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Groups Provide New Evidence Documenting How the Organizer’s Actions Exempt the Event from Academic Freedom Protection

Contact: Nicole Rosen

Santa Cruz, CA, September 17, 2020 – After providing information that documents a clear pattern of behavior by San Francisco State University (SFSU) Professor Rabab Abdulhadi to intentionally use her classroom and her role as director of SFSU’s Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas (AMED) program to politically indoctrinate SFSU students into anti-Zionism beliefs and activism, eighty-six organizations asked SFSU President Lynn Mahoney if she continues to believe Abdulhadi’s upcoming event featuring convicted hijacker and terrorist Leila Khaled is protected by academic freedom.

“[W]hat if an invitation to speak to a class – in fact an entire event – is an endorsement of a point of view and a political cause? And what if the intention of the faculty member who extended such an invitation and organized such an event was not to encourage students ‘to think critically and come to independent, personal conclusions about events of local and global importance,’ but rather to promote the faculty member's own narrow political view and to weaponize students to be foot soldiers in the faculty member’s own political cause?” pressed the organizations in a letter organized by AMCHA Initiative and sent to Mahoney today. “[D]oes academic freedom protect faculty who intentionally use their classrooms or other academic platforms not to educate their students but to indoctrinate them with propaganda consistent with their own political causes and to encourage their students to engage in political activism consistent with those causes?”

The groups noted that Abdulhadi, a founder of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and a leader in the BDS movement, has been extraordinarily open about her personal anti-Zionist views in her classroom and other professional spaces. For example, she stated at an AMED-co-hosted event earlier this year, "I am anti-Zionist, I have no problem [saying it], I am a proud advocate!” She has also been forthright in expressing her belief that she is fully entitled to promote anti-Zionism and encourage anti-Zionist activism in her classroom, at AMED-sponsored events and on AMED’s social media platform. Indeed, Abdulhadi has argued that such advocacy and activism are “part of my job duties…reasons why SFSU hired me in the first place.”

Abdulhadi also has a long history of using her professional position and the name and resources of the university to purvey anti-Zionist propaganda; to call for the destruction of Israel and condone terrorism; and to actively encourage students to engage in BDS efforts and other anti-Zionist activism. For example:

  • In 2013, AMED co-sponsored an on-campus event that involved students using stencils to create placards and T-shirts with the image of Khaled holding an AK-47 rifle accompanied by the message, “Resistance is Not Terrorism,” and other stencils with the message, “My Heroes Have Always Killed Colonizers”. In the wake of public outrage over the event’s unambiguous lionizing of a convicted terrorist and promotion of terrorism against Israel, Abdulhadi defended the event as a legitimate use of academic freedom.
  • Since 2015, at least 43 AMED-sponsored classes and events have contained anti-Zionist expression that meets the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism, and more than one-third of the AMED-sponsored classes and events involved the promotion of BDS.
  • Abdulhadi has frequently used the “AMED Studies at SFSU” Facebook page, which bears the official AMED logo, to post messages vilifying Israel, promoting BDS, and denigrating Israel’s supporters, including and especially Jewish and pro-Israel students at SFSU, such as when she posted a message to the AMED Facebook page stating that “welcoming Zionists to campus…[is] a declaration of war against Arabs, Muslims, [and] Palestinians”.
  • “We recognize that it is not always easy to know whether a faculty member intends to educate or politically indoctrinate students. However, sometimes it is crystal clear, as in the case of AMED director Professor Rabab Abdulhadi, who organized this event and specifically invited Leila Khaled, a leader of a US State Department-designated terrorist organization, who continues to make public statements in support of armed violence against Israel,” wrote the groups. “Abdulhadi's continuous and intentional use of her SFSU position and the name and resources of the University to indoctrinate students with her own personal animus towards the Jewish state and its supporters and to promote anti-Israel activism, does not constitute a legitimate use of academic freedom, but an abuse of it.”
    “In light of the above considerations, we ask whether you still believe the upcoming event is a legitimate expression of academic freedom, and if not, what you intend to do about it,” concluded the groups to Mahoney.

    Khaled is slated to speak at an SFSU virtual event on September 23rd. She is a convicted hijacker and the most famous member and leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a terrorist organization responsible for more than 100 terrorist acts such as bombings, armed assault and assassinations. She was one of the hijackers on TWA Flight 840 from Rome to Tel Aviv in 1969 and on El Al Flight 219 in 1970 from Amsterdam to New York City. As a member of a U.S. State Department-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, Khaled is barred entry to the United States.

    AMCHA monitors 450 college campuses across the U.S. for anti-Semitic activity. The organization has recorded more than 3,500 anti-Semitic incidents since 2015. Its daily Anti-Semitism Tracker, organized by state and university, can be viewed here.

    AMCHA Initiative is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to combating anti-Semitism at colleges and universities in the United States.

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