SWC Urges USC President to Investigate Campaign Purging Pro-Israel Students from Student Government

August 6, 2020

In a letter to USC President Carold Folt, the Simon Wiesenthal Center highlighted troubling incidents at USC where Jewish students were targeted because of support for the State of Israel.

The letter read, in part, “When students are hounded out of elected positions in student government, in whole or part, because they identify as Zionists, that constitutes pernicious and ugly acts of hatred that should have no place at USC, one of America’s most prestigious universities….”

“A resignation letter from one of those students, former SG Vice President Rose Ritch, asserts that there was a concerted social media campaign to “impeach [my] Zionist a**.”  Our community is particularly offended that at a time of heightened sensitivities about the rights of African Americans and other minorities that there are voices raised at USC telling the Jewish community that Zionism and Judaism are separate. The Daily Trojan quoted Emad Askar…a rising senior majoring in public policy, [he]expressed that it is important to differentiate Zionism from Judaism. Askar, a member of SJP and a Palestinian American, believes that Zionist beliefs promote the oppression of Palestinians.”

The letter continued, “Then, for good measure, he further smears Zionism in the context of current struggles in this country:  “I want to make clear that Zionism is not Judaism, and that is not coming from me, that is historical fact,” Askar said. “The occupation of Palestine represents a larger struggle of oppression for numerous groups in the United States and throughout the world,” he said.

He certainly has the freedom to speak his mind. USC’s leadership has the right and obligation, during these times of roiling change in our society, to speak theirs.”
Rabbis Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean and global social action director urged that, “a swift investigation by your [President Folt’s] office. If validated, we urge you as President of USC to denounce the campaign and publicly reassure Jewish and other Zionists on campus that USC recognizes the validity of Zionism and support for the Jewish state. We are not claiming that all criticisms of Israel are anti-Semitic, that is absurd on its face. But denying the legitimacy of the lone Jewish state of Israel among the nations of the world, is an attack on the legitimacy of the Jewish people, it’s faith, and its historic homeland. Campaigners for Palestinian rights and a Palestinian state have every right to promote their views but not when it includes the demise of another people. USC must never allow any part of its institution to be a staging ground for anti-Semites or those who seek and end to Israel.”

For more information, please contact the Center's Communications Department at pressinquiries@wiesenthal.com, join the Center on Facebook or follow @simonwiesenthal for news updates sent directly to your Twitter feed.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations with over 400,000 member families in the United States. It is an NGO at international agencies including the United Nations, UNESCO, the OSCE, the OAS, the Council of Europe and the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino).

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