Friday, June 20, 2014

SFSU Prez: Professors Allowed to Meet With Terrorists on US Taxpayer Dime

"San Francisco State University will continue to respect academic freedom, and we will not censor our scholars nor condone censorship by others"

In a stunning press release, San Francisco State University President Leslie Wong defended the two SFSU professors who met with terrorists who have ties to American deaths and terrorist organizations. The statement was released through the website of the organization Palestine Legal Support, which functions in partnership with the Center for Constitutional Rights, without University letterhead or a signature:
Recently the AMCHA Initiative, Simon Wiesenthal Center Campus Outreach and others have made allegations against Professor Rabab Abdulhadi regarding her travel. San Francisco State University takes allegations about the use of state funds seriously, investigates any issues and responds as appropriate.
The records for Professor Abdulhadi’s travel have been reviewed, and they comply with established rules without fault or violation. Therefore, we conclude that the allegations made against Professor Abdulhadi have no merit. The CSU’s Travel Procedures and Regulations can be viewed at:­‐ travel-­‐policy
Faculty can and do communicate with others relevant to their research, communicating by various methods that can involve travel. Professor Abdulhadi’s academic work in race and resistance studies requires examination of some of the world’s most challenging and controversial issues. San Francisco State University will continue to respect academic freedom, and we will not censor our scholars nor condone censorship by others.
San Francisco State University remains committed to providing a safe and civil campus environment that supports all members of its community.
The AMCHA Initiative and other groups alleged that Abdulhadi misled the university when she met with two terrorists. Abdulhadi too shared an eight-page long statement and attacked the groups who questioned her trip:

