Convicted Palestinian terrorist Leila Khaled, the first female hijacker, will speak September 23 via Zoom to the "open classrooms" of San Francisco State University professors Rabab Abdulhadi and Tomomi Kinukawa. It is an outrage that a public, taxpayer-supported American university would glorify a hardened terrorist by providing a platform from which she can radicalize college students.
In response, Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) today sent a letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos noting that Khaled "is an unrepentant terrorist who continues to boast about her terrorist acts." He calls on the Department of Education (DoE) to cut off all federal funds to SFSU, and for the Treasury Department to investigate it for violating laws prohibiting material support for terrorism.
Despite ongoing objections to Khaled's appearance, SFSU president Lynn Mahoney's only reaction has been a bromide-laden letter to the campus community that mentions neither Khaled nor terrorism. Readers are assured she "strongly" condemns anti-Semitism, but are gently reminded that the exchange of ideas "is not always conflict-free," as if academic debates normally include murdering innocents, the act that defines terrorism. Because her school is a "welcoming, inclusive campus" where "rejecting binaries and embracing hard-to-reconcile complexities are the hallmarks of the educational experience," the unmentioned lecture by the unnamed speaker must go on.
Mahoney may have more trouble dismissing Lamborn's demand for ending federal assistance and launching a Treasury probe – measures that would be well deserved given Khaled's well known criminal past. Among her most notorious acts was helping a fellow terrorist hijack El Al Flight 219 from Amsterdam to New York on September 6, 1970, almost fifty years to the date of her appearance at SFSU. She and her accomplice, Patrick Arguello, shot and seriously wounded a flight attendant and put a gun to the head of another before the pilot put the Boeing 707 into a nosedive that tossed the terrorists to the floor. Arguello was then killed by an air marshal while Khaled's grenade failed to detonate after she pulled the pin in a suicidal attempt to kill all aboard. From her home in Amman, Jordan, she remains a leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a U.S.-designated terror organization.
Secretary DeVos won't be shocked by Lamborn's request: five U.S. Representatives have written her over the past year and a half — four this year, including Lamborn in June — requesting investigations of research universities for misusing federal Title VI funds in their Middle East studies programs. SFSU is not a Title VI recipient, but like almost all universities, receives significant federal support.
It also boasts one of the most politicized, viciously anti-Israel professors anywhere in Rabab Abdulhadi, the key instigator in Khaled's invitation who directs SFSU's Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas/Race and Resistance Studies within the College of Ethnic Studies.
Lamborn writes that the radical Abdulhadi is "a founding member of the antisemitic BDS movement" who brags on her Facebook page that she is "honored" to host Khaled, whose "steadfastness, resilience and resistance has and continues to be a huge inspiration to me and to generations of Palestinian women." In the same post, Abdulhadi unambiguously embraces the terrorist by adding "I wanted to grow up to become another Leila Khaled."
Such adulation demonstrates Abdulhadi's intent to provide Khaled a platform from which to spew her hate. As a result, Lamborn writes, the event is dangerous: "Radicalization is a real problem that leads to real-life violence, particularly when aimed at impressionable young people." Legitimizing "Khaled's violent past runs a very real risk of helping to create home-grown terrorists through radicalization," he notes. "Indeed, it appears to be the purpose of this event."
Of that, there can be little doubt. Abdulhadi has a long history of exposing students to terrorists. Lamborn observes that she was "instrumental in arranging a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with An-Naja University, which is described by the Hamas terrorist organization as a 'greenhouse for martyrs.'"
This galls the Congressman, who "as one of the chief sponsors of the Taylor Force Act," which makes American payments to the Palestinian Authority contingent on ending the "Martyrs Fund," blood payments that reward terrorists and surviving the family members of terrorists killed committing their heinous acts. "I am deeply troubled," Lamborn writes, "that federal dollars may be used to subsidize an event that gives a Palestinian terrorist like Mrs. Khaled an academic platform to spread her toxic ideology."
SFSU tolerates a hostile environment for its Jewish and pro-Israel students.
Khaled's appearance is only the latest proof that SFSU tolerates a hostile environment for its Jewish and pro-Israel students. Even as it welcomes a terrorist into its classrooms, notes Lamborn, it earlier refused to "provide a safe forum" for Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, as multiple events featuring him were disrupted or canceled due to hostile, threatening acts by anti-Israel students. As a result, SFSU settled out of court with Jewish students "who sued for violations of their civil rights."
"The double-standard is breathtaking," Lamborn writes, and "particularly in light of this current event, should be considered part of an ongoing problem of anti-Semitism at SFSU." Citing President Trump's December 2019 Executive Order on Combating Anti-Semitism reiterating that Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects Jews from discrimination at taxpayer-funded universities, Lamborn argues "this concern should be taken seriously as well."
As a result of SFSU's record of antisemitism, culminating in Khaled's lecture, Lamborn requests that "an investigation be launched into SFSU's conduct in this matter, and that any and all federal funds given to SFSU, directly or indirectly, be canceled in accordance with applicable laws." His appeal for Treasury's involvement rests on his belief that hosting Khaled places SFSU in danger of "potential breaches of material support laws."
Radicalizing students by glorifying terrorists disqualifies SFSU for taxpayer support.
Lamborn concludes by acknowledging the principles of academic freedom, but rightly states that hosting the likes of Khaled — "who has unrepentantly committed a terrorist act" — isn't free speech or scholarship. Rather, "it is aiding the dissemination of terrorist propaganda and materially supporting terrorism."
Abdulhadi and Khaled's records prove Lamborn's assertions: radicalizing students by glorifying terrorists disqualifies SFSU for taxpayer support and places it in legal jeopardy. The Departments of Education and Treasury should end this dangerous practice by acting swiftly to hold the university accountable. Absent strong action, Khaled and other terrorists will be free to Zoom into American campuses, extol their bloody deeds, and radicalize American students.
Winfield Myers is director of academic affairs at the Middle East Forum and director of its Campus Watch program.