Julie Marzouk
Julie Marzouk is a an attorney, former law professor, and activist

Media coverage of USC’s decision to cancel speech furthers antisemitism

Media coverage of USC’s decision to cancel Asna Tabassum’s Valedictorian Speech furthers legitimizes antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment on American college campuses by mislabeling the college senior “pro-Palestinian” and a “human rights activist.”

In an interview of Tabassum featured on Al Jeezera she insists that she is “not antisemitic and that conflation of antisemitism and antizionism is deeply problematic.” In a subsequent interview with CBS News, Tabassum talks about her minor in Resistance to Genocide and how she used the information and education provided to her by USC to inform her world views. Tabassum was never questioned on the distinction between antisemitism and antizionism. The Valedictorian was not asked to explain how her labeling of Israel as a “racist settler colonialist ideology” is not antisemitic.

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism has been accepted by the United States government since 2010 and now formally adopted by more than 40 other United Nations member countries.  The IHRA specifically identifies that a form of antisemitism is “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.

In an interview with ABC, Tabassum says that she does not apologize for her “advocacy” including the website Tabassum highlights on her Instagram profile.  That website promotes the idea that “one Palestinian state would mean Palestinian liberation, and the complete abolishment of the state of Israel.” Tabassum takes pains to point out that “the next line of the website” explains that a Palestinian “one-state solution” would permit Arabs and Jews to live together in peace. The ABC reporter does not challenge the student or note that twenty percent of Israel’s current population is Arab Israeli. That is nearly 1.5 million people Arabs living peacefully in Israel who enjoy full privileges of citizenship. In fact, since October 7, 2023, 70% of Israeli Arabs (who often identify themselves as Palestinian) have said they feel that they are a part of the country of Israel.

During an interview on CNN, Tabassum reiterated her conviction that there is a need to end the apartheid in Israel. The CNN reporter did not challenge the students assertion that apartheid actually exists in Israel. In fact, there are zero Jews and zero synagogues in Gaza. There are 400 mosques inside the state of Israel. Would it not have been appropriate for the CNN journalist to press the “activist” what exactly she meant by the apartheid?

The ideology that refutes the right of Israel to exist is not aimed at peace or improving the plight of the Palestinians; it is simply an attempt to deny Jews the safety and security that Israel provides. Not once in an interview with the media was the Valedictorian asked how all the Jew hatred and anti-Zionism on American campuses is aiding the Palestinians?

After thousands of years in exile, Jews have their own autonomous nation. Israel is actually one the world’s few manifestations of anti-colonialism. It is the return of an indigenous people to their ancestral land to live under self-rule. Yes, Palestinians are also entitled to self-determination. The two are not mutually exclusive.

The US media and American Universities must stop giving “Pro-Hamas” and “Anti-Israel” haters on campuses a free pass by pawning off their “protest” as a movement for human rights. Those who truly promote human rights would not have cheered when civilians were murdered, raped, and kidnapped on October 7, 2023. Actual peace activists would not have celebrated last week when Israel was under attack by more than 300 drones and missiles from Iran.

USC has already articulated there is no First Amendment guarantee to give a graduation speech. The University is not taking away Tabassum’s title of Valedictorian. Yet, Congresswoman Rashida Talib and the Council on American Islamic Relations are now petitioning for Tabassum’s speech to be reinstated.

USC must come forward with a clear statement of conscience denouncing antisemitism and antizionism. The University cannot hide behind “security concerns.” USC has an opportunity to promote its own protocols which prohibits all USC students from promoting hate of any kind on any platform. It is a moment for moral clarity. The University should outwardly state, “We do not support antisemitism. As a university that receives federal funds, we are not only obligated to follow the IHRA definition of antisemitism, we wholeheartedly embrace it.”

If USC stood up and loudly proclaimed that calling for the destruction of Israel is antisemitism, it would be a first step in stopping the normalization of anti-Zionism in American Universities. The media must ask the questions and cease the biased media coverage that allows the Universities to get away these disingenuous protests. As for the USC Valedictorian, she is certainly entitled to express her beliefs; but freedom of speech does not and must not mean freedom from consequences.

Julie Marzouk is a lawyer, former law professor, and activist in Southern California

About the Author
Julie Marzouk is a an attorney, former law professor, and activist
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