June 18, 2014
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
I write to provide a response to the false allegations made against me by the AMCHA Initiative in its latest escalation of the McCarthyist repression campaign to silence discussion of Palestinian rights on campus.
The accusation that I misrepresented the nature and purpose of my January 2014 trip to Palestine and Jordan is false.
 The record, including documents which AMCHA cites, demonstrates that my application for travel authorization was transparent and accurate. In five separate documents, I noted that the purpose of the trip was to attend an international conference and to research, network, and collaborate with potential university partners towards a possible memorandum of understanding between San Francisco State University (SFSU) and Palestinian universities.
My stated intention to research and network with scholars in the region and throughout the world is a legitimate and important use of state funding. As Senior Scholar at the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Initiative (AMED), it is part of my job duties to establish educational and research collaboration on Palestine and between Palestinians in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world. Research and discussion between actors in the U.S. and Palestine is fundamental to my scholarship. It is one of the reasons why SFSU hired me in the first place. These relationships also create academic opportunities for students and my fellow faculty members at SFSU. I am also committed to nurturing AMED as a site for community engagement and knowledge production toward social justice - another reason why I was recruited for this position.
To my dismay, I was unable to attend the conference in Beirut because of university delays in approving my travel authorization request.
 AMCHA alleges that I used the conference of the Center for American Studies and Research (CASAR) at the American University of Beirut as a false pretext to secure funding. In fact, I was forced to withdraw from participation in the conference due to university-imposed delays. Because SFSU and CSU delayed funding approval for my travel to areas which CSU to countries that the State Department define as “high-risk,”1 I was not able to confirm my attendance to conference organizers by their deadline. Delays in approval from SFSU/CSU occurred despite extensive efforts on my part to expedite the approval process. This fact is well known and has been confirmed by university administrators.2
Meeting with diverse and controversial figures in Palestine furthered the educational purpose of the trip.
 AMCHA puts forward as evidence of wrongdoing that I “neglected to inform” the university of planned meetings with Leila Khaled and Shaikh Raed Salah. However, I was under no obligation to inform the university of each and every person with whom I met. Certainly, the 2014 North American Academic and Labor Delegation to Palestine that I organized and led met with Palestinian leaders and many others as we publicly shared on websites, and during our report back to on and off campus AMED communities. Furthermore, there is no law or university regulation that prohibits meeting and speaking with figures seen as “controversial” in US media and dominant discourses. Such activity is 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.
work in Palestine and with Palestinians in the Diaspora including, but not limited to, the USA. Her travel involved meetings and discussions with people who are related to her research. Her past, current and in preparation publications evidence publicly that her travel is the basis for her scholarship, scholarship that is internationally regarded.
No others mentioned in the email were supported by the College for their travel.
The reference to Dr. Abdulhadi indicating “Unfortunately my name was dropped from the Beirut conference” was a polite indication that because our process takes so long to confirm travel to areas like Lebanon and Palestine, the conference planners had to drop her participation because she was not able to confirm before their deadline. This was no fault of hers. It is just an operating fact based on our need for due diligence regarding travel to high risk areas as defined by our State Department. I would note that Israel is not a high risk area, though almost all nations surrounding it are and the portion of Israel designated as Palestine also is, which may be part of the unclarity in the attached email.
Regarding with whom Dr. Abdulhadi did or did not meet, the College of Ethnic Studies does not censor any of our scholars, nor does the college condone such censorship. Our scholars should and do communicate with Palestinians, Israelis or any others relevant to their research without obstruction from the College.
Abdulhadi did not mince words and said, “[a]ll over California, the AMCHA Initiative’s accusations have repeatedly proven to be all smoke and no fire. SFSU President Wong’s statement confirms there was no wrongdoing here. But we must do more to protect California scholars from AMCHA’s McCarthyist campaigns, which aim to strait-jacket Ethnic Studies scholars, especially those studying Palestine.”
She also defended terrorist Leila Khaled and attempted to justify the meeting:
AMCHA has predictably focused a huge amount of attention on our meeting with Leila Khaled, in an attempt to demonize the delegation and to damage my reputation. So let me clarify the purpose of meeting with Khaled. Khaled is a Palestinian feminist icon. She is therefore relevant to my research and pedagogy, both of which aim to revise Palestinian women’s studies by critiquing conventional wisdom within the feminist canon. In my courses, I aim to provide a counter narrative to the orientalist depictions of Palestinian, and other Arab and Muslim, women as weak and docile – and men as bloodthirsty and misogynist. To this end, I screen several films including “Leila Khaled: Hijacker?” and open these classes to the public.
Neither Wong nor Abdulhadi disputed the accuracy of the trip itself, which TruthRevolt has reported:
A California Public Records Act inquiry revealed that multiple professors from San Francisco State University met with terrorists on a trip funded by the university. Professors Rabab Abdulhadi and Joanne Barker, along with Abdulhadi's husband, met with terrorists Leila Khaled and Sheikh Raed Salah during the "Labor Delegation to Palestine 2014" which began on January 5th, 2014 and concluded on February 14th, 2014.
Eight organizations- the AMCHA Initiative, Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel, Proclaiming Justice to the Nations, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, Simon Wiesenthal Center Campus Outreach, StandWithUs, and Zionist Organization of America-  sent a letter to CSU Chancellor Timothy White, SFSU President Leslie Wong, CSU Vice Chancellor and Chief Audit Officer Larry Mendel and CSU Attorney Carrie Hemphill Reith concerning the matter.
Leila Khaled is "a convicted hijacker and the most famous member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a terrorist organization responsible for 159 terrorist acts such as bombings, armed assault and assassinations, resulting in numerous injuries and deaths including those of more than 20 US citizens," the groups noted.
Sheikh Raed Salah has been convicted of funding the terrorist organization Hamas and sat in prison from 2003 - 2005.  In the letter to school administration the organizations also highlighted that, "In 2008, Salah was charged with incitement to violence and racism.  In 2010, Salah was also arrested for his participation on the Mavi Marmara, part of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. Salah was recently incarcerated again on charges of incitement to violence."
NOTE: This article was updated to clarify the text of Professor Abdulhadi's letter.

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