Dear President Wong,
On 3/5/14, our organizations sent you a letter describing our serious concerns about an Ethnic Studies event featuring reports from members of an "Academic and Labor Delegation to Palestine," whose stated purpose was to promote support for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel.
In our letter, we brought to your attention the fact that the delegation, which was organized by Rabab Abdulhadi, SFSU Ethnic Studies Professor and Director of the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Initiative (AMED), had met with known PFLP terrorist Leila Khaled in Jordan, as well as with Islamist leader Sheikh Raed Salah, who had been imprisoned 2003 – 2005 in Israel for aiding and abetting the terrorist organization Hamas and was charged in Israeli court for incitement to violence over a speech he gave in which he accused Jews of using children's blood to bake bread.
We were concerned that an event which advocated for an antisemitic boycott of Israel and condoned terrorism would contribute to a hostile environment for Jewish students at SFSU.
Unfortunately, based on various eye-witness accounts and an audiotape of the March 6 event, our concerns were well-founded.
Several observers reported that Jewish SFSU students were in tears after the event.
The speakers' reports of their delegation to "Palestine" and the moderator's comments were full of wild inaccuracies, monstrous distortions, and blatant lies — all intended to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish state and promote a boycott that would hasten its demise.
Even more troubling, however, is the fact that terrorism against the Jewish state was condoned by the speakers. Jaime Veve, a union activist andhusband of Prof. Abdulhadi, insisted that Palestinians who had injured or murdered Jews were not terrorists but rather "heroes or heroines" who had "committed political acts of defiance and resistance," and he justified Palestinian terrorism by calling it "the cry of a baby calling for the attention of the world."
In addition, Prof. Abdulhadi, who had arranged for the delegation to meet with known PFLP terrorist Leila Khaled in Jordan, denied that Khaled was a terrorist and instead called her "an icon for women's liberation." Abdulhadi also denied that the Islamist leader who met with the delegation, Sheik Raed Salah, had terrorist ties, saying that "if he were actually accused of quote unquote terrorism in Israel, he would be in jail." However, not only had Salah been in Israeli prison for two years for aiding and abetting the terrorist group Hamas, but ironically on March 4th, two days before the SFSU event, Salah was sentenced to another term in Israeli prison for incitement to violence after he called for a third intifada.
Most alarmingly, at the end of the event Abdulhadi announced to the audience that she was working towards organizing collaborative agreements between CSU campuses and two Palestinian universities, An-Najah and Birzeit, and she urged students in the audience to let her know if they would be interested in studying at these universities. It is deeply troubling that Abdulhadi would encourage CSU students to study in universities well-known for their virulent antisemitism and support of terror. According to the Anti-Defamation League:
"Today the student council of An-Najah is known for its advocacy of anti-Israel violence and its recruitment of Palestinian college students into terrorist groups. The council, almost completely controlled by factions loyal to Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah, glorifies suicide bombings and propagandizes for jihad against Israel. Hamas has described An-Najah as a 'greenhouse for martyrs'."
At Birzeit University, too, student organizations associated with terrorist groups such as Hamas are part of the student government, and several well-known terrorists studied at Birzeit University, including the founder of the Hamas military wing and chief Hamas bomb-maker Yahya ('The Engineer') Ayash.
In addition, as reported by members of the audience, there was a concerted effort by the event organizers to shut down dissenting opinion and to restrict the flow of accurate information to students and the public. One audience member was publicly ridiculed, harassed and threatened with arrest for exercising what we believe to be her legal right to audiotape the event.
We are now more than ever concerned for both the physical safety and emotional well-being of Jewish students at SFSU. Given the recent controversy generated by an AMED-sponsored General Union of Palestine Students (GUPS) event featuring an image of Leila Khaled holding a rifle and another with the words "My Heros Have Always Killed Colonizers," as well as the revelation of dozens of social media postings of former GUPS president Mohammad G. Hammad in which he expressed violence towards Jews and glorified the terrorist organization PFLP, we fear that an event organized by GUPS faculty advisor and AMED Director Abdulhadi which exalts terrorism could potentially incite violence on your campus.
We are also concerned that both the event and Prof. Abdulhadi's "political solidarity tour," which brought a delegation of anti-Zionist pro-boycott activists to meet with their Palestinian counterparts — including individuals with known ties to terrorism — may have been funded in part by University (i.e. taxpayer) monies.
We urge you to conduct your own investigation of this event and the anti-Israel boycott delegation that it showcased, in order to determine whether faculty behavior such as Prof. Abdulhadi's is compromising the campus climate for Jewish and Israeli students at SFSU.
Scholars for Peace in the Middle East
Simon Wiesenthal Center Campus Outreach
Zionist Organization of America
Cc: CSU Chancellor Timothy White
Kenneth Monteiro, Dean of SFSU College of Ethnic Studies
CSU Interim General Counsel Andrew Jones
Catherine Lhamon, U.S. Department of Education Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights
Arthur Zeidman, Director Office of Civil Rights, San Francisco
Attorney General Kamala Harris
Deputy Attorney General Stepan Haytayun
California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson
California State Senator Mark Leno (San Francisco)
California State Senator Leland Y. Yee (San Francisco)
California Assembly Member Philip Y. Ting (San Francisco)
California Senator Carol Liu, Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Education
California Assembly Member Das Williams, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Higher Education
California Assembly Member Shirley Weber, Chair of the Select Committee on Campus Climate
California State Senator Marty Block, Chair of Legislative Jewish Caucus
California Jewish Community Leaders