Yasmeen Mashayekh

Until recently, the Palestinian student also had a paying job as a mentor in the university’s engineering school.

By Pesach Benson, United With Israel

The University of Southern California is knee-deep in a free speech controversy thanks to a Palestinian student’s incendiary tweets about Israel.

It all starts with Yasmeen Mashayekh, a 21-year-old Palestinian civil engineering student in USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering. Mashayekh is a “diversity, equity and inclusion senator” for the Viterbi Graduate Student Association. Until recently, she also had a paying job as a mentor in the engineering school.

During the past spring and summer, Mashayekh posted several inflammatory statements against Israel and Jews on Twitter and other social media. Problematic posts included statements such as these:

• “I want to kill every motherf***ing Zionist”
• “Death to Israel and its b**tch the U.S.”
• “If you are not for the complete destruction of Israel and the occupation forces then you’re anti-Palestinian.”
• “Zionists are going to f***ing pay”
• “yel3an el yahood” [curse the Jews]
• “I f***ing love [H]amas”

On May 13, during Israel’s 11-day war with Hamas, Mashayekh tweeted, “We ask everyone to stop filming/sharing footage of the firing of rockets towards the Zionist state because it will negatively affect our resistance. Not sharing will stop [Israel’s] ability to pinpoint where the rockets are being fired from. We are all responsible.”

Her posts caught the attention of Canary Mission, which documents the activities of people and organizations promoting hatred against Israel and Jews. Canary Mission exposed the posts in November.

As furor rose on social media in November, the Viterbi School tweeted a statement that Mashayekh is not employed by USC 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.”

The issue escalated as 60 faculty members sent a series of letters to USC President Carol Felt, Provost Charles Zukoski and board of trustees chair Rick Caruso, calling on the administration to rebuke Mashayekh.

“The silence of our leadership on this matter is alienating, hurtful, and depressing. It amounts to tacit acceptance of a toxic atmosphere of hatred and hostility,” the December 1 letter insisted.

Folt and Zukoski responded by saying that they were disturbed by Mashayekh’s posts, adding, however, that it would be a violation of state law “to remove anyone from a student-elected position based on protected speech.”

Signatories of the letter told the Los Angeles Times they were disappointed in the administration’s lack of response. Chemistry professor Curtis Wittig described Folt’s reply as a “deflection memo.”

Jewish students have told some of the faculty members they are frightened by Mashayekh’s tweets.

“If a Jewish student had written the same tweets about Palestinians, we would be equally distressed,” Judith Hirsch, a professor of biological sciences, told the Times.

Mashayekh, for her part, claims that she is the victim. Mashayekh, who has already begun taking graduate-level courses, says she is being targeted for harassment and lost her mentoring job. Although her name was also removed from the Viterbi Graduate Student Association website, she continues to be its diversity senator.

Mashayekh has also responded to tweets from Canary Mission and Stop Antisemitism by doubling down on her insistence that Israel has no right to exist and equating Israel with the Nazis.

According to the Canary Mission website, Mashayekh has been affiliated with the Palestinian Youth Movement and the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF). Canary Mission noted that, “As of October 2021, Mashayekh used the handle ‘YFalasteen’ and the screen name ‘Umm Obaidah’ on Twitter. Mashayekh’s Twitter bio read: “Anti-Zionist, Engineer, Artist, Activist.”

According to information that Canary Mission found online, Mashayekh is due to graduate in 2022.