Letter to SFSU President Wong re Professor Rabab Abdulhadi
CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM
September 29, 2016
Dear President Wong,
The California Scholars for Academic Freedom, a group of over 200 academics from different California institutions of higher education focused on protecting academic freedom and freedom of expression, is writing to express our deep concern over the news of the relentless attacks on Professor Rabab Abdulhadi. The latest episode is a new smear campaign lead by Campus Watch/Middle East Forum, which are two branches of the pro-Israel lobby that keeps attacking the academic freedom of faculty who teach on or research Palestine. These attacks are orchestrated by a well-financed network of special interest groups such as the AMCHA Initiative, Stand with Us, the Canary Website, Zionist Organization of America, and Campus Watch (see the recent Los Angeles Times article on this network: http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-uc-israel-palestinian-adv-snap-story.html). On other campuses, similar attacks have led to the defamation and physical threatening of students as well as faculty who are engaged in teaching and debating issues regarding Israel-Palestine. It is clearly their intent not only to intimidate, but also to by example threaten others and deter them from their rights to academic freedom and free speech. These groups have a well-organized campaign to end any critical discourse on Israel and are fundamentally anti-intellectual in their aims. It is worth noting that two of the main proponents of these organizations, David Horowitz and Danial Pipes, were named as leading Islamophobes by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Campus Watch is resorting to lies, innuendo and the rehashing of the smear campaign against Professor Abdulhadi by AMCHA in 2014. Not only does the current campaign seek to stir public panic by employing Islamophobia and the stereotyping of Arabs and Muslims as terrorists, but Campus Watch is also specifically targeting her and the AMED Studies program. In the latest attack, Campus Watch and the Middle East Forum crafted a petition on change.org calling on you to end the SFSU collaboration with An-Najah National University in Palestine. This is an outrageous accusation that is meant to tarnish Professor Abdulhadi’s reputation, intimidate her and infringe on her academic freedom.
Therefore, we call on you to protect Professor Abdulhadi from this vicious personal attack, provide her with all the support she needs under such an environment of severe intimidation and hostility, and protect any faculty in the future from slander campaigns such as this one. Academic freedom means that professors are entitled to the freedom to conduct and disseminate scholarly research and the freedom to design courses and teach students in the areas of their expertise. Academic freedom means that what is acceptable or unacceptable for professors as such is determined by the faculty, not by administrators, alumni, or donors. Those who administer institutions of higher learning bear a responsibility for the protection of academic freedom. The purpose of the university is to expand students’ critical thinking, not to narrow it. Scholarly learning at its best often challenges common sense viewpoints. University education therefore may and often should make students uncomfortable. Such questioning of received habits of thought is not done gratuitously, but for specific pedagogical purposes.
We also want to take this chance to express our utmost support of and solidarity with Professor Abdulhadi, recognizing her academic freedom and her commitment to justice-centered knowledge production. We stand with her against this continued Campus Watch attack and its McCarthyist tactics, its racism and its exploitation of Islamophobia.
Maxine Elliot Professor of Comparative Literature
University of California, Berkeley
Professor, Department of Communication Studies
Interim Director, Center for Islamic & Middle Eastern Studies
California State University, San Bernardino
Associate Professor, Department of French and Italian
University of California Santa Barbara
**CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM (cs4af) is a group of scholars who defend academic freedom, the right of shared governance, and the First Amendment rights of faculty and students in the academy and beyond. We recognize that violations of academic freedom anywhere are threats to academic freedom everywhere. California Scholars for Academic Freedom investigates legislative and administrative infringements on freedom of speech and assembly, and it raises the consciousness of politicians, university regents and administrators, faculty, students and the public at large through open letters, press releases, petitions, statements, and articles.
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