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Letters to the Editor: USC is taking strong action against anti-Semitism and other forms of hate

Students walking and on bikes roam the USC campus in 2014
The USC campus in 2014. The university was roiled recently by a controversy involving two students that spurred attacks on social media and accusations of racism and anti-Semitism.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: We were pleased to see reporter Teresa Watanabe’s comprehensive, though disturbing, article “At USC, 2 determined women spoke out. Ugly attacks over racism, anti-Semitism, Zionism took over.”

Given USC’s ignoble but largely rectified history of fomenting and tolerating a climate of antisemitism, the fact that a student government leader in 2020 was forced to step down because of her Jewish identity is regrettable.

Troubling also is that The Times’ piece suggests a moral equivalency between Zionists and those that begrudge the very existence of the state of Israel. Zionism is, and has always been, the Jewish right to self-determination in the ancestral homeland. Mistaking this as “blanket support for all Israeli policy” reflects a certain ignorance; it also disregards the antisemitic roots of denying Jewish autonomy.

We are encouraged that, under USC President Carol Folt’s leadership, the university is taking significant steps to calm campus tensions and address core issues of race and antisemitism. She is treating this student government debacle as a learning moment and turning point toward building campus-wide intersectional understanding of diverse identities.

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With rising antisemitism, often disguised as anti-Zionism, taking root across the country, we are grateful for such leadership.

Richard S. Hirschhaut and Zev M. Hurwitz, Los Angeles

The writers are, respectively, Los Angeles director and campus affairs director for the American Jewish Committee.

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To the editor: “The two women have never directly spoken with each other,” according to your article. Perhaps if they had, this situation might have never occurred. Yet that isn’t how the world works these days.

From the American presidency on down, the strategy is to attack first, ignore or refuse to acknowledge facts, and gain support from the equally uninformed. With social media as the weapon of choice, any claim can start a stream of distortion that generates hatred and cowardly threats.

Diplomacy and discussion may seem “old school,” but its classes are still worth attending.

Peter Altschuler, Santa Monica


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