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

Letter to SFSU President Wong re Professor Rabab Abdulhadi

CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM

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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.

Sincerely,**

Contact people:

Judith Butler

Maxine Elliot Professor of Comparative Literature

University of California, Berkeley

jpbutler@berkeley.edu

Ahlam Muhtaseb

Professor, Department of Communication Studies

Interim Director, Center for Islamic & Middle Eastern Studies

California State University, San Bernardino

amuhtase@csusb.edu

 

Claudio Fogu

Associate Professor, Department of French and Italian

University of California Santa Barbara

cfogu@frit.ucsb.edu

**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

Letter to UC President Napolitano and CSU Chancellor White re Diller Foundation support for Canary Mission, Infamous for its Suppression of Free Speech and Academic Freedom, While the President of the Board of the Foundation Sits on the Board of Visitors of the University of California

  

image.jpgimage-2.jpgCALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM

                      

October 11, 2018

President Janet Napolitano: President@UCOP.edu

Chancellor Timothy White: twhite@calstate.edu

Dear President Napolitano and Chancellor White:

We write as representatives of California Scholars for Academic Freedom*, a group of over two hundred academics and intellectuals with a commitment to defend academic freedom and first amendment rights of faculty and students in California’s institutions of higher education.

We are deeply concerned that the University of California has been linked to a group, the Diller Foundation, that has provided financial support for an organization that is infamous for its suppression of free speech and academic freedom on American campuses—Canary Mission.

Canary Mission’s website asserts that its goal is to “document people and groups that promote hatred of the USA, Israel and Jews on North American college campuses.”  This is grossly disingenuous in two ways—Canary Mission reports on individuals and groups that are critical of the policies of the State of Israel.  They expansively exploit the recent adoption of the US State Department’s definition of “anti-Semitism,” which includes speech critical of Israel. This definition has been robustly challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union and a number of Jewish groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace.  Even the author of this definition has made it clear that it was invented for entirely different purposes and has urged that it not be applied on university campuses, saying that it will cause more harm than good.

As the Jewish periodical The Forward reports:

Canary Mission has been controversial since it appeared in mid-2015, drawing comparisons to a McCarthyite blacklist. While some of those listed on the site are prominent activists, others are students who attended a single event, or even student government representatives suspected of voting for resolutions that are critical of Israel.

Besides employing a dangerously broad sense of “hatred of the USA, Israel, and Jews,” Canary Mission’s “documentation” has proven to be seriously faulty and distortive.  It selectively picks out bits of information and repackages them to create a purposefully misleading portrait of the individual or organization it is targeting.  It has done so under the cover of anonymity, unable or unwilling to support and debate its accusations in public.

Of even more concern is the fact that Canary Mission expressly seeks to damage the career prospects of its targets, which include a large number of students and professors at the UC and CSU campuses.  It has smeared its targets and actively sought to defame them to prospective employers. This is a very real threat that has a devastating effect on students’ and professors’ free speech and academic freedom. Already we are aware of students whose job searches have been hampered or whose plans for study or travel to Palestine and Israel have been denied because of the defamation they received on Canary Mission’s website.

It has recently been revealed that Canary Mission’s funding, heretofore kept secret, includes several prominent Jewish groups, one of which immediately has severed connections.  

As The Forward notes: “In late 2016 or early 2017, the Helen Diller Family Foundation earmarked $100,000 for Canary Mission. It made the donation to the Central Fund of Israel, a New York-based charity that serves as a conduit for U.S. taxpayers seeking to make tax-exempt donations to right-wing and extremist groups in Israel. In its tax filings, the Diller Foundation listed the purpose of the grant as “CANARY MISSION FOR MEGAMOT SHALOM.”

Given the Diller Foundation’s financial support for an organization whose purpose is to stifle free speech and academic freedom, it should not be associated in any way with the University of California. Yet the president of the board of this Foundation, real estate developer Jaclyn Safier, sits on the Board of Visitors of the University of California, Berkeley, and is a director of a foundation that supports the University of California, San Francisco. There appears to be a stark conflict of interest in Ms. Safier’s connections with both the Diller Foundation and the University of California. 

We would like to arrange a meeting with you to discuss possible remedies for this clearly unethical relationship and means to protect our students and colleagues from this kind of defamatory and tendentious smearing.

We look forward to your response,

Contact persons for cs4af:

David Palumbo-Liu

Louise Hewlett Nixon Professor

Comparative Literature and, by courtesy, English

Stanford University palboliu@stanford.edu

Lisa Rofel

Professor Emeritus of Anthropology

Co-Director, Center for Emerging Worlds

University of California, Santa Cruz

Co-coordinator, California Scholars for Academic Freedom

lrofel@ucsc.edu

Vida Samiian

Professor Emeritus of Linguistics

California State University, Fresno

Co-coordinator, California Scholars for Academic Freedom

vidas@mail.fresnostate.edu

The letter has the consent of our full membership. Below is a short list of signatories from UC and some CSU campuses, many of whom have been targeted by Canary Mission:

Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi

Director and Senior Scholar

Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies (AMED)

San Francisco State University

Hatem Bazian

Professor of Islamic Law, Zaytuna College

Lecturer Department of Ethnic Studies

University of California, Berkeley

Carole H. Browner

Distinguished Research Professor

Center for Culture and Health

Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior

Departments of Anthropology and Gender Studies

University of California, Los Angeles

Alessandro De Giorgi

Professor, Department of Justice Studies

San Jose State University

Hilal Elver

Research Professor

Orfalea Center for Global Studies

University of California, Santa Barbara

Richard Falk

Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law,

Princeton University;

Research Fellow, Orfalea Center for Global Studies

University of California Santa Barbara

Keith Feldman

Associate Professor

Department of Ethnic Studies

University of California, Berkeley

Gary Fields

Professor of Communication

University of California San Diego​​

Manzar Foroohar

Professor Emeritus of History and Middle East Studies

California State Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo

Claudio Fogu

Director of Italian Program

Department of French and Italian -Comparative Literature 

University of California, Santa Barbara

Jess Ghannam

Clinical Professor

Department of Psychiatry, and

Global Health Sciences, School of Medicine

University of California, San Francisco

Sondra Hale

Professor Emeritus and Research Professor

Department of Anthropology

University of California, Los Angeles

Suad Joseph

Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Women and Gender Studies

University of California, Davis

Former President of Middle East Studies Association of North America

Sang Hea Kil, 

Associate Professor  

Department of Justice Studies

San Jose State University

Dennis Kortheuer

Emeritus faculty in History

CSU Long Beach

Mark Andrew LeVine

Professor of History and Middle East Studies

University of California, Irvine

David Lloyd

Distinguished Professor of English

University of California, Riverside

Brooke Lober

Adjunct Faculty in Women’s Studies

Department of Women’s and Gender Studies

Sonoma State University

Shahla Razavi

Professor Emeritus of Mathematics

Mt. San Jacinto College

Kamala Visweswaran

Professor of Ethnic Studies

University of California, San Diego

*CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM (cs4af) is a group of over 200 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 13, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment