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USC should let its valedictorian speak or be honest about why it isn't

OpinionUSC should let its valedictorian speak or be honest about why it isn't

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Reasonable people can disagree about whether Asna Tabassum, who has expressed the view that the state of Israel should be destroyed, ought to be the University of Southern California’s duly appointed commencement speaker.

There are prominent conservative voices such as Mary Katharine Ham, David Harsanyi, and Guy Benson, firm supporters of the Jewish state of Israel all, who say let her speak, in part because sunlight is the best disinfectant for ignorance or hate.

I agree with them.

USC CANCELS VALEDICTORIAN’S GRADUATION SPEECH AFTER ANTI-ISRAEL SOCIAL MEDIA POSTS, SECURITY CONCERNS EMERGE

But there are others who say calling for Israel’s demise is just as disqualifying as the unrepentant use of a racial slur, and I can certainly understand that perspective as well.

But what we should all agree on, what is utterly obvious and staring us in the face, is that USC’s explanation as to why they canceled the valedictorian’s speech is a sack of disingenuous dunnage. And worse, it all but scapegoats Jews.

Here was the school’s pathetic explanation, “The intensity of feelings, fueled by both social media and the ongoing conflict in the Middle East, has grown to include many voices outside of USC and has escalated to the point of creating substantial risks relating to security and disruption at commencement.”

It is absolutely true that leftists have a long track record of causing mayhem when speakers on campus say things they don’t like, it is also true that more recently anti Israel protesters have done the same.

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But what we do not have is any record of pro-Israel entities or individuals acting in such violent or destructive manners. Put simply, the threat USC is describing does not exist.

No Muslim students have had to hide in a library as protestors accost them as happened to Jewish students at Cooper Union, no roving bands of pro Israel activists are shutting down bridges, burning flags or chanting “death to America,” or death to anything.

If the speaker were pro-Israel there might be a legitimate threat, but there is no threat here, which is exactly why USC won’t specifically define it. 

So what is the real reason for the cancellation? There are several plausible possibilities.

Maybe the president of USC didn’t want to be dragged before Congress for promoting antisemitism, maybe there were concerns that the speech could offend attendees, or even worse, large donors to the institution.

But If USC believes that Tabassum’s statements and ideology are not disqualifying then they have a responsibility to protect her free speech, on the other hand, if they do, or if they fear harm to the reputation or bottom line of the school then they have a responsibility to say that too. 

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In other words, if you’re canceling the speech because of hateful statements then say so, don’t blame imaginary violent Jews. 

This cop out from USC is especially cowardly and damning because Tabassum’s virulent anti-Israel rhetoric, far from being rare or obscure, is mirrored by members of Congress.

Just this week, 43 Democrats and Republican Thomas Masssie voted against condemning the phrase “From the River to the Sea,” which can only mean the destruction of Israel and its total replacement by a Muslim Palestinian State.

Some of these members, such as Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Katie Porter were directly asked by Fox News if they condemned the chant “Death to America,” or the burning of American flags and they declined to answer.

Obviously, the left wishes to excuse and even normalize this kind of dangerous, anti-American rhetoric, and that is exactly what USC is doing with its lies about why Tasabbum won’t be taking to a lectern.

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Just like AOC and Porter the university is refusing to comment when presented with the question of whether calling for the destruction of Israel is a disqualifying statement for a commencement speaker.

There is a long history of antisemitism being swept under the rug across the globe, it is an uncomfortable issue that people and institutions find ways to ignore.

That approach doesn’t generally end well.

Whether calling for the destruction of Israel is an antisemitic statement that should bar a person from an honor such as valedictorian is a reasonable argument, in fact, just the kind of debate that colleges and universities are meant to foster.

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Instead, USC has simply decided to punt on the question, leaving the completely false impression that Tabassum has been canceled by threats from conservatives or Zionists.

For my part, I say, let her give the speech, but what is more important is for the University of Southern California to explain exactly why that isn’t happening.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM DAVID MARCUS

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