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USC Student Senator Under Fire for Tweeting “I Want to Kill Every Motherf—ing Zionist,” Other Alleged Antisemitic Tweets

The Canary Mission watchdog posted a video to Twitter on November 22 highlighting some of Mashayekh’s past tweets, which included: “I want to kill every motherf---ing Zionist,” “Curse the Jews [in Arabic],” “Zionists are going to f---ing pay,” “LONG LIVE THE INTIFADA” and “I f---ing love [H]amas.”
[additional-authors]
December 6, 2021
Photo from Twitter

USC student Yasmeen Mashayekh is currently under fire over past tweets that Jewish groups are alleging are antisemitic.

The Canary Mission watchdog posted a video to Twitter on November 22 highlighting some of Mashayekh’s past tweets, which included: “I want to kill every motherf—ing Zionist,” “Curse the Jews [in Arabic],” “Zionists are going to f—ing pay,” “LONG LIVE THE INTIFADA” and “I f—ing love [H]amas.” The video pointed to Mashayekh’s status as a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Student Senator at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering’s Viterbi Graduate Student Association (VGSA) and argued that her tweets showed that she was not worthy of the position.

Prior to the Canary Mission video, Stop Antisemitism had tweeted about Mashayekh, but Palestine Legal claimed in July that “USC responded to the smear campaign by quietly removing Mashayekh from a post celebrating women leaders at the engineering school. After Palestine Legal intervened, Mashayekh was added back to the post.” Palestine Legal did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment on what this post was or their response to Mashayekh’s tweets.

Since the video came out, Stop Antisemitism noted that USC Viterbi’s website no longer lists Mashayekh as a DEI senator and called for her expulsion. However, Mashayekh tweeted out a photo on November 30 of a name badge labeling her as a DEI senator.

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USC Viterbi’s only public comment on the matter was a November 24 statement saying that Mashayekh is not employed by the university and “is a member of a graduate student group that is self-organized, elects its own council members, and does not set the university’s policies. Even though the statements at issue are legally protected, we understand they are disturbing. USC rejects and condemns hatred in all its forms.” The VGSA did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment.

Mashayekh has doubled down on her tweets. She argued in a Twitter thread that the phrase she tweeted, “yel3an el yahood,” has been “incorrectly translate[d]” as “curse the Jews.” “Yahood is the term Palestinians use for the population that is occupying their land,” she wrote. “While this is a term that can be literally translated as Jewish, Israeli law creates an apartheid regime that favors Jews over Palestinian Muslims and Christians which creates an oppressive-political dimension to the term in the Palestinian context. Zionists will do anything to make Palestinians look anti-Semitic because Zionism clings onto Judaism as a lifeline the same way white supremacist in the KKK cling onto Christianity to gain credibility. Don’t be fooled.” She also argued that “yel3an” doesn’t mean “curse,” but rather “a request for God to cast judgment.”

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Stop Antisemitism tweeted in response to that thread, “The moment you realize you might actually get expelled from school for your vile Jew hatred,” prompting Mashayekh to reply: “I cant [sic] get expelled for protected speech. Stop trying to make Palestinians look like Jew haters for the purpose of carrying out your settler colonial agenda.”

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In another Twitter thread, she alleged that Canary Mission and Stop Antisemitism are smearing her and have caused her “job loss, FBI visits, death threats, and calls for expulsion. Zero support from USC, [of course].” She later tweeted that she aims “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. Nothing any Palestinian posts online expressing outrage against the oppression of our people will ever compare to the irreparable damage and violence [Z]ionism has brought onto Palestinians.” She has also launched a petition calling on social media platforms “to SHUT DOWN accounts whose sole purpose is abuse and targeted harassment of Palestinians,” listing Canary Mission and Stop Antisemitism as examples.

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Mashayekh also retweeted a tweet saying, “[H]ow dare [Mashayekh] wishes death on people who are constantly murdering her people, she needs to be expelled from school” in response to Stop Antisemitism’s call to expel her.

Canary Mission has since issued a Twitter thread stating that “since our video release, Yasmeen shared Far-Right conspiracies, equated Israel to Nazis, denied Israel’s right to exist and shared violent rhetoric & support for terror and more” rather than apologizing. They also said in a statement to the Journal that it is “farcical” that Mashayekh is still a student senator. “Is it reasonable to conclude that her fellow senators have sympathy for her views?” Canary Mission said. “The answer to that question is frightening.”

Alumni have been critical of the school’s handling of the matter thus far. Emily Schrader, CEO of Social Lite Creative, tweeted that student senators do in fact affect school policy. Schrader told The National Desk that she’s “disappointed to see the school hasn’t taken decisive action” against Mashayekh. “This is a student who has made appalling antisemitic and violent statements that directly threaten students on campus,” she said. “When confronted, she has doubled down and even tried to excuse explicitly antisemitic statements she made. No amount of political frustration justifies racism and antisemitism against Jews. It wouldn’t be okay against Arabs and it isn’t okay against Jews either.”

In a December 6 Jerusalem Post op-ed, Schrader quoted Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz arguing that the university “is obligated to take action” under then-President Donald Trump’s 2019 executive order requiring “universities to treat anti-Zionism and antisemitism the same way they treat anti-black, anti-feminist, anti-gay” rhetoric. “What would happen if a white supremacist said, ‘I want to kill all Blacks?’” Dershowitz said. “If it would be disciplinable for some other person in another group to say he wants to kill all of ‘fill in the blank,’ then this has to be subject to discipline as well.”

Another USC alumnus, Lauren Korbatov, similarly told the Journal that “it’s a flat out lie” for the school to say that student senators don’t affect policy. “We have elected student leaders so they can impact some policy,” she said. Korbatov also took umbrage with the school saying that they have been tagged in tweets saying that Mashayekh is employed by the university, noting that Schrader never made that claim. “The deflecting, the conflation is really disappointing.”

She also asked what USC would do if Mashayekh’s tweets had used “any other group or race or ethnicity or religion” instead of the word “Zionist.” “I think we all know the answer is that their response would be very different,” Korbatov said.

Morgan Benmoshe, a Jewish student at USC, told the Journal that Mashayekh’s comments make him feel unsafe on campus and argued that the campus community at large simply doesn’t care about antisemitism and looks down on upon support for Israel. “We are so outnumbered,” he said.

Siarra Orange, a prospective student, told the Journal she was in the process of applying to USC but is now no longer doing so as a result of USC’s handling of Mashayekh. “I don’t feel safe attending USC now,” she said. “I don’t want to give them my hard-earned money to experience this treatment.”

Additionally, more than 60 distinguished faculty members called on USC’s leadership to issue a public condemnation of Mashayekh’s tweets in a November 30 open letter. “The campus community needs to know the name of the offender and the essence of the offence,” they wrote. “We urge you to condemn the hateful content of these statements and to reaffirm that such views are contrary to USC’s values. Most importantly, Jewish, Zionist, and Israeli students, as well as those who support the right of the State of Israel to exist need to hear from our leaders that they are welcome on our campus. Such a statement would not infringe on free speech or take sides in political dispute. It is a call for character and dignity. It is overdue.” 

USC President Carol L. Folt and Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Charles F. Zukoski responded to the faculty members’ letter by saying that they were “disturbed” by the “hurtful” tweets. They also noted that the university did remove Mashayekh from a “paid mentoring position” over the summer.

“It is appalling that antisemitism continues to exist as a scourge across the nation and the world, and we will continue to work tirelessly with you and others to stamp it out,” Folt and Zukosi wrote. “We are proud of the many ways in which USC is combatting antisemitism and working to create a welcoming campus for all our students. For instance, the USC Shoah Foundation is one of the preeminent institutes in the nation working to counter antisemitism and other forms of hatred and intolerance on a broad level. The university and the Shoah Foundation have partnered on the Stronger Than Hate initiative, which empowers teens and young adults to recognize and counter hate in their own communities, including on our own campuses.”

Judea Pearl, Chancellor Professor of Computer Science at UCLA, National Academy of Sciences member and Daniel Pearl Foundation President, criticized Folt and Zukoski’s response in a statement to the Journal. “Is it dumbness or deliberate blindness that prevents USC officials from listening to their students and faculty?” he said. “Death threats were disseminated against Zionists. Incriminating statements were made against the very being of Israel. Sixty distinguished professors have pleaded with USC leadership to explicitly de-criminalize Zionist and Israeli identities: ‘Most importantly, Jewish, Zionist, and Israeli students, as well as those who support the right of the State of Israel to exist need to hear from our leaders that they are welcome on our campus.’ 

“Yet, in their response, USC leaders blatantly and meticulously refrain from spelling out the words ‘Zionist’ and ‘Israel,’ leaving thousands of students, faculty, staff, potential students, parents of USC students, and the community at large wondering: Does ‘Israel’ have a spelling? Are Zionists welcome on [the] USC campus? Are Israel-supporting professors who have devoted their professional lives to an institution welcome on a campus they have helped build?”

A separate letter template to university leadership in support of Mashayekh has been circulating in response to the faculty’s letter. The letter supporting Mashayekh alleges that “Zionist organizations” have been harassing her and have caused “academic penalization” since she’s been removed from the VGSA website and that she has suffered “emotional and psychological suffering” from it. “Regarding Yasmeen’s statements referring to the ongoing Zionist colonial project, I affirm that the language of the oppressed towards their oppressor is a form of personal resistance, as opposed to the colonial violence that the Zionist project has enacted against Yasmeen’s people — a people that has historically been brutalized at the hands of settlers,” the letter stated. “In light of USC’s continued efforts to equalize educational opportunities, it is prudent that the institution stand in support of an oppressed student who is being unfairly discriminated against for speaking on her people’s plight.”

Jewish groups condemned Mashayekh’s tweets. 

“We condemn threats of physical violence targeting any student because of their [identity] and beliefs, including support of the State of Israel,” Anti-Defamation League Los Angeles Regional Director Jeffrey I. Abrams said in a statement to the Journal. “We know that USC’s Administration is committed to creating a safe and inclusive environment for all students and we urge them to continue to address antisemitism and all forms of hate and bigotry.”

“When a USC graduate student senator, whose role is to foster an inclusive campus climate, expresses the desire to murder all Zionists, we cannot simply chalk it up to protected speech and say no more,” StandWithUS CEO and Co-Founder Roz Rothstein similarly said in a statement to the Journal. “This kind of violent language directed against Jewish people or others who support the State of Israel, would not, and should not, be tolerated if it were directed against other minorities. The School of Engineering has an obligation to publicly condemn such bigoted speech that also advocates violence against other students. Students have a right to feel safe at the schools they attend, and the department has an obligation to maintain a safe environment for all its students. Anti-Jewish bigotry, including anti-Zionist manifestations of antisemitism, must be called out equally with all other forms of hate.”

Shai Abishoor, who co-founded the Love Is Real Movement, also said in a statement to the Journal, “As a school, you have a fiduciary duty to reprimand bad behavior. If a student is tardy, you lower their grade. If a student fails an assignment, you lower their grade. But if a student is antisemitic, they’re left off scot-free. This has become a norm nowadays and unfortunately the people that are guilty are all the people that are silent.” 

The Simon Wiesenthal Center also tweeted, “.@USC willfully empowers a vicious anti-Semite. She’s the gatekeeper of inclusion?”

Mashayekh did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment.

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