USC Shoah Foundation denies ties with anti-Israel valedictorian whose speech was canceled

‘The Shoah Foundation is not an academic unit within the university and we do not play a formal role in the degree path of any student.’

By Vered Weiss, World Israel News

The USC Shoah Foundation has denied any connection with a valedictorian who has been barred from giving the commencement address because of her strong anti-Israel views.

Asna Tabassum, a Muslim student at the University of Southern California whose parents were immigrants from South Asia, claimed to have ties to the Shoah Foundation and claims she earned a minor in “resistance to genocide.”

The Shoah Foundation, founded by filmmaker Steven Spielberg to record the memories of Holocaust survivors and educate the public about the Shoah, denied any connection with Tabassum or that it was involved in her educational activities.

“Despite suggestions to the contrary, our Institute is not an academic unit within the university and we do not play a formal role in the degree path of any student,” a representative for the USC Shoah Foundation told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in a statement Tuesday.

“Recent claims of association with the USC Shoah Foundation are inaccurate and have led to confusion about our role, values, and mission,” it continued.

USC announced it was breaking with the tradition of having the valedictorian speak at commencement because of inflammatory emails and social media posts authored by Tabassum, and that there were serious security concerns allowing her to speak.

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USC Provost Andrew T. Guzman announced, “Over the past several days, discussion related to the selection of our valedictorian has taken on an alarming tenor.”

He added, “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 U.S.C. and has escalated to the point of creating substantial risks relating to security and disruption at the commencement.”

Opposing the decision, Tabassum wrote, “I am a student of history who chose to minor in resistance to genocide, anchored by the Shoah Foundation, and have learned that ordinary people are capable of unspeakable acts of violence when they are taught hate fueled by fear,” she wrote.

“And due to widespread fear, I was hoping to use my commencement speech to inspire my classmates with a message of hope. By canceling my speech, USC is only caving to fear and rewarding hatred,” she added.

The Shoah foundation said it was in no way involved with her minor.

In her Instagram posts, Tabassum called Zionism a “racist settler-colonial ideology,” and called for the destruction of Israel and in its place a formation of a binational Israeli and Palestinian State.

She also claimed that “antisemitism is weaponized against Palestinians and allies … by Zionists as a way to shut down criticism of Israel.”

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A Zionist social media group called We Are Tov raised highlighted the valedictorian’s anti-Israel social media posts and warned about the dangers of having her speak at commencement.

They posted “that Tabassum “promotes antisemitic views” and mused, “What will she say at the podium?”