A speaker accused Israel of committing “genocide” against the Palestinians and launched into an anti-American tirade during a recent Martin Luther King Jr. memorial ceremony at Northwestern University with the school’s president in attendance, prompting some students to walk out of the event.
Rev. Dr. Reginald W. Williams Jr., the pastor of the First Baptist Church in University Park, Ill., made the comments in his keynote speech at the campus candlelight vigil for MLK Jr. on Jan. 28.
Williams launched into a long critique of the United States and Israel during the speech, claiming the United States inspired Nazi Germany’s race-based laws and accusing Israel of war crimes.
“South Africa has brought charges against Israel at the World Court, and the World Court has sided with South Africa to show that there’s a probability of genocide and Israel against the Palestinians,” said Williams.
The news comes two weeks after the Department of Education opened an investigation into alleged anti-Semitism at Northwestern. It could add to concerns about an anti-Jewish atmosphere on campus.
One Jewish student who attended the event told the Washington Free Beacon that she was disturbed by Williams’s comments, and said it prompted some of her classmates to leave the vigil.
“I had two friends who walked out of the event,” she said. “It was very upsetting.”
She said she was “taken aback, because MLK was a big supporter of Israel,” and she felt that the civil rights leader’s memory “was overshadowed in a way” by the pastor’s remarks.
Northwestern University president Michael Schill also attended the event, according to the student. Critics say Schill has failed to adequately address anti-Semitism on campus.
The student said university administrators have yet to acknowledge or respond to Williams’s comments. A spokesman for Northwestern did not respond to a request for comment.
Northwestern alumnus Richard Goldberg, a senior adviser for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, also denounced Williams’s comments.
“It’s quite clear anti-Semitism is out of control at Northwestern and the [university] president is fully complicit,” he said.
Anti-Semitism at the university has been a growing concern in recent months. Northwestern student groups issued statements defending Hamas as “freedom fighters” with the “right to resist” after the terrorist group slaughtered over 1,000 Israelis on Oct. 7. A few weeks later, anti-Israel activists planted fake campus newspapers in classrooms accusing Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians, National Review reported.
The university launched a committee to combat anti-Semitism following outside pressure in November. But dozens of student groups and over 100 professors slammed the move as an attempt to censor legitimate political speech.
“The deliberate silencing and censorship of pro-Palestinian activism is nothing but repressive and authoritarian,” wrote the student groups in an open letter that was signed: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” That phrase is often used by Palestinian terrorist groups to call for the destruction of Israel.
Williams’s criticism wasn’t reserved for Israel. He also accused the United States of helping to create Nazi Germany in his speech at the MLK Jr. candlelight vigil.
The United States is a “nation whose Jim Crow regime set the blueprint for apartheid in South Africa, and legalized Nuremberg laws in Nazi Germany,” he claimed.
He added that the United States “has stood on the wrong side of every liberation struggle on Earth” and “when [Martin Luther] King brought up those matters and those issues, this country killed him.”
Williams did not respond to a request for comment.