Hostile environments toward Jewish students

Anti-Zionist faculty in US colleges are responsible for creating such environments.

 HATEM BAZIAN, chairman of American Muslims for Palestine, speaks in 2013 alongside one of the organization’s advertisements at a train station in New York City, accusing Israel of apartheid and calling for a stop to US aid. (photo credit: Mike Segar/Reuters)
HATEM BAZIAN, chairman of American Muslims for Palestine, speaks in 2013 alongside one of the organization’s advertisements at a train station in New York City, accusing Israel of apartheid and calling for a stop to US aid.
(photo credit: Mike Segar/Reuters)

In recent years, we have seen how anti-Israel hostility has sprouted in hundreds of universities across the country. Under the disguise of academic freedom, institutions of higher learning have become fertile grounds for extremism.

While Jewish studies departments and organizations such as Chabad and Hillel sustain a vibrant Jewish life on many campuses across the country, Jewish students are still exposed to fierce anti-Jewish hatred and anti-Israel sentiments, not only from students but from faculty as well. When professors engage in antisemitic and anti-Israel rhetoric, they tacitly condone it and encourage students to do so as well.

I can personally attest to the above. I am a student at UC Berkeley, and while I can confidently say that we have a strong and united Jewish community, it does not exempt us from faculty spreading anti-Zionism through their platforms. For instance, let me introduce you to Hatem Bazian.

The numerous anti-Zionist leaders on college campuses

Hatem Bazian is a lecturer in the Department of Ethnic Studies with a long history of blatantly spreading antisemitism and demonizing Israel and Zionism. He is the founder of the anti-Israel organization Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), and an avid supporter of the antisemitic BDS campaign.

Bazian has repeatedly denied Jewish history and peoplehood. For instance, in 2014, he published an article claiming that much of Jewish history in the Land of Israel is a “mythical past.” He has also compared Israel to Nazi Germany. In 2011, he headlined a speaking tour called Never Again for Anyone, where he compared the Holocaust to the plight of Palestinians.

Anti-Israel protest at UC Berkeley  (credit: YOUTUBE SCREENSHOT/CROSSING THE LINE 2: THE NEW FACE OF ANTI-SEMITISM ON CAMPUS)Anti-Israel protest at UC Berkeley (credit: YOUTUBE SCREENSHOT/CROSSING THE LINE 2: THE NEW FACE OF ANTI-SEMITISM ON CAMPUS)

Hatem Bazian is also known for supporting and promoting terrorism. In addition to defending terrorists on Twitter, he has supported the internationally-recognized terrorist organization Hamas on multiple occasions and even participated in a fundraising event for an NGO that was dissolved after the US Treasury Department discovered its ties to Hamas.

Unfortunately, Hatem Bazian at UC Berkeley is not the only example I could mention. Right across the bay, at San Francisco State University, Rabab Abdulhadi is also well known for her anti-Israel and antisemitic sentiments. Abdulhadi is the founding director of the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas studies program at SFSU.

In 2018, she sued the university, claiming she has been subject of “discrimination based on her Palestinian Muslim background,” along with “general bias against her pro-Palestinian activism.” Let’s take a deeper look at her “pro-Palestinian activism.”

Since at least 2014, Abdulhadi has sought to establish ties between SFSU and Hamas-dominated Palestinian universities. Birzeit University, one of these universities, has long been a hub of pro-Hamas student activism. For instance, in 2015, the pro-Hamas Islamist student bloc won the student council elections.

AFTER WINNING the elections, they named Bilal Barghouti, a terrorist serving 16 life terms in prison for his role in a series of suicide attacks against Israel, the “Honorary Chairman of the Birzeit University Student Council.” The pro-Hamas student bloc won the elections again this past month and celebrated with chants in support of terrorist Mohammed Deif.

Moreover, in 2014, Abdulhadi organized and participated in a university-funded “Academic and Labor Delegation to Palestine.” During the trip, she met with Palestinian terrorists Leila Khaled and Sheikh Raed Salah.

Leila Khaled is one of the most prominent members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a terrorist organization responsible for more than 150 terrorist attacks and numerous deaths, including 20 US citizens. Sheikh Raed Salah is an Islamic leader and preacher that has been arrested numerous times by Israeli authorities for inciting violence and supporting terrorism. Abdulhadi egregiously abused university and taxpayer funds to meet with individuals affiliated with organizations on the US State Department’s list of designated Terrorist Organizations.

Abdulhadi has also been a promoter of hatred toward Zionists and supporters of Israel. In 2018, when SFSU’s President Leslie E. Wong apologized for “past comments” and said Zionists were welcome on SFSU’s campus, Abdulhadi accused Wong of declaring “war against Arabs, Muslims [and] Palestinians.”

In her statement, she conflated Zionism with racism, Islamophobia, and colonialism, and said she was “ashamed to be affiliated with SFSU administration.” In keeping with her antisemitic rhetoric, she has also equated Zionists to white supremacists, the KKK, neo-Nazis, and homophobes.

Furthermore, in September 2020, Abdulhadi coorganized an online event hosting Leila Khaled, the aforementioned terrorist, which was later canceled by Zoom, Facebook and YouTube. In a video promoting the event, Abdulhadi mentioned how growing up, she “wanted to be like Leila Khaled.”

She is also a founding member of the antisemitic ‘US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and has participated in and helped organize anti-Israel events for the General Union of Palestinian Students at SFSU and Students for Justice in Palestine, including an event supporting the ”Knife Intifada” and the annual Israel Apartheid Week.

Hatem Bazian and Rabab Abdulhadi are just two protruding examples of faculty members in universities across the country enabling hostile environments toward Jewish and Zionist students. Not only are they spreading hate through their platforms, but they also support student groups that target Jewish students and organizations on campus.

Now, don’t get me wrong – while it is true that antisemitism and anti-Zionism are real problems on US college campuses, there is also plenty of support for Jewish and Zionist students, both from on and off-campus organizations that offer exceptional social, educational and professional opportunities. At UC Berkeley, for instance, there is a thriving Jewish community with dozens of Jewish student organizations, Hillel, Chabad, a Center for Jewish studies, an academic institute, and more.

Although these organizations are many times targeted by anti-Israel groups on campuses all across the country, they serve as a great resource for Jewish students to feel safe on campus and to help them combat antisemitism.

While we should praise and acknowledge what we have on our campuses, we must also fight for what we want to change. As Zionist students, it is our duty to stand firm against faculty spreading hate against us. By providing platforms to professors such as Hatem Bazian and Rabab Abdulhadi, university administrations are enabling bigotry and antisemitism to take root on their campuses.

The writer is an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley, and the president of Tikvah: The Zionist Voice on Campus at UC Berkeley.