California Scholars for Academic Freedom

Letter to Dr. Leslie Wong, President of SFSU about suit against Professor Rabab Abdulhadi and others

Open Letter

CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM

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June 28, 2017

Dr. Leslie Wong, President

San Francisco State University

president@sfsu.edu

CSU Board of Trustees

lhernandez@calstate.edu

Dear President Wong and CSU Board of Trustees:

We write on behalf of California Scholars for Academic Freedom (cs4af)* to express opposition to the ongoing defamation, intimidation, and assaults against the academic freedom of SFSU faculty members by the right-wing Zionist organization, The Lawfare Project. We are troubled by the absence of a clear public statement from President Wong to offer a principled defense of Professor Rabab Abdulhadi who has been repeatedly and unfairly targeted by such attacks as has the College of Ethnic Studies and Dean Kenneth Monteiro.

The Lawfare Project filed its lawsuit against SFSU in federal court on June 19, 2017. The suit conflates criticism of Israel and its denial of Palestinian rights with anti-Semitism, and on that basis charges SFSU with violating the constitutional and civil rights of Jewish students and community members. The intent of the lawsuit is clear: to silence researchers and advocates for Palestinian rights and to ensure that they are punished.

The Lawfare Project describes itself as “the legal arm of the pro-Israel community.” Its director, Brooke Goldstein, has appeared several times on Fox News and other media and has made explicit Islamophobic statements, for example, discrediting the word “Islamophobia” as a “made-up term propagated by the Muslin Brotherhood.” She has dismissed concerns around the growing hate speech against Muslims as a “dangerous phenomenon”.  She has denied the very existence of Palestinians, stating, “Why are we using the word Palestinian? There’s no such thing as a Palestinian person.” Furthering its agenda, the Lawfare project has also attacked human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch and the Center for Constitutional Rights.

The Lawfare Project suit references the protest in April 2016 by SFSU students of a SF Hillel event featuring Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.  The impetus for the student protest was Barkat’s history of home demolitions and racism against Palestinians. When students protested the talk, SF Hillel broadcast false allegations of anti-Semitism and nonexistent physical threats towards Jewish students.  SFSU then conducted its own investigation and determined that these allegations were unfounded.

This independent investigation commissioned by President Wong and conducted by the Van Dermyden Maddux Law Firm on the “April Event” concluded that:

 

 “The protest was directed towards the Mayor of Jerusalem based on his politics, and not towards any of the audience members based on the audience members’ protected characteristics.  The record tips in favor of concluding that the protestors’ attention, comments and conduct were directed at the Mayor.  This finding is bolstered by the fact that the protestors left the Event shortly after the Mayor exited the room.” And further that “While some audience members were deeply hurt, even frightened, by the protest, in this specific circumstance there were no direct threats of imminent violence that would have justified police intervention, specifically arrest and removal from the area.

The SFSU report found that while disruptive of the Mayor’s talk, the protest posed no safety risks and was focused on the mayor because of his racist policies, and not the attending students for their Jewish identity.

The lawsuit falsely accuses Prof. Abdulhadi of anti-Semitism and of having links with terrorist organizations; the entire College of Ethnic Studies (COES) is targeted in repeated statements throughout the lawsuit; and SFSU is portrayed as “the most anti-Semitic campus in the nation.” These outrageous and insulting accusations demand a clear, strong and immediate response to vindicate the academic reputations of the faculty at SFSU and to repudiate the racism implicit in them.

Yet, instead of citing the results of SFSU’s own investigations and reassuring the campus community and the public at large that the allegations in the lawsuit are false, President Wong’s statement erroneously conceded that the disruption of the Mayor Barkat event was an “ugly reminder” that “anti-Semitism … is real and our community has work to do.” To be perfectly clear, there was nothing anti-Semitic in the protest that was entirely directed against certain policies promoted and implement by Mayor Barkat.

The conflation of criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism has become a standard tactic by Zionist organizations, which seek to censor criticism of the Israeli state.  That tactic itself is fundamentally anti-Semitic because it associates with Jewishness an unending list of well-documented racist policies and crimes against humanity committed by the state of Israel, and it ignores the many Jews who actively oppose those crimes.  Far from the worthy goal of fighting real anti-Semitism, this lawsuit serves the propaganda aims of the government of Israel, at the expense of academic freedom and the constitutionally protected rights of California residents.

Public universities have a special responsibility to protect academic freedom and freedom of speech. Academic freedom allows professors to conduct and disseminate scholarly research, to design courses and teach students in the areas of their expertise, and to enjoy First Amendment protections for extramural speech.   These are essential activities for any institution calling itself a university.

We strongly urge President Wong to uphold and defend the academic freedom of Professor Rabab Abdulhadi and all faculty members at San Francisco State University, and to publicly stand against false accusations by outside organizations with racist agendas. And do so with the same resolve he expressed in his June 16, 2016 message by extending to Professor Abdulhadi

and the College of Ethnic Studies his declaration that, “No person in our community should feel disrespected or unsafe and we must all work together to ensure this is not the case”.

