Arab prof. under fire as president's apology turns to ‘declaration of war’

60 organizations pulled together and penned a letter condemning West Bank-born Professor Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi, calling her Facebook post “offensive and “disturbing.”

March 22, 2018 00:32
3 minute read.
Arab prof. under fire as president's apology turns to ‘declaration of war’

SFSU at night . (photo credit: DMARKMD5 / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)


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LOS ANGELES - A Palestinian professor at San Francisco State University found herself embroiled in controversy on Wednesday after dozens of organizations condemned her for posting anti-Zionist messages to the school’s official site.  

Last month, SFSU President Leslie Wong made a public apology to the university’s Jewish students for refusing to state in a year-old interview that Zionists would be accepted on campus.

“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,” Wong said in a statement published on February 23.

Soon after the apology was issued, however, Professor Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi took to the official site of the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas (AMED) program at the university’s College of Ethnic Studies and posted a message that equated the statement “to a declaration of war.”

“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’s Facebook post reads.

Wong issued the apology after SFSU’s Hillel branch issued a complaint stating that they were “disappointed and frustrated about the lack of concrete action steps” to stem a tide of anti-Israel sentiment on campus.

A request for comment issued to the school by The Jerusalem Post was not immediately returned.

Abdulhadi also failed to respond to questions sent by the Post.

In response, 60 faith-based and higher education organizations pulled together and penned a letter condemning the West Bank-born scholar, calling her Facebook post “offensive and “disturbing.”

“It is appalling and deeply disturbing that Professor Abdulhadi would, in her role as director of AMED, promote a statement that denigrates Jewish and non-Jewish students who identify as Zionists and state that they are unwelcome at the university,” wrote the groups in the letter organized by AMCHA Initiative, an NGO that combats antisemitism on college campuses.

“Even more disturbing is Abdulhadi’s highly inflammatory suggestion that the mere presence of students who identify as Zionists constitutes a ‘declaration of war’ against Arabs, Muslims and Palestinians – a statement which could be understood as incitement to violence and a direct threat to Jewish students as SFSU.”

AMCHA (Hebrew for “your people" or "your nation”) also documented numerous fliers, chalkings and graffiti messages stating “Zionists Are NOT Welcome” across campus just hours after the professor posted her remarks.

On February 27, Abdulhadi doubled down on her position and wrote on her personal Facebook, “Zionists are NOT welcomed on our campus.”

AMCHA concluded the open letter by stating: “When an academic unit at a state university uses its official online presence to attack students on its campus for their religious beliefs, ethnic identity or political opinions, it is clearly out of control and must be stopped. 

We urge you to thoroughly investigate AMED and its administration, and to inform California taxpayers exactly how you intend to address this shameful violation of student rights and university standards,” concluded the organizations in their letter.

Jewish students have reported numerous acts of harassment, discrimination, intimidation and suppression of speech at the hands of anti-Zionist students and faculty at the SFSU campus over recent years.

Just last month, more than a dozen Jewish students affiliated with SFSU Hillel, including the organization’s student president, wrote a letter to President Wong claiming that the university “has been complicit in allowing hate and discrimination against [the Jewish] community to go unaddressed.”

Since establishing AMED, Abdulhadi has repeatedly stoked anti-Zionist sentiments across campus, allegedly using the program’s educational resources to fund a steady drumbeat of speakers and classes “that condone terrorism and violence towards Israel and its supporters,” according to AMCHA.

In one instance, an event co-sponsored by AMED saw students circulate stencils so individuals could paint placards stating: “My heroes have always killed colonizers.”

The stencils were condemned by SFSU President Wong, who said he was “dismayed by the glorification of violence that this message conveys.”

“There is no place at SF State for celebrating violence or promoting intolerance, bigotry, antisemitism or any other form of hate-mongering,” he added. 

AMCHA monitors more than 400 college campuses across the US for antisemitic activity. Campus antisemitism increased 40% and genocidal expression doubled in 2016, according to AMCHA’s most recent annual study. 

The organization recorded 656 known antisemitic incidents in 2017, and 121 so far in 2018.

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