USC professors stand up to colleagues' anti-Semitic statement

Scholars at the University of Southern California published an open letter earlier this month criticizing the Gender Studies Department for its 'unethical' endorsement of statement on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Last year, the university president and several other professors publicly criticized anti-Semitic events that led to a Jewish student being forced out of her government position.

56 professors at the University of Southern California are speaking out against their colleagues in the Gender Studies Department who endorsed an anti-Semitic statement on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

”Jewish students and anyone who supports the right of the State of Israel to exist and are enrolled in one of the endorsing department’s classes might now expect, quite reasonably, that they are not welcome as peers and that their academic careers will be harmed because of their beliefs or identity,” the August 8 letter reads. 

The letter elaborates to claim that the department’s actions feed into the growing marginalization of Jewish students on USC’s campus.  

The offending statement, “Gender Studies Departments In Solidarity With Palestinian Feminist Collective,” is signed by multiple gender studies departments across the country.

”As residents, educators, and feminists who are also against the settler colonialism of the U.S., we refuse to normalize or accept the United States’ financial, military, diplomatic and political role in Palestinian dispossession,” the statement reads in part. 

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Last year, several of the 56 faculty members signed another letter condemning vicious personal attacks against an undergraduate student named Rose Ritch, who claimed she felt pushed into resigning her position as the vice president of the Undergraduate Student Government because of her support for Israel’s right to exist. 

”In her heartbreaking resignation letter, Rose described the intense pressure and toxic conditions that led to her decision –specifically the anti-Semitic attacks on her character and the online harassment she endured because of her Jewish and Zionist identities,” USC President Carol L. Folt wrote to the USC community. 

Rose Ritch could not be reached for comment.

Speaking with Campus Reform, Uri Elkayam, a professor of medicine at USC Keck School and co-signer of the faculty letter, explained why he felt compelled to speak out against USC’s Gender Studies department.

 “Universities should focus on education,” Elkayam said. “They should not get involved in politics. Most people who make statements have a very superficial knowledge of the topic.” 

He continued, “I’m offended by what happened. It’s a result of people not knowing the history of Israel, the history of the Palestine. Hamas is aligned with Iran whose goal is to create an Arab state from the river to the sea.” 

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In addition to accusing the Gender Studies Department’s endorsement of the statement as “unethical,” the August 8 letter also contains three calls to action. 

“(1) to rescind its support of the Statement; (2) take immediate concrete steps to prevent identity-based discrimination and harassment before students arrive on campus; and (3) clarify policies surrounding political endorsements and pronouncements made by departments.”

The USC professors’ letter argues that many of the school’s gender studies scholars are not tenured, and therefore not in a position to openly disagree with academics in the department. 

The letter also points out that the department’s decision to co-sign the statement creates the implication that everyone agrees with the text. 

As “Inside Higher Ed” reports,  there is a long history of academics being denied tenure because they disagreed with elements of the institution’s ideology. 

Campus Reform reached out to the USC Gender Studies Department for comment, but they did not respond in time for publication.