A professor at the University of Southern California (USC) suggested in an October lecture that Israeli Zionists are terrorists.
International Studies Professor David Kang gave a presentation on terrorism on October 26 in front of 200 students in the International Relations 210 class. One of the slides was titled “Who are terrorists?”and listed “Israeli Zionists” along with Kim Jong-Il and Mao Zedong below it:
Another slide featured a quote from Hamas’ spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin stating, “We are not ready to move our struggle outside the occupied Palestinian land. We are not prepared to open international fronts, however much we criticize the unfair American position.”
Another slide quoted Osama bin Laden as stating that his goal was to stop the U.S. from “occupying the lands of Islam” that terrorism stems from poverty and another suggested that U.S. foreign policy and poverty are the roots of terrorism.
One of the students who was in the class, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Journal that he was disturbed by the slides, especially since they seemed to be “legitimizing” Hamas and gave the impression that Israeli Zionists should be associated with the likes of Mao Zedong and Kim Jong Il.
“He didn’t really talk about the issue any further, which… I think is the problem here,” the student said.
The student added, “I know other people who were a little disturbed to hear that, people who had taken his class who were just confused.”
Roz Rothstein, the international director of StandWithUs, criticized Kang’s PowerPoint presentation in a written statement to the Journal.
“USC Professor David Kang dehumanized all Israelis, Jews and others who believe in Israel’s right to exist during his lecture this past October,” wrote Rothstein. “His generalization that ‘Israeli Zionists’ are terrorists is simply hate speech, which has the potential to create a hostile learning environment for Israelis and others who attend USC. It is also an abuse of his role as an educator, who is supposed to uphold academic integrity and help students think critically about the world.”
Rothstein added, “This is especially unacceptable given his position of power as a professor, given that students may risk getting lower grades by challenging him. USC should condemn Kang and adopt a policy similar to the UC Regents Principles Against Intolerance, to make clear that anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry have no place on campus. StandWithUs will continue to be there for students who experience this kind of hate from professors and others.”
In a statement sent to the Journal, Kang claimed that the slide was part of an exercise.
“I was not labeling any group as terrorists, only making the point that these groups have been called terrorist organizations by others,” said Kang. “The point of the exercise was to get students to think about how and why organizations are labeled as terrorist organizations, and to foster a discussion about who does the labeling and for what purpose.”
However, the anonymous student remembers it differently.
“His class was critical thinking based but in this case he did not make that clear when presenting the slide nor gave any explanation to the historical context as to why Zionists would be a labeled a ‘terrorist’ organization,” the student wrote in a text message to the Journal, “and there were likely many impressionable students in the class who aren’t familiar with the issue who could now associate Zionism with North Korea and Al Qaeda, etc.”
Kang’s rating on RateMyProfessor is a 4.3 out of 5; various reviews on the site praised him for his lecturing skills and the depth of his knowledge. He is known for his expertise on North and South Korea.
The anonymous student described the class as “a good introductory class” overall, but those slides were “one of the only things that bothered” the student about the class.
“I thought he was so rational,” the student lamented, which made Kang’s slides all the more confusing for him.
This article has been updated.