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Letter to Chancellor White and CSU Trustees March 2018

Letter to Chancellor White and CSU Trustees: 

60 Organizations Urge Investigation of SFSU Academic Program


March 20, 2018

Dear Chancellor White and CSU Trustees,

We are 60 Jewish, Christian, education, and civil rights organizations, representing hundreds of thousands of individuals across the country. We are writing out of deep concern for the safety and well-being of Jewish students at San Francisco State University, following the posting of an incendiary message on the official Facebook page of the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas (AMED) program at the university’s College of Ethnic Studies. Written by Professor Rabab Abdulhadi, the founding director and sole faculty member associated with AMED, the message clearly targeted Jewish students at SFSU for vilification and discrimination, and could be read by many as a frightening incitement to violence.

As you undoubtedly know, for years Jewish students at SFSU — particularly those who identify as Zionists by religious belief, ethnic identity, national origin and/or political persuasion — have been subject to numerous acts of harassment, discrimination, intimidation and suppression of speech, primarily at the hands of members of the anti-Zionist group General Union of Palestine Students (GUPS). Just last month, over a dozen Jewish students affiliated with the SFSU Hillel, including the organization’s student president, wrote a letter to President Wong claiming that the university “has been complicit in allowing hate and discrimination against [the Jewish] community to go unaddressed.”

In response to the concerns expressed by the Jewish students, President Wong sent an email to the campus community, in which he acknowledged, “The last couple of years have been difficult for our Jewish students.” He also apologized for his own “past comments and actions that were deeply hurtful” to Jewish students, including “comments about Zionists and whether or not they are welcomed at San Francisco State University,” and he wrote, “Let me be clear: Zionists are welcome on our campus.”

Shortly after President Wong had issued his statement, Professor Abdulhadi posted a statement on her personal Facebook page that included the following:

“I consider the statement below from President Wong, welcoming Zionists to campus, equating Jewishness with Zionism, and giving Hillel ownership of campus Jewishness to be a declaration of war against Arabs, Muslims, [and] Palestinians…”

Abdulahadi prefaced her statement with the words: “URGENT: We need your support. Please see statement by SFSU president welcoming Zionists to campus below and my reply. Please share widely!” and she signed the statement as “Director and Senior Scholar, Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies.”

By afternoon, Professor Abdulhadi’s posting was shared by the official Facebook page of AMED, where it is still visible. That same day, it was also posted on the Facebook page of GUPS, a group for which Professor Abdulhadi serves as faculty advisor. Later in the afternoon, the message “Zionists are not welcome here” was chalked in huge letters on a campus walkway, with similar messages chalked and posted in numerous other places across campus. In addition, in a posting on her personal Facebook page a few days later, Prof. Abdulhadi further clarified her position, stating, “Zionists are NOT welcomed on our campus.”

It is appalling and deeply disturbing that Professor Abdulhadi would, in her role as director of AMED, promote a statement that denigrates Jewish and non-Jewish students who identify as Zionists and state that they are unwelcome at the university. Even more disturbing is Abdulhadi’s highly inflammatory suggestion that the mere presence of students who identify as Zionists constitutes a “declaration of war” against Arabs, Muslims and Palestinians — a statement which could be understood as incitement to violence and a direct threat to Jewish students at SFSU.

Most disturbing of all, however, is that AMED, an academic unit in the College of Ethnic Studies at SFSU, would re-post such a hateful message and give it both academic and institutional legitimacy. We believe that AMED’s reposting of Professor Abdulhadi’s hateful message violates Jewish students’ inalienable rights to freedom of expression and full participation in campus life, rights that are guaranteed to each and every CSU student.

When an academic unit at a state university uses its official online presence to attack students on its campus for their religious beliefs, ethnic identity or political opinions, it is clearly out of control and must be stopped. We urge you to thoroughly investigate AMED and its administration, and to inform California taxpayers exactly how you intend to address this shameful violation of student rights and university standards.


The Undersigned 60 Organizations:

Academic Council for Israel
Accuracy in Academia
Aggies for Israel
Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity (AEPi)
Alums for Campus Fairness – National
Alums for Campus Fairness – UC Davis
Alums for Campus Fairness – UCLA
Alums for Campus Fairness – UC Riverside
AMCHA Initiative
American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists
American Council of Trustees and Alumni
American Institute for Jewish Research
American Truth Project
Americans for Peace and Tolerance
Americans for a Safe Israel
BEAR: Bias Education, Advocacy & Resources
Boston Israel Action Committee
Campus Anti-Semitism Task Force of the North Shore
Christians and Jews United for Israel
Christians United for Israel Action Fund
Club Z
Coalition for Jewish Values
Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA)
Communities for Israel
Davis Faculty for Israel
Eagles Wings
Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET)
Fuel For Truth
Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel
Iranian American Jewish Federation
Iranian Jewish Women’s Organization
Israel Matters
Israel Peace Initiative (IPI)
Jerusalem U
Jewish Israel Cafe
Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa (JIMENA)
Middle East Forum
Middle East Political and Information Network (MEPIN)
National Conference on Jewish Affairs
National Council of Young Israel
Proclaiming Justice to the Nations
Rhode Island Coalition for Israel
Russian Jewish Community Foundation
Scholars for Peace in the Middle East
Simon Wiesenthal Center
Stop BDS on Campus
Students and Parents Against Campus Anti-Semitism
Students Supporting Israel National
Students Supporting Israel at Columbia
Students Supporting Israel at UCLA
The Israel Christian Nexus
The Israel Group
Training and Education About the Middle East (T.E.A.M.)
Zionist Organization of America


CC:  President San Francisco State University Leslie Wong
SFSU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Jennifer Summit
Interim Dean SFSU College of Ethnic Studies, Amy Sueyoshi
California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson
Senator Benjamin Allen, Chair California Senate Standing Committee on Education
Assembly Member Jose Medina, Chair California Assembly Higher Education Committee
Assembly Member Shirley Weber, Chair Assembly Select Committee on Campus Climate
Assembly Member Mark Levine, Chair Jewish Legislative Caucus

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