A Jewish professor at the University of Southern California will be returning to campus as the school continues to investigate comments he made about Hamas.
John Strauss, 78, referred to the terror group as ‘murderers’ and expressed his desire for them to be ‘killed’ during a November 9 walkout where students called for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.
After the comments were caught on video, he was placed on paid administrative leave and barred from campus.
‘People are ignorant,’ Strauss said in the viral footage. ‘Hamas are murderers. That’s all they are. Every one should be killed and I hope they all are.’
Doctored versions of the video spread on social media, stripping it of its context and advancing the narrative that he was calling for the death of all Palestinians.
John Strauss, 78, referred to Hamas as ‘murderers’ and expressed his desire for the militants to be ‘killed’ during a November 9 student protest
He was subsequently placed on paid administrative leave and barred from campus – only for thousands to come to his defense
Strauss claimed that his comments were taken out of context, after doctored versions of the videos spread on social media
One account from a purported student read: ‘My favorite part of yesterday was a USC professor harassing all of us at the end of the memorial and yelling that he thought all Palestinians should be killed!’
Strauss received an outpouring of support as netizens learned that the video had been manipulated. Supporters launched a campaign called ‘Stand With Strauss,’ complete with a website and Instagram page.
‘USC Jewish Professor Strauss, previously barred from campus over his Hamas comments, is now allowed to return!’ reads the group’s most recent statement.
‘Thank you all for the joint outpouring of support, and we look forward to Professor Strauss imparting his knowledge to USC students for years to come!’
A change.org petition titled ‘Demand USC to Bring Back Jewish Professor John Strauss on Campus’ garnered over 21,000 signatures.
‘The full video proves that Professor Strauss only called for the death of HAMAS. He never called for the death of Palestinian civilians or their supporters. It is incorrect for others to conflate his mention of Hamas with all Palestinians,’ the petition reads.
A conflicting campaign, titled ‘Demand the Termination of USC Economics Professor John Strauss for Racist and Xenophobic Behavior,’ reached over 7,000 signatures
It deems his conduct ‘racist’ and ‘xenophobic,’ accusing him of stepping on a list of over names of civilians killed in Palestine – an action that Strauss later admitted to, while denying that he did so intentionally.
Strauss, seen here clashing with student protestors, said: ‘Hamas are murderers. That’s all they are. Every one should be killed and I hope they all are’
A petition calling on the 78-year-old to be terminated from his role garnered over 7,000 signatures
USC’s Muslim Student Union was criticized after it claimed that Strauss ‘repeatedly’ called for ‘the murder of the entirety of Palestine’ and ‘expressed a desire for the death of those supporting Palestine.’
Among the professor’s most significant backers was the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, a pro-free speech organization.
On November 20, FIRE wrote to the university, calling on it to allow Strauss to return to his in-person teaching duties.
‘As a private university, USC is not directly bound by the First Amendment, but it is legally and morally bound to its own laudable commitment to faculty’s freedom of expression,’ the letter read, in part.
‘The fact that some protesters characterized Strauss’s comments as hateful, or even threatening to students does not deprive Strauss’s speech of protection. None of his remarks rise to the level of actionable harassment.’
In a subsequent interview with Annenberg Media, USC’s student-run publication, Strauss described himself as ‘very pro-Israel.’
‘And when I walked my way through, I kept hearing ‘down with Israel,’ he said. ‘And so I yelled out ‘Israel forever, Hamas are murderers.”
Addressing the comments that were caught on video, Strauss added: ‘I was walking back to Kaprielian (Hall) and one of them, a woman, I don’t know who, yelled out, shame on you, Professor Strauss, shame on you.
‘And I immediately yelled back, no, shame on you. You were ignorant about Hamas. Hamas are murderers. That’s all they are. They should all die, every one of them. Every one of them referred, of course, to Hamas.’
He added that the doctored video made it appear that he was calling for the death of all Palestinians and ‘that’s not what I said at all.’
The 78-year-old is a tenured professor at the Dornsife School of Letters, Arts and Sciences. According to his biography, he specializes in issues of ‘development economics’ and ‘economics of the household.’
The professor, who describes himself as ‘very pro-Israel,’ was accused of stepping on a list of names of dead Palestinian civilians, which he later admitted to but denied doing intentionally
The school said Strauss ‘has in no way been disciplined or punished for engaging in protected speech’ (pictured: the University of Southern California campus in Los Angeles)
Strauss previously taught at Michigan State University, Yale University and the University of Virginia and has been at USC for nearly two decades.
USC issued its own statement about the suspension, reading: ‘These measures were designed to minimize disruption in the classroom and to ensure a safe environment to both him and students.’
It reiterated that Strauss ‘has in no way been disciplined or punished for engaging in protected speech.’
Later, the school issued another statement to announce that all restrictions placed on the professor had been lifted.
The Israel-Hamas conflict began on October 7, when Hamas militants breached a border security fence separating Gaza from Israel, gunning down Israeli civilians and soldiers.
Following a four-day truce that saw Hamas turn over some hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners and humanitarian aid, Israel resumed its bombardment of Gaza, targeting hospitals and detaining 34 medics.
More than 14,000 Palestinians have been killed since the conflict began, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.
More than 1,200 Israelis have died, most in the initial ambush in which some 240 captives were taken back into Gaza.
Even as it tries to recover hostages, Israel has been declaring some of the missing as dead in captivity, including six civilians and a colonel.