California Scholars for Academic Freedom

Letter to CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White Re. new attacks on Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi at San Francisco State University

July 23rd, 2019

Dr. Timothy P. White


California State University

Dear Chancellor White,

The California Scholars for Academic Freedom, a group of over 200 academics working in higher education in California, are writing to express our deep concern over the steady barrage of attacks being made against Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi’s academic freedom of speech. Academic freedom includes the freedom of 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. (The latter is a right enjoyed by everyone within the jurisdiction of the U.S. constitution, but is the third leg of the principles of academic freedom because professors should not be professionally penalized for non-academic speech that they engage in beyond the academy.) The most recent of these attacks, by the AMCHA Initiative, has taken the form of a letter addressed to you, dated this past July 11th, accusing Dr. Abdulhadi of anti-Semitic speech posted on her Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diaspora’s Program (AMED) Facebook page that bears the logo of the College of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University, where this program is located.

We strongly and categorically refute AMCHA’s faulty logic and misleading narrative that Dr. Abdulhadi has done  anything wrong or inappropriate in her Facebook postings.

The posting to which AMCHA refers consists of a photo of  the banner Queers Against Israeli Apartheid carried during the Queer Liberation March on June 30th in NYC, an event that Dr. Abdulhadi helped to co-organize. Her participation in this  march, which commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, reflects Dr. Abdulhadi’s affirmation of her scholar-activist commitment to the indivisibility of justice and the need to consistently connect justice in/for Palestine with all forms of injustice, including sexual and gendered injustice as well what many in the queer community see as the injustice of the Israeli Occupation of the Palestinian people. The banner to which AMCHA objects, which reads “Zionism = Racism and Boycott, Divest, Sanction,” is both consistent with this commitment to the ideal of indivisible justice, and fully protected by the First Amendment and the principle of Academic Freedom.

AMCHA is calling on CA State Attorney to charge Dr. Abdulhadi with a misdemeanor under the California Education Code. CS4AF regards AMCHA’s attempt to criminalize Dr. Abdulhadi’s exercise of her First Amendment right as a potentially grave threat to academic freedom, and urge you to condemn it as such.  It is the obligation of all who treasure the intellectual well-being of CSU students and faculty, regardless of political affiliation, sexual orientation, racial or ethnic identity, or immigration status, to reject  such discourse and activities as chilling reflections of the kind of racist demagoguery that has been fueled by Trump and his ilk.  Please focus on the fact that AMCHA works to impose a revived version of McCarthyism on CSU campuses.

We urge you to publicly rebuke such efforts.


Sang Hea Kil, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

“Justice” Studies Department

San José State University

Dennis Kortheuer

CSULB, History, emeritus

Nancy Gallager

Professor Emerita



David Klein

Professor of Mathematics

California State University Northridge

818 677-7792

Ivan Huber, Ph.D.

Professor Emeritus of Biology

Fairleigh Dickinson University, Madison, NJ


Professor Emeritus Lisa Rofel

Department of Anthropology

University of California, Santa Cruz

Phone (831)459-3615

Cc: California State University Trustees

California State University General Counsel Andrew Jones

San Francisco State University Outgoing President Leslie Wong

San Francisco State University Incoming President Lynn Mahoney

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra

Senator Connie M. Leyva, Chair California Standing Committee on Education

Assembly Member Jose Medina, Chair California Assembly Higher Education Committee, Senator Ben Allen, Chair Jewish Legislative Caucus

July 29, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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

Open Letter



June 28, 2017

Dr. Leslie Wong, President

San Francisco State University

CSU Board of Trustees

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

Nancy Gallagher, Research Professor, Department of History, UCSB

David Klein, Professor of Mathematics, CSU Northridge

James Quesada, Professor and Chair Department of Anthropology, SFSU

cc​. Chancellor Timothy White

**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

Judith Butler

Maxine Elliot Professor of Comparative Literature and Critical Theory

University of California, Berkeley

Anne-Marie Debbané,

Department of Geography

San Diego State University

Gary Fields

Department of Communication

University of California, San Diego

Manzar Foroohar

Professor of History

Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo

Jess Ghannam

Professor of Psychiatry

School of Medicine

University of California, San Francisco

Alessandro De Giorgi

Associate Professor, Justice Studies

San Jose State University

Claudio Fogu

Professor of Modern Languages

University of California, Santa Barbara

Nancy Gallagher, Research Professor

Department of History

University of California, Santa Barbara

Farah Godrej, Associate Professor

Department of Political Science
University of California, Riverside


Sondra Hale, Research Professor

Anthropology and Gender Studies

University of California, Los Angeles

Gillian Hart

Professor Emerita

Geography and Gender Studies

University of California Berkeley

Sang Hea Kil, Ph.D.

Associate Professor Department of Justice Studies

San José State University

Ivan Huber

Research Scholar

Professor Emeritus of Biology

Fairleigh Dickinson University

Katherine King

Professor of Comparative Literature

University of California, Los Angeles

David Klein, Professor of Mathematics

California State University, Northridge

Dennis Kortheuer, Emeritus

Department of History

California State University, Long Beach

Mark Levine

Professor of Modern Middle East History

School of Humanities

University of California Irvine

David Lloyd

Distinguished Professor of English

University of California Riverside

Afshin Matin-asgari,

Professor of History and Middle East Studies

California State University, Los Angeles

Ahlam Muhtaseb

Professor of Communication Studies

Interim Director of the Center for Islamic & Middle Eastern Studies

California State University, San Bernardino

David Palumbo-Liu,

Louise Hewlett Nixon Professor,

Stanford University

David Pellow

Dehlsen Chair and Professor of Environmental Studies

University of California Santa Barbara

Susan Presswood Wright

Professor of Politics

University of California, Santa Cruz

James Quesada, Professor and Chair

Department of Anthropology

San Francisco State University

Vida Samiian

Professor of Linguistics & Dean Emerita

California State University, Fresno

Susan Slyomovics

Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Near Eastern Languages and Cultures

University of California, Los Angeles

Howard Winant

Distinguished Professor of Sociology

University of California, Santa Barbara

Stephen Zunes

Professor of Politics & Coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies

University of San Francisco

June 29, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Letter to SFSU President Wong re Professor Rabab Abdulhadi



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: 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 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.


Contact people:

Judith Butler

Maxine Elliot Professor of Comparative Literature

University of California, Berkeley

Ahlam Muhtaseb

Professor, Department of Communication Studies

Interim Director, Center for Islamic & Middle Eastern Studies

California State University, San Bernardino


Claudio Fogu

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.

October 3, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment