Isabel Washington, a Jewish African-American student senator, was the first to be forced out after false accusations of “anti-black racism.”
Truman Fritz and Rose Ritch won the most votes in the race for president and vice president of the University of Southern California Undergraduate Student Government. Isabel Washington scored the most votes in the senate race. Six months later, all three USC students were harassed into resigning.
The story of how that happened exposes the ugliness of campus bullying and anti-Semitism.
Of the three USC student government leaders and one student who was next in the line of succession who were forced out, three were Jewish, one was gay and one was African-American. The “cancel culture” campaigns against them were led by Islamic students.
Three of the four students were targeted for supporting Israel.
Isabel Washington, a Jewish African-American student senator, was the first to be forced out after false accusations of “anti-black racism,” of holding “white supremacist ideologies” and of “Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian statements.”
Shaden Awad, an RA at USC, and apparently a supporter of American Muslims for Palestine, attacked Washington for her role at Hillel, a Jewish campus organization where Washington serves as the Jews of Color co-chair, writing, “Even if all the orgs on campus that r Jewish r also Zionist That’s not an excuse For you to join That’s still blood on ur hands.”
“I didn’t join them because they’re zionist. I joined them because I’m Jewish,” Washington replied.
A petition calling for her expulsion, with over 1,200 signatures, declares that “a woman with years of internalized racism, classism, and Zionism behind her should not be given the luxury of being a USC student.”
The same petition also went after Nathaniel Manor, who would have been next in line to succeed Washington, because he “openly identifies as a Zionist” and had communicated “in texts that Palestinians are dying because they refuse to ‘let Israel exist’, blaming Palestinian people for their own displacement and genocide.”
Some of the petition signatories had been involved with Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).
After outrage at the anti-Semitism scandal at USC went viral, the anonymous creator updated the petition to argue that “being anti-Zionist and being anti-Semitic are not the same.”
“USC SJP calls for the immediate resignation of Isabel Washington as a USG senator and the prevention of Netanel Manor from succeeding Senator Washington and demands that the University hold Mr. Manor accountable for his display of Islamophobia and anti-Arab/Palestinian rhetoric,” the USC chapter of SJP, an anti-Semitic hate group with a long history of harassing Jewish students, posted.
Manor had been targeted by Muhammad Yusuf Tarr, the former president of USC SJP and a Muslim Student Association leader, an organization with its own history of anti-Semitism, who had celebrated a call by Marwan Barghouti to free convicted terrorists.
Barghouti was convicted of responsibility for five murders, including that of a Greek monk. But at USC, being someone who “openly identifies as a Zionist” is a serious offense, but not supporting the murder of Jews and anyone else living in Israel who doesn’t support terrorists.
When David Horowitz came to USC to speak about Islamic anti-Semitism, Muhammad had protested against his talk. And that’s still a topic that can’t be discussed at USC.
While Jewish student leaders have been purged, SJP is free to operate on campus.
That’s despite the fact that SJP is a racist hate group whose various chapters have a long history of harassing and even physically assaulting Jewish students.
“I was physically assaulted in an elevator in 2013. I heard my friend get called a ‘Zionist kike’ by SJP. Today I was called a ‘kike’ on campus by SJP. My two female friends and I were shoved to the ground and physically assaulted at our own Israel event in 2014,” related a University of California student
Rawan Eid, USC SJP’s former president, had expressed support for Hezbollah and other terrorists responsible for killing Jews.
But at USC, being a member of SJP allows you to demand the heads of Jewish students.
In addition to targeting Isabel Washington, SJP had also demanded the “the immediate resignation of Truman Fritz and Rose Ritch from their positions as President and Vice President of the Undergraduate Student Government.”
Rose had been one of the reasons why Isabel was targeted.
“Seeing people want to impeach Rose bc she’s a Zionist, but they don’t know I’d be the new VP, and I’m also a Zionist,” Isabel had posted.
The anti-Semitism crisis at USC finally went viral when Rose stepped down from her role as vice president with a resignation letter that described being “harassed and pressured for weeks.”
“I have been told that my support for Israel has made me complicit in racism, and that, by association, I am racist. Students launched an aggressive social media campaign to ‘impeach [my] Zionist a**,’” she wrote.
Another letter, to president Carol Folt of USC by the Brandeis Center, a Jewish civil-rights organization, documented part of the sustained pattern of anti-Semitic harassment of Ritch.
