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Academic Panel Promotes Bigotry as Knowledge

Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi’s tenure at San Francisco State University (SFSU) in the department for Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies (AMED) has been rife with antisemitism. She has attempted to connect students to terrorists, supported antisemitic activism, propagated antisemitic conspiracies about Jewish power, and unrepentantly compared the Jewish indigenous civil rights movement (Zionism) to white supremacy. Her recent department-hosted open classroom (still posted on the university’s official Facebook and YouTube pages) titled “Who Owns Jewishness” gave this writer a firsthand experience of Abdulhadi’s misuse of her academic position. The disingenuous question was posed to a panel of overtly biased and unqualified speakers to validate her anti-Israel ideology and justify hatred and discrimination against Jews.

Abdulhadi’s panel featured an English professor who has been active with notoriously antisemitic activist groups, including Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP); an undergraduate student; an author/activist known for young adult novels chronicling a fictional Palestinian policewoman who uncovers evil conspiracies perpetuated by the Israeli government; an NYU scholar focused on insinuating that the Anti-Defamation league has insincerely associated Zionism with the African American Civil Rights Movement in order to influence American society; another JVP member; a retired South African politician known for endorsing Hamas; and an ex-Israeli hack journalist who’s been a proud member of an extremist Palestinian political group for decades.

Abdulhadi’s overarching argument boils down to semantics: Though anti-Zionism denies Jews the universal human right to self-determination, this ideology is not antisemitic because here are some Jews who agree. However, it doesn’t matter how a person identifies; the bigotry motivating advocacy for a plan that would target all 6.8 million Israeli Jews for expulsion or murder is self-evident. Further, using her speakers’ Jewish backgrounds to show that not all Jews support Israel fails to disprove the truth that anti-Jewish bigotry is inherent to anti-Zionism. Moreover, none of the panelists are experts in any relevant fields and each specifiedtheir personal disconnections from Jewish religion, culture, or community—two speakers even rejected their Jewish identity altogether. Why should anyone listen to them instead of the overwhelming majority of Jews who disagree?

From Abdulhadi mentioning her love for the unabashedly antisemitic Marxist text, “On the Jewish Question,” to the undergraduate student panelist who, while wearing a t-shirt glorifying terrorism against Jews, outrageously asserted that Jewish traditional use of matrilineal descent is a white supremacist cultural value, there was no shortage of anti-Jewish bigotry in the content of the panel discussion.

Nearly every comment either callously disregarded Jewish life, such as lovingly referencing the convicted terrorist Leila Khalid; expressed an ignorant lack of context, such as blaming the IDF’s responses to terrorism for Israeli citizens’ lack of safety and psychological trauma rather than the terrorism that targets them; or blatant deception, such as referencing the “Deadly Exchange” libel that insinuates a relationship between American and Israeli law enforcement agencies who share “worst practicesin order to promote and extend discriminatory and repressive policing in both countries.” The justification for these claims are based on inaccurate historical assumptions: that a strong relationship to the land of Israel is not principally significant to Jewish culture, that Israel is an invading colonial entity, that Zionism is an anti-Palestinian ideology, and that Israel is ethnically cleansing Palestinians.

Only three points are needed to discredit this entire “class.” First, in the same way that the Cherokee nation is indigenous to the southeastern United States, so too are Jews to the land on which Israel was established. Historical records and extensive archaeology prove that Jewish culture has existed in the Levant since at least the 9th century BCE. Both the Torah and the Quran chronicle this ancient Jewish presence, and there are twenty-six Mitzvot that can only be exercised in Israel. Let’s not forget that Arab culture was introduced to the area over a thousand years later, and there has been continuous Jewish presence documented in the Land of Israel since before the Roman occupation. It is undeniably false to identify Jews as the foreign invaders to the land formerly known as Judea, while declaring that Arabs are indigenous.

It is undeniably false to identify Jews as the foreign invaders to the land formerly known as Judea, while declaring that Arabs are indigenous.

Second, the 1947 UN General Assembly Resolution 181 affirmed the right for Jews to establish a state in the British Mandate of Palestine based on an acknowledgment of the unique Jewish connection to the land. This is patently different from any other instance of settler colonialism, and there is ample evidence suggesting that many in the Jewish community wanted to coexist with their Arab neighbors rather than supplant them—a sentiment persevering through multiple Arab massacres of Jews, and the united Arab attempt to commit genocide of the Jews that became Israel’s 1948 War of Independence.

On the other hand, many regional Arab leaders had consistently rejected coexisting with their Jewish neighbors, a sentiment exacerbated by the Nazi-partnering Grand Mufti of Jerusalem who consolidated power and organized the Arabs into a discernible violent movement of anti-Jewish nationalism during the 1920s, which would be renamed as “Palestinian Nationalism” forty years later. This tradition of refusal is what forms the basis for Abdulhadi’s anti-Israel beliefs.

And third, Israel has never attempted to ethnically cleanse Arabs. The IDF’s use of house demolitions is either a response to terrorist activity, or the decades-long private civil housing cases that are still pending. Treating these instances as ethnic cleansing is dishonest, considering that the West Bank and Gaza have experienced a steady growth of the non-Israeli population and the Israeli Government demolished all Jewish communities in the Gaza strip in order to placate disingenuous Palestinian demands for the further advancement of peace in 2006. Since both Palestinian governments have enforced laws banning Jewish presence in land they control, it’s ironic for the panelists to demand that Israel relinquish more territory to rectify their fictitious history of Palestinian ethnic cleansing, while advocating for the actual ethnic cleansing of Jews.

By requiring this talk in her course syllabi, Abdulhadi is conditioning her students to justify antisemitism on an official university YouTube channel. How long will SFSU allow this inappropriate farce to continue?


Seth Mendel is a student at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, and the 2021-22 CAMERA on Campus Fellow for the Colorado region.

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