A group of University of Southern California faculty members are demanding the school take action against a Palestinian student who posted several antisemitic tweets, including one saying she wanted “to kill every motherf——-g Zionist.”
In an open letter addressed to the university president, provost, and board chairman published Dec. 1, the faculty said a lack of university action against “ongoing open expressions of anti-Semitism and Zionophobia” would mean “tacit endorsement” of hate speech.
“The silence of our leadership on this matter is alienating, hurtful, and depressing,” the letter reads.
The student, Yasmeen Mashayekh, says she has faced consequences already. According to Mashayekh, who is a student in the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, she has been fired from her campus job and removed from the Viterbi Graduate Student Association website — which had previously listed her as a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion senator.
Additionally, the Viterbi school condemned the remarks from its Twitter account on Nov. 24, albeit somewhat indirectly, saying, “Even though the statements at issue are legally protected, we understand they are disturbing. USC rejects and condemns hatred in all its forms.”
The 60 USC professors and administrators who signed the letter want more. They have called on university leadership to “publicly and explicitly rebuke” Mashayekh. And while they refrained from seeking her expulsion from the graduate student senate, they seemingly implied that desired outcome, saying, “School officials should determine what to do about her appropriation of the title: ‘DEI Senator for the Engineering School.’”
The persistence of the faculty group underscores its frustration with how the school has addressed antagonism of Zionist Jews on a campus often ranked among the nation’s friendliest to Jewish students. Self-identified Zionist faculty have now signed three open letters to university administration since 2020, when the undergraduate student body vice president, Rose Ritch, resigned after facing a torrent of social media vitriol for being a Zionist. But their failure to draw a greater response may signal the administration’s limited interest in getting involved.
Mashayekh began posting the inflammatory tweets in May as violent conflict raged between Israel and the Palestinian territories. Some of the tweets were in Arabic, such as one which can be interpreted as “curse the Jews.” (Mashayekh maintains the language is milder and refers specifically to occupiers of Palestinian land rather than all Jews.)
The tweets were later taken down, but were documented and recirculated by Canary Mission, a controversial organization known for doxxing pro-Palestinian activists on college campuses.
In another tweet screencapped by the Canary Mission, Mashayekh appeared to share a video with the comments, “A Jew’s head was set ablaze” and “Long live the heroes’ arms.”
The posts sparked outrage among Jews at USC and on social media, including calls for the student’s expulsion from the school.
Defending her posts, Mashayekh tweeted Nov. 29 that she was “trying to normalize the language of resistance regardless of what that looks like.” She added that she had been visited by the FBI as a result of a harassment campaign against her by Canary Mission and StopAntisemitism.org.
My goal is to normalize the language of resistance regardless of what that looks like. Zionists have tried to make me look like a violent material supporter of terrorism, and unfortunately there are uneducated individuals buying into that story.— revolution until victory ☭ (@intifadyas) November 30, 2021
Meanwhile, students who support Mashayekh have drafted their own letter, saying racial and ethnic harassment have caused her both academic and emotional harm, and that Mashayekh, “an exploited and oppressed person,” has been the victim of violent attacks. It did not say what those attacks were or when they occurred.
Mashayekh did not respond to a request for comment.
Zionist faculty members first wrote a joint letter to administration in 2020, after USC’s student body vice president, Rose Ritch — who was active in Hillel and in the Trojans for Israel student group — resigned, citing a wave of online vitriol that was directed at her for being a Zionist.
Ritch’s resignation drew a campus-wide letter from USC President Carol Folt decrying antisemitic bullying. It did not placate 44 self-identified Zionist members of the USC faculty, who signed a letter voicing concern about a culture of intimidation against Jews in the student body.
In August of this year, a group consisting mostly of the same faculty who signed the Ritch letter — though qualifying that “we hold wide and diverse perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” — protested the school’s Gender Studies department’s signature on a letter of Palestinian solidarity.
A USC student tweeted ‘kill every motherf——ing Zionist.’ Zionist faculty are unhappy with USC’s response.