A conference with speakers who were terrorists and affiliated with terrorist groups held by San Francisco State University's Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies (AMED) on September 10 in Beirut was unauthorized and not sponsored by the university, a representative of SFSU told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
SFSU media relations specialist Kent Bravo told The Post that the two-day conference, "Memorializing the Sabra & Shatila Massacre: Bearing Witness, Resilience, & Accountability" organized by SFSU professor and AMED department director Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi was "neither sponsored nor authorized by SF State, and we have contacted organizers to notify them of unauthorized use of the SF State name."
Bravo reiterated that SFSU supports the academic freedom of faculty but condemns terrorism and violence, referring to previous statements by SFSU president Lynn Mahoney on controversies that arose from the previous programs involving terrorist figures by its AMED department. Mahoney had supported Abdulhadi's right to hold the events.
However, an open letter published by Abdulhadi accused the university of "threatening Dr. Abdulhadi with disciplinary action for listing her academic affiliation with AMED in conjunction with two conferences on Teaching Palestine which she is organizing or co-organizing, and in which she is participating as an SFSU faculty member."
Materials advertising the first conference in Beirut showed AMED's logo and was hosted on its platforms. A second conference will be held in Tunisia on September 19.
Terrorist speakers at conference
Salah Salah, described by SFSU AMED as "one of the founders of the Arab Nationalist Movement and the PFLP," spoke on a September 10 panel. The last panel of the event on September 11 was set to feature Dr. Sami Al-Arian and infamous PFLP airplane hijacker Leila Khaled. Al-Arian, who had previously been hosted by AMED at an event called "Whose Narrative? 20 Years since September 11, 2001," was indicted and struck a plea deal over his alleged affiliation with Islamic Jihad.
Palestinian-Lebanese guerilla fighters Kifah Afifi and Anwar Yassine also spoke at the conference.
Another notable speaker listed by SFSU AMED was Dr. Gretchen King, co-founder of the Community Media Advocacy Centre, and according to a Louisiana obituary, partner of beleaguered Canadian anti-racism consultant Laith Marouf.
The SFSU conference was part of a series of events that marked several anniversaries meaningful to Palestinian narratives and history, chiefly the Sabra & Shatila massacre. The conference also commemorated the 20th anniversary of the IDF's Operation Defensive Shield to counter the Second Intifada, and the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Ghassan Kanafani, a former PFLP leader.
Abdulhadi versus SFSU
Abdulhadi's open letters detailed several grievances with SFSU about her control of the department and hiring practices, but some issues were connected to invitations for Palestinian terrorist Khaled to speak at AMED events. Dr. Tomomi Kinukawa, who organized with Abdulhadi the Khaled event "Whose Narratives? What Free Speech for Palestine?" filed grievances with the SFSU administration for failing to support their event to a satisfactory level.
The event was delayed when Zoom and social media platforms refused to allow their services to be used to host the panel featuring a terrorist over concerns that it violated federal law. Pro-Israel groups had launched a campaign against SFSU's hosting of Khaled, drawing attention to the issue.
The PFLP and Islamic Jihad are listed on the US State Department's Foreign Terrorist Organizations.