On Nov. 2, an image began circulating online which portrays Turning Point USA at UC San Diego, a conservative student organization, displaying a poster that some students interpreted as hate speech against Palestinians. The poster was one of numerous displayed at Turning Point’s table on Library Walk to stand against antisemitism. It displays the flag of Israel and the flag of Palestine side-by-side and reads “Israel aims to protect / Terrorists aim to kill.”
A photo of the poster was posted to the UCSD subreddit, on the popular social media forum platform, Reddit, by user u/twitterboard. The post was captioned “Racist a******s. Almost plainly saying Palestinian = terrorist,” which then gained traction and was later shared on Instagram.
Turning Point USA, the national conservative organization which aims to provide education on college campuses, posted a photo of their UCSD table on Instagram.
“In light of recent antisemitism we wanted to make sure Turing Point USA at (sic) ucsd showed their support for Israel and the Jewish community,” their post read.
The instance has spurred responses of hurt and anger due to the reception of the graphic and its text as racist, hateful speech toward Palestinians.
Summer Ismail, a junior at Thurgood Marshall College and member of Students for Justice in Palestine, appreciated that Turning Point took a stand to condemn all forms of antisemitism — especially in light of Kanye West (now referred to as Ye) and his recent antisemitic statements. However, she asked the members of Turning Point to take down the poster due to what she deems racist, hateful, and harmful rhetoric.
According to Ismail, after she said this at their table, the students at Turning Point responded by saying that Palestine is a “terrorist-funded state – for terrorists, by terrorists.” When she informed them that she is Palestinian and sees the poster as hate speech, a student at the table responded: “It’s freedom of speech.”
After further discussion with Ismail, the students at the table removed the poster from the table; seven minutes later, Ismail saw a student at the table display the poster again.
To her, the spread of anti-Palestinian rhetoric is highly harmful and dangerous, especially considering the UCSD community’s widespread lack of knowledge regarding the nuances of the Palestinian occupation by Israel. She anticipates this type of rhetoric will reinforce implicit bias against Palestinians.
“As we already know that Palestine-Israel, obviously, is a very, very complex issue,” Ismail said. “And when it comes to students who have little to no knowledge, who cannot tell you where Palestine is on the map, seeing and being approached by these people, only to be told that, ‘Hey, this nation is dangerous – they’re terrorists.’ […] Because people have these biases, and we don’t know how [they’re] going to treat us – whether it be faculty members or students in the classroom, and having that bias and thinking, ‘This person is a terrorist,’ ‘This person can harm me,’ — it’s dangerous to both people.”
Ismail contends that Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla should hold parties accountable and release a statement to the UCSD community — especially to stay consistent with the university’s continued emphasis on equity, diversity, and inclusion. Ismail referenced a statement from Khosla on May 6, 2022 to condemn antisemitism. The statement followed an incident on Israeli Independence Day where an Israeli flag was graffitied with a statement that criticized Israel for committing several war crimes.
“We saw in the past how swiftly and how quickly he was able to send out an email blast to something in the past,” she said. “I think this should be held to the same level … I hope that something that blatantly describes Palestinians as terrorists is held to that same degree of punishment and held accountable so that it would never happen again.”
Others on the UCSD subreddit have demanded that Chancellor Khosla take steps to address this, as well.
“When can we expect the chancellor to come out and admonish this racism?” user u/ChuyUrLord said.
“Let’s see if our supreme leader sends out an email admonishing this like he did last quarter. Highly unlikely tho,” user u/Broad_Echo3989 said.
Other subredditors took issue with the social media critiques directed at Turning Point.
“Lmao if you oppose this you’re suddenly antisemitic and need to be cancelled, gas lighting at its finest,” user u/Mordecaibest wrote.
“We need to build bridges, rather than to burn them like by putting these kinds of harmful and hateful posters,” Ismail said. “We need to work towards getting peace rather than putting up this kind of rhetoric on campus.
“Whether it be a Palestinian, an Israeli, a Jewish student, a Black student, or a Latino student. Anyone shouldn’t have to feel like this or feel like school is a dangerous place,” Ismail said.
Turning Point USA at UCSD was not able to be reached for comment.
The UCSD Guardian will continue to report updates to this story as it progresses.
Photo by Yasmeen Elsawaf for the UCSD Guardian
Correction: This article was updated at 12:45 p.m. on Nov. 4 to reflect the correct date that this story occurred.
Correction: This article was updated at 4:48 p.m on Nov. 4 to reflect the occupation of Palestine by Israel, as per the United Nation’s guidelines.
Update: This article was updated at 4:45 p.m. on Nov. 7 to remove a quote from a comment on Turning Point USA at UCSD’s Instagram.