San Francisco State University - Cesar Chavez Student Center.
(photo credit: WEBBI1987 BY CC BY-SA 3.0 / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
The president of San Francisco State University issued a public apology to the campus Jewish community over continued allegations of antisemitism at the school, adding that “Zionists are welcome on our campus.”
The apology by Leslie Wong posted on the university’s website on Friday came a day after Wong met with members of the campus Hillel Jewish student organization.
“During our meeting, I reaffirmed my support for our Jewish students, faculty and staff,” Wong wrote in the statement of the meeting.
In November, a federal judge in San Francisco dismissed a lawsuit filed in June against Wong, the university, a faculty member and the California State University’s Board of Trustees by former and current Jewish San Francisco State students alleging a culture of anti-Semitism on campus. The lawsuit was sparked by an April 2016 speech on campus by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat that was disrupted by pro-Palestinian protesters, making Jewish students feel unsafe.
An independent investigation of the Barkat incident initiated by the university determined that the school did not have the proper security protocol in place to handle a protest and Jewish students did not feel safe.
“My comments about Zionists and whether or not they are welcomed at San Francisco State University caused a lot of anguish and deeply hurt feelings. I am responsible for those words and, after study and reflection, I have come to understand how flawed my comments were,” Wong wrote in his apology. “Thus, I want to sincerely apologize for the hurt feelings and anguish my words have caused. Let me be clear: Zionists are welcome on our campus.”
In response to the apology, a San Francisco State professor, Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi, who is Palestinian, in a post on the Facebook page of the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas program at the university’s College of Ethnic Studies called Wong’s statement “racist, Islamophobic and colonialist.”
“I consider the statement from President Wong, welcoming Zionists to campus, equating Jewishness with Zionism, and giving Hillel ownership of campus Jewishness, to be a declaration of war against Arabs, Muslims, Palestinians and all those who are committed to an indivisible sense of justice on and off campus,” Abdulhadi wrote. “This includes our sisters and brothers in the Jewish community whose conscience refuses to allow Israel’s colonialism, racism and occupation – the inherent character of Zionism — to speak in their name.”
The post was accompanied by a graphic reading: “I am anti-Zionist, I’m not anti-Jew. So don’t call me antisemitic.”
The Amcha Initiative, which monitors more than 400 campuses across the United States for antisemitism, said in a statement that Abdulhadi “has repeatedly used her position and the program’s educational resources to fund a steady drumbeat of virulently anti-Zionist events, speakers and classes, including those that condone terrorism and violence towards Israel and its supporters.”
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