StandWithUs Head Evicted from USC Pro-Palestinian Student Group Meeting

[Updated on September 25, 2010 3:35pm]

On Sep. 19, Roz Rothstein, executive director of the Israel advocacy group StandWithUs, was kicked out of a public meeting being held by a pro-Palestinian student group at the University of Southern California. When Yael Korin, head of the Los Angeles chapter of the anti-war organization Women in Black, recognized Rothstein, a member of Students for Justice in Palestine called USC’s Department of Public Safety (DPS), and asked the officers to remove Rothstein and StandWithUs Senior Developer Gary Ratner from the meeting. The officers came, asked them to leave, and Rothstein and Ratner complied with the request.

USC’s Senior Vice President for Administration Todd. R. Dickey said in a statement that Rothstein and Ratner should never have been asked to leave. Dickey said the DPS Watch Commander will apologize to them, and that, “additional training and information will be provided to the DPS Watch Commanders so this type of incident is not repeated.” As of Friday, no apology to Rothstein had been made by anyone from USC.

The meeting, held in the Taper Hall of Humanities, was organized by Students for Justice in Palestine. It was to be the Los Angeles launch of a statewide campaign to include an Israel divestment initiative on the ballot in a future election. If approved, the initiative, which was drawn up by the Sacramento-based Israel Divestment Campaign, would force California’s public retirement systems to divest themselves of all holdings of stock in corporations that, the initiative’s promoters say, provide “equipment and services to Israel that are used in the violation of human rights and international law, including but not limited to the building of the ‘Separation Barrier’ and illegal Israeli settlements.”

According to USC’s Annenberg TV News (ATVN), approximately 20 people attended the Sunday afternoon meeting, most of whom were, according to witnesses, “non-students involved in other groups associated with SJP.”

Korin, upon recognizing Rothstein, told her and Ratner to leave. “Our intention was to conduct the training meeting in an efficient way, not at the presence of people that clearly oppose our campaign and our efforts to obtain justice for the Palestinian people,” Korin wrote in an email to ATVN.

Korin told ATVN that Rothstein and Ratner’s presence at the meeting would “endanger our plans and reveal unnecessary working details to those that wish us complete failure.” According to an email from Rothstein, after being ejected from the meeting, Rothstein called the Watch Commander who informed her that she and Ratner had been asked to leave the meeting in order “to ‘keep the peace.’”

“Anti-Israel activists seem more than willing to violate fundamental American civil rights and University standards to further their cause,” Rothstein wrote in an email. “At USC, they did so not just with the acquiescence, but even the complicity of USC police.”

In his statement on Friday, USC’s Dickey made clear that the decision taken to remove Rothstein and Ratner was wrong. He listed the measures that will be taken in response to this incident:

  “The DPS Watch Commander will apologize to the individual who was asked to leave the event and acknowledge that this decision was in error.

  “Student groups on both sides of this issue will be reminded of university rules regarding meetings of this type.

  “Additional training and information will be provided to the DPS Watch Commanders so this type of incident is not repeated. This will include providing the telephone numbers of key individuals in the division of Student Affairs with whom they can consult when questions arise.

  “Additional measures may be implemented as we learn more about this situation.”

Korin could not be reached for comment. Attempts to contact representatives from Women in Black, Students for Justice in Palestine, and Israel Divestment Campaign have so far been unsuccessful. We are seeking further comment from both sides on this developing story.