Abeer Tijani, a Muslim USC student, had led the impeachment campaign, claiming that Ritch, “has been outspoken on issues that alienate Palestinian Trojans.” While Tijani later went on to deny that she meant that being pro-Israel was impeachable, her words speak for themselves.
More attacks on the Jewish VP came from Emad Askar, the director of Health and Wellness of USC’s Interfraternity Council and a member of the SJP hate group.
Emad falsely claimed that “Zionism is not Judaism,” defending his attacks on Ritch by insisting that the “occupation of Palestine represents a larger struggle of oppression for numerous groups in the United States and throughout the world.”
When Isabel Washington was forced to resign, Emad whined that the student government hadn’t condemned her as a “Zionist.”
Even during the election, Ritch was attacked for her role in Trojans for Israel.
“There never was an explicit like, ‘dirty Jew,’ like anyone ever invoking even the word ‘Jew.’ It was all under that kind of cloak of anti-Zionism,” she said.
President Carol Folt of USC responded to Ritch’s resignation letter by calling it “heartbreaking” and touted the USC Shoah Foundation’s Stronger Than Hate program as the answer. But the Stronger Than Hate program praises the Black@USC instagram account, which played a key role in inciting attacks on Jewish students, and its only mention of the anti-Semitism crisis, among its rants about George Floyd and ICE, is to put the blame on the Jewish students.
“Several members of the USC USG government resigned amidst accusations and revelations of microaggressions, racist memes and expressions of antisemitism,” its mission paper notes.
It fails to mention that the students were Jewish and the victims of anti-Semitic harassment.
The word “Jewish” only appears three times in a 19-page program from the Shoah Foundation, which was created to record the testimonies of Holocaust survivors but now touts Black Lives Matter while dismissing anti-Semitic harassment at USC. Israel isn’t mentioned at all.
Stronger Than Hate is not the solution to what happened at USC: it’s a symptom of the problem.
Folt’s letter failed to note the role that campus hate groups like SJP have played and continue to play in the harassment of Jewish students. She did not address the fact that multiple Jewish student leaders, not just one, had been forced out by the harassment. And she did not condemn any specific acts, including the petition, or any of the harassers.
That’s a far cry from USC’s response when a Trojans booster tweeted that BLM was a terrorist group. That woman was quickly banned from buying tickets or attending USC games.
The double standard is blatantly grotesque.
Criticizing BLM will get you banned from USC, but harassing Jewish students will not only result in your demands being met, but will earn you a spot of honor at the USC Shoah Foundation.
“This is antisemitism, and cannot be tolerated at a University that proclaims to ‘nurture an environment of mutual respect and tolerance,’” Ritch wrote in her letter of resignation.
USC is in violation of its own codes and those of the Department of Education.
President Folt stated that “what happened to Rose Ritch is unacceptable, and we must all take up her challenge to do better.”
That should begin with confronting campus hate groups like Students for Justice in Palestine.
Two of the three Jewish students targeted by SJP and its campus allies had impeccable progressive credentials. One was black and the other was gay. That did not save them. They were not harassed because they were insufficiently politically correct on any issue. Except one.
Rose Ritch and Isabel Washington’s work with Hillel made them targets. As did Ritch’s role at Trojans for Israel. It was their Jewish affiliations that led to the harassment. Their tormentors had made it their goal to ban any pro-Israel Jewish students from holding student government offices. This is not a new tactic. It was innovated by Hatem Bazian, SJP’s founding father.
“Hatem Bazian was more responsible than any other student on campus for trying to make life miserable for Jewish students,” charged Rabbi Doug Kahn, who led Jewish outreach in San Francisco.
Bazian’s tactics included blocking a Jewish student from sitting on the Student Judicial Council at SFSU because he “supported the state of Israel and was therefore, by definition, a racist.”
More recently, SJP had targeted student government leaders at UCLA for taking trips to Israel. And a student was asked if being Jewish would be a “conflict of interest” when sitting on the student judicial board. At UC Santa Cruz, a Jewish member of the student government was warned to abstain from a BDS vote because he had been “elected with a Jewish agenda.”
This is swiftly becoming the new normal. And there are no sanctions for this strategic harassment of Jewish students on campuses where wearing the wrong Halloween costume or posting something dumb as a 15-year-old can end a college career before it even gets started.
College presidents issue letters claiming to be troubled or concerned. And then do nothing.
As long as Students for Justice in Palestine is free to target and harass Jewish students for supporting the existence of a Jewish state, USC and other campuses are safe spaces for hate.