Middle East studies in the News
SFSU Officials Condemn Posters Targeting Professor [on Rabab Abdulhadi]
by Jenna Lyons
A pro-Israel conservative group put up posters around San Francisco State University accusing a professor who specializes in Palestinian studies of condoning terrorism, officials said Monday.
The posters referred to the hashtag "JewHatred" and alleged that associate professor of Ethnic Studies Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi is a "collaborator with terrorists."
"Obviously it's really devastating to be accused of things that you have no relationship with," Abdulhadi told The Chronicle Monday. "This is very racist, it is Islamophobic."
Abdulhadi is a faculty adviser for the school's General Union of Palestinian Students, a group advocating Palestinian liberation amid a decades-long sectarian conflict between Israel and Palestine that traces back to the 1920s.
"They're really trying to silence us," she said of the posters. "More and more people in the U.S. are recognizing the question of justice for the Palestinian community."
The posters also accused her of being a leader in the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement against Israel and allege it is run by Hamas, a Palestinian resistance group that is on the United States' foreign terrorist organizations list.
Jonathan Morales, a spokesman for the university, said the posters were first noticed on campus Friday and were quickly removed.
"I don't recall anything like this," Morales said. "Our students were very taken aback."
The David Horowitz Freedom Center, a Los Angeles-based organization, took credit for placing the posters around the university. The group describes its primary goal as combatting "the efforts of the radical left and its Islamist allies to destroy American values and disarm this country."
The center has staged similar campaigns at universities — including one at University of California, Los Angeles, in 2015 that accused the school's Students for Justice in Palestine group of being a front for Hamas.
"These universities are supporting terrorist propaganda organizations," Horowitz told The Chronicle Monday. "The purpose of the campaign is to hold these activists accountable for supporting terror."
San Francisco State University President Les Wong sent out a campus-wide email Friday saying the posters targeting Abdulhadi were vandalism and bullying behavior, "not an issue of free speech."
"This attack happened to our whole campus community, and we must condemn these actions when an opinion or position has morphed into a personal attack. A line has been crossed, and we are investigating any legal recourse we have with the perpetrators," the letter read.
"In the current climate fostered by a divisive election season, we must remember to support each other as members of the San Francisco State University community," Wong wrote in his email. "Although we disagree on many issues, we must defend each other from personalized attacks that serve no purpose but to incite fear and promote division."
The message "does nothing to improve the campus climate," according to SF Hillel, a Jewish organization on campus that also denounced the posters.
"These offensive messages were posted by individuals unaffiliated with San Francisco Hillel. They do not represent the views of Jewish students on campus, or Hillel's values," the group said in a statement. "Hillel condemns any acts or efforts to demonize any racial or religious group, or to single out individual professors, students or other campus community members for hateful ad hominem attacks."
Abdulhadi has come under fire from pro-Israel groups in the past. One organization, AMCHA Initiative, questioned the purpose of her 2014 school-sponsored trip to Palestine and Jordan. The professor specializes in studying Palestine, Arab and Muslim communities.
She met with nearly 200 Palestinian leaders, but was singled out for seeing Shaikh Raed Sala, who has been charged with aiding Hamas, and Leila Khaled, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, another group designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. government.
Abdulhadi said in a statement after the 2014 scrutiny that such meetings were "clearly protected under the First Amendment and is a necessary part of gathering and sharing information. Such encounters are the very lifeblood of academia, journalism, and other fields of knowledge production and are also protected by academic freedom."Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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