A professor at a Missouri university has sparked backlash over a social media post that allegedly endorsed the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in Gaza.
Seth Crosby, an assistant professor of genetics at the Washington University in St. Louis., wrote in a post on X, formerly Twitter, on Friday that the attacks by Israel were a “much needed cleansing, yes, but not an ethnic one. Israel is not targeting humans.”
He was responding to another post on the platform that said Israel “is engaged in the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.”
According to screenshots posted on the platform, Crosby wrote in another post that he believes “rabid animals should be put down.”
In later posts, Corby said he had been referring to Hamas, the group that led the deadliest Palestinian militant attack in Israel’s history on October 7. Israel has since launched its heaviest ever airstrikes on the besieged Gaza Strip, a territory with a population of about 2.3 million.
Israel has cut off the flow of food, medicine, water and electricity to Gaza, and at least a million have been forced to flee their homes. Gaza “is being strangled,” Philippe Lazzarini, the commissioner-general of the U.N.’s Palestinian refugee agency, said on Sunday. A U.N. expert warned that Palestinians are in grave danger of “mass ethnic cleansing.”
The Gaza Health Ministry said 2,670 Palestinians have been killed since the fighting erupted, The Associated Press reported. More than 1,400 Israelis have been killed, most in Hamas’ October 7 assault, the AP said.
“I am so very sorry for the anger I have caused by my clumsy words,” Crosby wrote. “Israel is targeting Hamas, an organization which has taken the life’s of thousands of Israeli citizens. I did not intend to imply that the deaths of the Palestinian people was in any way acceptable.”
In other posts, he said he had been fired and his account was later deleted. Crosby did not respond to a request for comment sent via LinkedIn on Sunday.
Julie Flory, a spokesperson for Washington University in St. Louis, said in an email to Newsweek on Sunday that Crosby remains employed.
“The opinions he has expressed as an individual do not represent the university’s position,” she said. “We are following up as appropriate, according to our policies and processes.”
According to Crosby’s LinkedIn profile, he has worked at the Washington University School of Medicine for almost two decades, and has been the director of research collaborations in the department of genetics since 2017.
His profiles on Washington University’s websites were wiped on Sunday, but still had him listed as an assistant professor of genetics.
Crosby’s comments prompted condemnation, including from the Missouri chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
“It is unconscionable that a professor at a Missouri institution of higher education would allegedly call for the ethnic cleansing of any population and would seek to dehumanize the target of that crime against humanity,” CAIR-Missouri board chair Yasir Ali said.
Others took to social media to call for Crosby’s firing.
“I bet there are Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim students at your school and they are now unsafe. I’m sure people of all backgrounds object to Dr. Seth Crosby’s racist remark. Do you?”
Another person wrote: “How are Palestinian students meant to feel safe on Washington University campus while you employ a professor calling for their genocide? Your assistant professor of genetics Seth Crosby is spreading dangerous hateful rhetoric that has no place at @WUSTL or any other institution!”
Both Muslim and Jewish groups have reported an increase of hateful and threatening rhetoric since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war.
On Sunday, a 71-year-old Illinois man was charged with a hate crime after allegedly fatally stabbing a 6-year-old Palestinian-American boy and injuring his mother.