The University of South Florida is well known as the former academic home of convicted terrorist Sami Al-Arian, who asked attendees at a rally to donate $500 to sponsor a Palestinian terrorist to kill Israeli Jews. In the years since Al-Arian was ultimately fired from the university, USF has continued to serve as a haven for Jew haters and promoters of the Hamas-funded Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel. BDS proponent and terrorist supporter Ali Abuminah spoke at the university with the support of numerous academic departments. Jew hater and former Women’s March leader Linda Sarsour also spoke at USF to promote BDS.
USF’s chapter of the Hamas-backed hate group Students for Justice in Palestine has also held many events demonizing and delegitimizing Israel and promoting BDS. The university’s student government voted for a resolution supporting BDS by a wide margin. In 2018, the only Jewish student senator on campus resigned from his position after receiving anti-Semitic death threats when he opposed a resolution condemning President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Instances of Jew Hatred:
In October of 2018, Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of South Florida held a screening of the film “The Occupation of the American Mind.” According to the Facebook event page, the film purports to explain “how the Israeli government, the U.S. government, and the pro-Israel lobby have joined forces to shape American media coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict in Israel’s favor.” Narrators in the film demonize Israel, claiming its government is guilty of “murderous attacks,” “terrorism,” and “acting like a monster,” while defending actual terrorism against Israel as “resistance.”
Also that October, members of SJP at USF erected a mock “apartheid wall” on campus which promoted the Hamas-funded Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against the Jewish state. One panel of the wall featured a woman stating “we will return,” a call for the so-called Palestinian “right of return” which would eliminate Israel as a Jewish state.
In January 2018, the only Jewish student senator in USF’s student government resigned from his post. His resignation letter cited death threats and ongoing anti-Semitism among his reasons for leaving office. "It is clear to see that being Jewish and a Zionist comes with repercussions in Student government ranging from death threats to being alienated in all aspects,” stated the letter. “I have experienced so much hatred spearheaded by senate leadership in the past few months and I will be doing everything in my power to hold you accountable, it is clear to see that it’s simply not possible to do this in senate." When the senator had opposed a pro-BDS “Hands Off Jerusalem” resolution he received a death threat on social media which stated, “You will die by our hands and we will take Jerusalem and fill Palestine with your impure blood. Jerusalem is for us, and death for you.”
In January 2018, members of the student government at USF took the community by surprise when they suddenly added a resolution to the body’s agenda which would condemn President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Titled “Hands off Jerusalem,” the resolution was closely based on the wording of a similar resolution proposed by the Palestinian American Congress, a non-campus organization with 10,000 members that has lauded terrorist Palestinian leaders. The USF resolution also contained anti-Semitic language demonizing Israel and denying Jews self-determination. It asked the student senate to state that it "refutes the Israeli justification for Palestinian occupation under the religious context of a ‘promised land' that is repeatedly provided," and also condemned the Balfour Declaration, a statement by the British government supporting the creation of a Jewish state.
In October 2017, USF’s pro-BDS coalition, which calls itself USF Divest, hosted anti-Israel activist and (now former) Women’s March leader Linda Sarsour on campus. Sarsour is well known for her promotion of the Hamas-funded BDS movement and for using her platform to make anti-Semitic comments and promote anti-Semitic tropes and conspiracy theories. USF Divest also hung a banner on campus reading “United We Divest,” to promote the BDS movement.
In April 2017, USF SJP held “Al Nakba Remembrance Day.” The “nakba” is an Arabic word meaning “catastrophe” that enemies of Israel use to describe—and therefore delegitimize—the founding of the Jewish state. T-shirts distributed at the event called for the Palestinian “right of return,” a policy that if enacted would eliminate Israel as a Jewish homeland.
In February 2016, anti-Israel activists disrupted a pro-Israel campus talk that was presented by two Israeli students who were brought to the campus by the organization StandWithUs. The demonstrators waved Palestinian flags and sported banners demonizing the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) while interrupting the speakers repeatedly and hurling insults such as “murderers” and “child killers” against them. It was necessary for the Israeli students to be escorted out by the police.
In January 2016, the USF student government succeeded in passing a resolution supporting the Hamas-initiated-and-funded BDS movement against Israel. After the student body president and vice president vetoed the resolution, a new resolution was introduced in a different form that did not require the signatures of the executives to pass. It also passed by a vote of 32-15.
In August 2015, anti-Israel activist Ali Abuminah, who is known for his frequent statements demonizing Israel and his support for the Hamas-funded BDS movement, spoke at USF. Abuminah was brought to campus with the sponsorship of several university departments, including those of English, Ethnic Studies, Geography, History, and Political Science, as well as the Center for Asian Studies. During his address, Abuminah promoted the BDS movement, a genocidal and Hamas-funded initiative to weaken and destroy Israel.
The University of South Florida is notorious for harboring Sami Al-Arian, even while he was being investigated by the FBI for promoting terrorism. Al-Arian served as the North American head of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a specially designated terrorist organization. He was videotaped urging attendees at a rally to donate $500 in order to sponsor a Palestinian terrorist who would then kill an Israeli Jew. Though Al-Arian had been under investigation for terrorism by the FBI since 1996, it wasn’t until September 2001, after proof of the allegations against him was offered on air by Bill O’Reilly, that USF finally suspended him—with pay. When the USF president and board of trustees moved forward with the process of firing Al-Arian, the Faculty Senate passed a resolution condemning the move as an affront to academic freedom. He ultimately was not terminated from his position until February 2003. Al-Arian eventually pled guilty to a charge of conspiracy to assist PIJ, a specially designated terrorist organization. When he refused to comply with subpoenas to testify in other federal cases, he was again imprisoned and later put on house arrest and was eventually deported to Turkey in 2015.