We look forward to receiving your response,

California Scholars for Academic Freedom

Contact Persons:

Sondra Hale, Research Professor, Anthropology and Gender Studies, UCLA Sonhale@ucla.edu

Nancy Gallagher, Research Professor, Department of History, UCSB Gallagher@history.ucsb.edu

David Klein, Professor of Mathematics, CSU Northridge Dklein8@gmail.com

James Quesada, Professor and Chair Department of Anthropology, SFSU jquesada@sfsu.edu

cc​. Chancellor Timothy White

twhite@calstate.edu

**CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM is a group of more than 200 academics who teach in 20 California institutions.  The group formed as a response to various violations of academic freedom that were arising from both the post-9/11/2001 climate of civil rights violations and the increasing attacks on progressive educators by neo-conservatives. Many attacks have been aimed at scholars of Arab, Muslim or Middle Eastern descent or at scholars researching and teaching about the Middle East, Arab and Muslim communities.  Our goal of protecting California Scholars based mainly in institutions of higher education has grown broader in scope to include threats to academic freedom across the United States, and where relevant, globally as well. We recognize that violations of academic freedom anywhere are threats to academic freedom everywhere.

A Representative List of cs4af Members:

Hatem Bazian

Asian and Asian American Studies

UC Berkeley

hatem@berkeley.edu

Judith Butler

Maxine Elliot Professor of Comparative Literature and Critical Theory

University of California, Berkeley

jpbutler@berkeley.edu

Anne-Marie Debbané,

Department of Geography

San Diego State University

adebbane@mail.sdsu.edu

Gary Fields

Department of Communication

University of California, San Diego

gfields@ucsd.edu

Manzar Foroohar

Professor of History

Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo

manzarforoohar@gmail.com

Jess Ghannam

Professor of Psychiatry

School of Medicine

University of California, San Francisco

Jess.ghanam@ucsf.edu

Alessandro De Giorgi

Associate Professor, Justice Studies

San Jose State University

Alessandro.degiorgi@sjsu.edu

Claudio Fogu

Professor of Modern Languages

University of California, Santa Barbara

claudiofogu@gmail.com

Nancy Gallagher, Research Professor

Department of History

University of California, Santa Barbara

Gallagher@history.ucsb.edu

Farah Godrej, Associate Professor

Department of Political Science
University of California, Riverside

farahgodrej@gmail.com

 

Sondra Hale, Research Professor

Anthropology and Gender Studies

University of California, Los Angeles

Sonhale@ucla.edu

Gillian Hart

Professor Emerita

Geography and Gender Studies

University of California Berkeley

hart@berkeley.edu

Sang Hea Kil, Ph.D.

Associate Professor Department of Justice Studies

San José State University

sangheakil@gmail.com

Ivan Huber

Research Scholar

Professor Emeritus of Biology

Fairleigh Dickinson University

Ivan@randomtech.com

Katherine King

Professor of Comparative Literature

University of California, Los Angeles

king@humnet.ucla.edu

David Klein, Professor of Mathematics

California State University, Northridge

Dklein8@gmail.com

Dennis Kortheuer, Emeritus

Department of History

California State University, Long Beach

dennis.kortheuer@csulb..edu

Mark Levine

Professor of Modern Middle East History

School of Humanities

University of California Irvine

mlevine@uci.edu

David Lloyd

Distinguished Professor of English

University of California Riverside

dclloyd@ucr.edu.

Afshin Matin-asgari,

Professor of History and Middle East Studies

California State University, Los Angeles

amatina@calstatela.edu

Ahlam Muhtaseb

Professor of Communication Studies

Interim Director of the Center for Islamic & Middle Eastern Studies

California State University, San Bernardino

Ahlam.muhtaseb@gmail.com

David Palumbo-Liu,

Louise Hewlett Nixon Professor,

Stanford University

djpl.2008@gmail.com

David Pellow

Dehlsen Chair and Professor of Environmental Studies

University of California Santa Barbara

pellow@es.ucsb.edu

Susan Presswood Wright

Professor of Politics

University of California, Santa Cruz

Spw1616@gmail.com

James Quesada, Professor and Chair

Department of Anthropology

San Francisco State University

jquesada@sfsu.edu

Vida Samiian

Professor of Linguistics & Dean Emerita

California State University, Fresno

vidas@csufresno.edu

Susan Slyomovics

Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Near Eastern Languages and Cultures

University of California, Los Angeles

http://www.anthro.ucla.edu/faculty/susan-slyomovics

Howard Winant

Distinguished Professor of Sociology

University of California, Santa Barbara

hwinant@gmail.com

Stephen Zunes

Professor of Politics & Coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies

University of San Francisco

zunes@usfca.edu

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June 29, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment