University of San Francisco campus. (Photo/Wikimedia Commons)
University of San Francisco campus. (Photo/Wikimedia Commons)

USF closes Instagram account after ‘disturbing’ posts about Israel-Gaza conflict

A University of San Francisco Instagram page was deactivated Wednesday after a student behind the account published a post about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which was later condemned by the university president.

The Instagram account, which represents the university’s Urban Education and Social Justice master’s degree program, posted a screenshot of a tweet that read, “If ur going to say that u support Palestine, u must do so unconditionally. No two states, no coexistence, no criticizing our violent resistance. You’re either all in or ur not.”

The Twitter post was from an account called “d rose #SaveSheikhJarrah,” and its profile picture features a woman wearing a kaffiyeh holding a Palestinian flag and a pistol.

In another post, the USF account replied to an official White House tweet with a Twitter screenshot that read, “biden is a white supremacist with the highest ranking position in a white supremacist setter colonial nation. his continued support of genocide is fundamental to his job. the u.s will do ANYTHING (even fund ethnic cleansing) to protect their imperialist interests.”

The Instagram account for the Urban Education and Social Justice master’s degree program was closed down after these posts about Israel and Palestinians.
The Instagram account for the Urban Education and Social Justice master’s degree program was closed down after these posts about Israel and Palestinians.

After USF community members raised concerns about the Instagram posts, the account was removed.

In a community-wide email, university President Paul J. Fitzgerald said the posts were “disturbing, violent, and perceived as anti-Semitic.”

“These posts do not represent USF’s position, views, or values; on the contrary, they stand in stark contrast to our commitment to nonviolence, social justice, and the peaceful co-existence of all peoples and communities,” he wrote.

Fitzgerald said the university was investigating and would “hold those responsible” according to the university’s community standards.

“We apologize for the hurt and distress they may have caused,” he said. “Please be assured that we will use this incident as an opportunity to ensure and enhance sound practices for sharing only content aligned with our values.”

Fitzgerald also wrote that students, faculty and staff are free to express their opinions on their personal accounts, but “social accounts published on official university platforms are subject to USF community standards and alignment with the university’s values.”

Rachel Nilson Ralston
Rachel Nilson Ralston

Rachel Nilson Ralston, executive director of the San Francisco Hillel chapter that includes USF, called the Instagram posts “horrifying.”

“We have been in contact with university administrators, student leaders, and community partners over the past few days, and appreciate USF’s responsive leadership and moral condemnation of the hateful rhetoric amplified,” Ralston said. “We will continue our efforts to ensure the university is a welcoming and safe environment for Jewish students and students of all backgrounds.”

But USF professor Stephen Zunes, who teaches Middle Eastern studies, had a different perspective.

“I think the vast majority of those of us in the USF community would find these comments quite extreme, disturbing, utterly reprehensible, and certainly not helpful in addressing the ongoing tragedy,” Zunes said in a statement. “As terrible as they were, though, I don’t quite see them as necessarily anti-Semitic, given that the student blamed U.S. imperialism and white supremacy rather than a supposedly all-powerful Zionist lobby. At least the critique appeared to recognize that it is the U.S. government that has the power here, not some insidious Jewish cabal or similar anti-Semitic trope.”

The two-year Urban Education and Social Justice program grants master’s degrees in education to prepare students for teaching at urban schools; it is advertised as a way to “explore critical, transformative pedagogies.” USF, a Jesuit university in the Inner Richmond neighborhood, had 10,068 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled for the 2020-2021 academic year.

Gabriel Greschler

Gabriel Greschler was a staff writer at J. from 2019 to 2021.