gaza, including universities, libraries and bookstores. It is deeply disappointing that Texas Tech University is contributing to the oppression of voices within our community,” the statement read.

Recognizing the danger of letting Texas Tech’s actions go unchallenged, organizations from PEN America, MESA, Texas American Association of University Professors and FIRE issued letters of support for Fúnez-Flores.


In a welcome turn of events, Fúnez-Flores was reinstated on 12 April after the investigation predictably failed to find any evidence of wrongdoing.

“After completing the investigation, OEO [Office of Equal Opportunity] did not find evidence of a violation of Texas Tech policy for discriminatory harassment. As a result, Prof. Fúnez-Flores’ suspension with pay has concluded, and he is cleared to return to his job functions,” read a statement sent to Texas Tech faculty on 12 April by Schovanec and Mitchell.

But Schovanec and Mitchell’s latest statement still maligns Fúnez-Flores’s social media posts in support of Palestine, notably relying on the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, which automatically conflates criticism of Israel and Zionism with anti-Semitism:

“It is important to reiterate that we deplore the social media posts by Prof. Fúnez-Flores’ and find them to be hateful, anti-Semitic and antithetical to our Code of Ethics,” Mitchell and Shovanec wrote.

“The sentiments he has expressed are anti-Semitic according to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of anti-Semitism. This definition has also been adopted by Texas Government Code, the US Department of State, and the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.”

The invocation of IHRA to further delegitimize Fúnez-Flores’s views at the very instance Schovanec and Mitchell were forced to concede they could find no evidence of wrongdoing reflects how it was always Fúnez-Flores’s anti-colonial politics which were at issue, and that universities remain committed to the false conflation of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism as a means of muzzling dissent.

Fúnez-Flores told The Electronic Intifada that the weaponization of the IHRA definition to stigmatize political speech on Palestine serves to deflect from the ongoing genocide of Palestinians in Gaza, as well as from the actual anti-Semitism of white nationalist movements in Texas.

It also reflects a willful ignorance of his actual pedagogical practice.

“As a decolonial scholar, I begin my courses speaking about the dehumanization of Muslim and Jewish peoples in Spain, and how this was exported to the Americas during conquest,” Fúnez-Flores said. “Texas Tech’s case against me is debunked by what I actually teach.”

While he was still under suspension, Fúnez-Flores told The Electronic Intifada that he was undeterred: “Speaking out as a genocide unfolds is the least we can do,” Fúnez-Flores said at the time. “We have to speak out no matter the consequences.”

This commitment has not wavered.

“I don’t intend to be silenced, especially after my reinstatement,” Fúnez-Flores said. “I’ll continue to speak out, despite the consequences.”

Omar Zahzah is a writer, poet, organizer, and Assistant Professor of Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas (AMED) Studies at San Francisco State University.




I am so confused. Isn't this an oxymoronic law of the highest order? By definition the law itself is antisemitic. If "holding Jews collectively responsible for the actions of Israel" is antisemitic, isn't making a law that says criticising Israel equates to a hatred of Jews antisemitic because it implies that Israel is representitive of Jewishness itself? Am I losing my mind? What's going on?

In light of this, assuming I am correct in this circular shitshow, are all of the people who voted this into law going to be held to account? Or is this more like a "No, its only antisemitic when you anti-genociders say it. We can allude to the collective whenever it serves our needs, but you can't criticise it! hahaah!"


The problem is the failure of Americans to adopt critical thought. It is a worldwide failure, so do not feel marginalized. The Holocaust was a genocide; true, it was the greatest one we have records for, and it is hard to imagine it ever being surpassed in size and savagery. However, it is not unique, and it has many antecedents. Some genocides have been more successful than others; the Tasmanian Aborigines stand out as it effectively exterminated the victim people. The point is having suffered a genocide does not make you necessarily immune from committing the same crime. If your cultural, ethnic, or even physically similar group, identifies itself as separate and unique, you are capable of genocide. The use of the term (is there a worse one in origin in this context as the victims are Semites) antisemitic is a political ploy engineered by Zionists and their apologists to effectively issue Israel a hall pass for genocide. Note there is no individual hall pass as Jews can find themselves in prison for breaking laws, it only really applies to Israel. That is the political hypocrisy.


Is it actually true that the "Holocaust" was the greatest genocide "we have records for"? We actually have extensive records for the "Congo Holocaust" in the Belgium Congo, a genocide that resulted in 13-18 million deaths; and the "Trans-Atlantic African Slave Trade Holocaust", a genocide that resulted in 12-20 million deaths. Also, though the records are not quite as extensive, they do reliably establish that the "New World Holocaust", was a genocide that resulted in at least 40 million deaths.

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