Editor's note — Updates to this story: After protests at the Zoom headquarters in San Jose, California, Zoom announced that the platform will not host the talk by Palestinian terrorist Leila Khaled at San Francisco State University. Facebook also declined to host the event. The organizers began the event live on YouTube, but the platform cut the feed after 20 minutes.
In addition, Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) sent a letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos calling on the Department of Education to cut off all federal funds to the university and for the Treasury Department to investigate whether or not the university violated laws prohibiting material support for terrorism.
The university's president, Lynn Mahoney, defended the event through the end, saying, "Zoom's cancelation of the event will be deeply wounding to some members of our community who will feel themselves and their dissent silenced once again, just as the participation of Leila Khaled in a class panel discussion is deeply wounding to others in our community. And many across the University and beyond may fear the further erosion of the rights of faculty and see this as damaging to the role of the university in a liberal society."
San Francisco State University (SFSU) will host a lecture by Palestinian terrorist Leila Khaled, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) who hijacked two airlines between 1969-70 for the terror group.
The PFLP was designed as a foreign terrorist organization in 1997 by the U.S. It has been similarly designated by Japan, Canada, Australia and the European Union.
SFSU President Lynn Mahoney defended the event citing reasons of academic freedom and diversity.
Facing opposition by 86 groups, an SFSU spokesperson also opined that "an invitation to a public figure to speak to a class should not be construed as an endorsement of point of view."
But is that the case? Are impressionable, college-aged students not swayed by their professors, who are able to slant knowledge to promote their opinions and agendas?
Consider the SFSU professor who invited Khaled to speak — Rabab Abdulhadi, who organized the lecture as part of the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies program.
Abdulhadi was recently given the American Association of University Professors' (AAUP) Georgina M. Smith Award in recognition of "her commitment to global scholarship that builds mutual understanding ... evident in the collaborations she has initiated."
Those "collaborations" include "[cultivating] ties with Hamas-dominated universities, trivializ[ing] the kidnapping and murder of Israeli high-schoolers and endors[ing] hate speech," according to Canary Mission, a group that monitors and exposes antisemitism in academia.
While leading a mission to "Palestine" (which was funded by SFSU), Abdulhadi collaborated with Khaled and Sheikh Raed Salah, a leader of the outlawed Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, a sister movement of the Hamas terrorist organization.
Abdulhadi is also a founding member of the antisemitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement against Israel. She believes that Jews who support the existence of Israel should not be allowed at the university at all.
About the upcoming event, Abdulhadi wrote on Facebook:
"I can't express how honored I am/we are to be hosting revolutionary Palestinian militant and feminist icon, Leila Khaled. I wanted to grow up to become another Leila Khaled. He [sic] steadfastness, resilience and resistance has and continues to be a huge inspiration to me and to generations of Palestinian women. Her stubborn commitment to an indivisible sense of justice and refusal to compromise one type of justice for the sake of another continues to model what it means to be a committed revolutionary."
As Rep. Lamborn wrote in his letter to Devos (see editor's note above), "Radicalization is a real problem that leads to real-life violence, particularly when aimed at impressionable young people. Khaled's violent past runs a very real risk of helping to create home-grown terrorists through radicalization. Indeed, it appears to be the purpose of this event."
Who is Leila Khaled?
Now 76, Leila Khaled was one of two Palestinian terrorists who hijacked
a Trans World Airlines (TWA) flight from Rome to Tel Aviv in 1969 after getting (faulty) information that Yitchak Rabin, then-Israeli ambassador to the U.S. was on board. The plane was diverted to Damascus, where the passengers were all eventually released. Khaled was later released by the Syrians without charges.
After the hijacking, a picture was taken of Khaled holding an AK-47 and wearing a kaffiyeh (a traditional Palestinian headdress), making her famous throughout the world. She subsequently underwent six plastic surgeries on her nose and chin to conceal for identity so she could participate in future operations.
In 1970, Khaled, along with a Nicaraguan–American terrorist, hijacked an El Al flight from Amsterdam to New York City as part of four coordinated hijackings by the PFLP. The attack was foiled when Israeli sky marshals killed Khaled's partner (after he shot a crew member) and overwhelmed her as she was attempting to blow up the plane with a grenade.
The pilot diverted the plane to London where Khaled was arrested, but she was later released by the British government in exchange for hostages taken in another hijacking. She has since returned a number of times to the U.K. for speaking engagements until she was denied a visa in 2005. She continued to speak to audiences there via video links.
In 2011, she went on a speaking tour in Sweden.
To date, Khaled remains unrepentant for her actions, yet she remains, inexplicably, a cultural icon.
Now she is scheduled to give a remote talk on September 23, 2020, to SFSU students at the invitation of Abdulhadi.
Is having a terrorist lecture to American college students legal?
As a member of a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization, Khaled obviously may not enter the U.S. The question — beyond the fig leaf of academic freedom — is: Is her lecture legal?
Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) contends that since the lecture enhances Khaled's profile and helps her raise funds, "By hosting the event, SFSU is ... probably in violation of 18 US Code § 2339A for providing 'material assistance to a terror organization.'"
"U.S. law criminalizes not only providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization but also aiding and abetting someone to provide that support," Itamar Marcus, director of PMW, told The Jerusalem Post. "Whereas SFSU could argue they are not directly raising money for the terrorist organization, they are certainly giving the organization a platform that is aiding them in their ongoing attempts to gain more supporters worldwide, which may be an explicit violation of U.S. law."
"Every time Khaled is given the opportunity to speak romantically about her involvement in hijacking airplanes, in support of other acts of terrorism and to promulgate the messaging of the PFLP, her goal is to normalize these terror activities and persuade others that they are acceptable actions," noted Maurice Hirsch, director of legal strategies at PMW.
"This platform, especially when provided by a university filled with young adults developing their world views, is clearly providing terror and terrorists with material assistance. If the event takes place, the responsible people in SFSU should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law," he added.
We hope the U.S. government is taking notes.