The International Legal Forum (ILF), an Israel-based legal group, alleged in a September 9 letter that a September 11 webinar is featuring speakers that would put San Francisco State University (SFSU) and Rutgers University in violation of federal anti-terror laws.
Russell Shalev, an advocate at the ILF, wrote in the letter to the universities that the event, titled "Whose Narrative? 20 Years Since 9/11/2001," is being co-sponsored by SFSU's Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diaspora (AMED) Studies Department as well as by Rutgers' Center for Security, Race and Rights. The virtual event "includes speakers who have been convicted of terror and /or are affiliated with U.S. designated terror groups, as well as organizations who have incited violence and racial hatred," Shalev wrote. He cited Dr. Sami Al-Arian as one example, noting that Al-Arian was deported from the United States to Turkey in 2015 after being convicted of having ties to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group. Al-Arian also heads Istanbul Zaim University's Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), which held a conference featuring speakers with ties to Hamas, according Shalev.
Shalev also noted that the event will feature UC Berkeley Professor Hatem Bazian, the co-founder of Students for Justice in Palestine and American Muslims for Palestine who has once called for an intifada, or armed uprising, in the United States. Additionally, one of the co-sponsors of the event is the Palestinian Youth Movement, which calls "for the liberation of Palestine through armed resistance, violence, and terror," Shalev wrote.
He added that moving forward with this event could put the universities in violation of anti-terror laws prohibiting "material support" for terror, arguing that the Supreme Court has defined "material support" as "advocacy performed in coordination with, or at the direction of, a foreign terrorist organization."
"It is simply inconceivable, outrageous and inexcusable that your universities would in any way be associated with the forthcoming event this Saturday, especially on the 20th anniversary of 9-11, with individuals who have inextricable ties to terrorist organizations that have carried out attacks against American citizens and civilians around the world," Shalev wrote. "Furthermore, both SFSU and Rutgers have among its students those who have been affected directly by terrorism in the United States and worldwide, or have lost loved ones in September 11. Such an event puts their safety and wellbeing in danger."
Kent Bravo, SFSU Media Relations Specialist, said in a statement to the Journal that the event "is not being hosted by SF State. The University supports the academic freedom of our faculty to engage in intellectual debate and express individual viewpoints without fear of retaliation or censorship." Rutgers and AMED did not respond to the Journal's requests for comment.
In September 2020, SFSU AMED was scheduled to host a webinar featuring Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) member Leila Khaled until Zoom, Facebook and YouTube deplatformed it. Khaled, now 76, was among the terrorists who hijacked commercial jetliners in 1969 and '70. Her attempt to detonate grenades on the 1970 flight were thwarted and no one was injured or killed in either incident. A spokesperson for Zoom had announced at the time that they determined the Khaled event did not comply with their terms of service, citing Khaled's "reported affiliation or membership in a U.S. designated foreign terrorist organization."
Other speakers scheduled for the September 11 webinar include SFSU AMED Professor Rabab Abdulhadi, Rutgers Journalism Professor Dr. Deepa Kumar, Desis Rising Up and Moving Executive Director Fahd Ahmed, Wilfrid Laurie University Sociology and Muslim Studies Professor Dr. Jasmin Zine, UC Santa Barbara Sociology Professor Dr. Lisa Hajjar, Lebanese American University Lecturer Rania Masri, former South African Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils and Palestinian Youth Movement Women's Committee Chair Yazan Zahzah. The webinar will be moderated by UCLA's Gary B. Nash and Endowed Chair in U.S. History Dr. Robin D.G. Kelley.