SFSU Professor Who Called Zionists White Supremacists Selected for Academic Award

May 22, 2020
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) selected San Francisco State University (SFSU) professor Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi, who in a May 2019 guest lecture at UCLA reportedly said Zionists are white supremacists, for an award on May 20 highlighting academic leadership and activism.

The AAUP’s website lists Abdulhadi, an expert on the Middle East, as one of five recipients for the Georgina M. Smith award, which the website describes as given to those who have “exceptional leadership in a given year in improving the status of academic women or in academic collective bargaining and through that work improved the profession in general.”

The website praises Abdulhadi for her “concern for human rights, including union organizing, gender and sexual justice, in her scholarship, teaching, public advocacy, and collaboration with a diverse group of academic, labor, and community organizations. Her commitment to global scholarship that builds mutual understanding is evident in the collaborations she has initiated.”

It added: “As a director of the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas (AMED) Studies Program [at SFSU] she brings together scholars, activists, academics, and organizers to create justice-centered knowledge, build broad-based coalitions, and advance the agenda for social change in Palestine, the United States, and internationally. Her leadership transcends the division between scholarship and activism that encumbers traditional university life.”

AMED Studies at SFSU celebrated the news, writing on its Facebook page that their nomination letter touted Abdulhadi’s Teaching Palestine research project as well as “advocacy campaign against the increased influence of Zionism over academic institutions and policies in the U.S.”



Jewish groups condemned the AAUP’s decision to give the award to Abdulhadi.

“It’s hard to imagine someone less deserving of such an award,” StandWithUs Center for Combating Anti-Semitism director Carly Gammill said in a statement to the Journal. “This professor has personally targeted a Persian Jewish student who objected to her equating Zionism to ‘white supremacy,’ used her academic department’s social media pages to spread anti-Semitic and anti-Israel propaganda, and actively worked to marginalize the vast majority of Jewish students who support Israel’s existence. The AAUP should rescind this award immediately and apologize.”

AMCHA Initiative director Tammi Rossman-Benjamin similarly said in a statement to the Journal, “The AAUP specifically applauds Abdulhadi for ‘leadership’ that ‘transcends the division between scholarship and activism that encumbers traditional university life.’ The division between scholarship and activism doesn’t encumber traditional university life, it protects it.  It ensures students receive an education based on scholarship, and it protects our vulnerable youth from being politically indoctrinated by activist professors who attempt to weaponize their course curricula and advocate for personal political missions, like [boycott, divestment and sanctions] BDS, in the campus square. And the frightening truth is our research demonstrates that BDS promotion incites anti-Semitism.”

She added: “Someone who posts on her department’s official university Facebook page that ‘Zionism = Racism’ and ‘welcoming Zionists to campus … [is] a declaration of war’ should not be commended for her work on behalf of students, faculty or academia. In the days following her post, numerous vandals had written ‘Zionists Off Our Campus’ all across SFSU. Commending professors who use their classrooms and positions to promote politics, and in turn encouraging others to join this activism army, is disturbing and dangerous.”

Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center Rabbi Abraham Cooper also said in a statement to the Journal, “While Arabs in the real world are increasingly cooperating and working with Zionist Israel in real-time including delivering real help to Gazans during pandemic, some cannot get past their lurid anti-Semitic and anti-Israel fantasies that deliver real hate in the real world. Shame [that] taxpayers [have to] foot the bill for hate peddlers masquerading in academic garb.”

Academic Engagement Network executive director Miriam Elman tweeted, “What a terrible selection & poor choice @AAUP! Sadly, @SFSU Prof. Abdulhadi has worked against inclusivity on her campus & has sowed division & polarization. She has a long history of demoralizing #Jewish, #Zionist students!”

The AAUP and Abdulhadi did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment.

In the May 2019, UCLA student Shayna Lavi told the Journal that Abdulhadi said during a guest lecture “that those who support Israel want to ethnically cleanse the Middle East and those affiliated with Israel and pro-Israel organizations are white supremacists.” When Lavi told Abdulhadi she was offended at Abdulhadi’s assertion Israel supporters are white supremacists, Abdulhadi responded: “That’s your opinion but you’re wrong. I stand with Jews who do not support Israel and I hope that Jews will disalign themselves with white supremacy.”

StandWithUs filed a complaint on behalf of Lavi against UCLA on the matter in October; in January, the Department of Education announced that it would be investigating the matter.

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