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March 1, 2018 7:10 pm

‘Zionists Not Welcome’: San Francisco State University’s Apology to Jewish Community Sparks Backlash

avatar by Shiri Moshe

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Anti-Zionist messages found at San Francisco State University on Feb. 23, 2018. Photo: Facebook/International Socialist Organization.

An apology by the president of San Francisco State University to members of the Jewish community on Friday was met with backlash from anti-Zionists on campus, including a professor who described it as “a declaration of war” against Arabs, Muslims, and Palestinians.

Following a meeting with SFSU students from the Jewish group Hillel, President Leslie Wong sent a mass email on Friday apologizing for past comments affecting the Jewish community — particularly a May interview in which he refused to categorically assert that Zionists were welcome at SFSU, saying instead, “Am I comfortable opening up the gates to everyone? Gosh, of course not. I’m not the kind of guy who gets into absolutes like that.”

After study and reflection, the president said last week, “I have come to understand how flawed my comments were.”

“Thus, I want to sincerely apologize for the hurt feelings and anguish my words have caused,” Wong continued. “Let me be clear: Zionists are welcome on our campus.”

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This assurance was long sought by leaders of SFSU’s Jewish community and their supporters. The vast majority of Israeli Jews endorse Zionism — the movement to re-establish a Jewish homeland in the Levant — while a Pew Research survey published in 2016 found that most US Jews say “that caring about Israel is essential or important to what being Jewish means to them.”

Nonetheless, the phrases “Zionists not welcome,” “Zionism = racism,” and “Judaism =/= Zionism” were found written in chalk on campus shortly after Wong’s statement was emailed. A photo including some of these markings was posted online by the International Socialist Organization alongside a note of “solidarity with Palestinians,” which was shared by SFSU’s General Union of Palestine Students (GUPS).

In its own message, GUPS denounced Zionism as a “violent ideology responsible for the genocide and displacement of indigenous Palestinians,” and called for the immediate retraction of Wong’s statement. The students listed several demands, including increased financial support for the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies (AMED) program and a public investigation “into the multiple incidents of attacks against us.”

Rabab Abdulhadi — director of AMED and GUPS’s faculty mentor — also opposed Wong’s apology, which she called “a declaration of war against Arabs, Muslims, Palestinians and all those who are committed to an indivisible sense of justice on and off campus.”

The professor alleged that the president’s statement equated “Jewishness with Zionism, and [gave] Hillel ownership of campus Jewishness,” and framed it as a response “to donor pressures and the Israeli lobby.”

Similar sentiments were echoed in a critical letter published by the anti-Zionist group Jewish Voice for Peace on Tuesday, and another shared by the SFSU group Jews Against Zionism, which said “zionism IS NOT welcome on our campus. White Supremacy IS NOT welcome on our campus.”

The Black Student Union, African Student Association, Black Residents United in Housing, and Black Business Student Association likewise objected to the president’s apology, and pointed to “anti-Arab, Islamophobic, and anti-Palestinian” fliers that were found on campus in 2016 and 2017.

The fliers — some of which called Abdulhadi a “collaborator with terrorists” — were distributed by the David Horowitz Freedom Center and condemned by Wong.

In their own response to Wong, Hillel students said they appreciated that it took “humility to offer a personal apology.” They added, however, that they were “disappointed and frustrated about the lack of concrete action steps” offered during their meeting with the president.

Tensions have persisted for years between the Jewish community and SFSU, which is currently facing two lawsuits alleging that it suffers from “institutionalized antisemitism.” One of the complaints, which directly names Abdulhadi, is expected to be dismissed and re-filed.

The university came under increased scrutiny after Hillel was blocked from taking part in a February 2017 “Know Your Rights” information fair that was organized in part by SFSU’s College of Ethnic Studies. An internal investigation found that Hillel “was improperly excluded” from the event.

SFSU again made headlines in April 2017, after Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat cancelled a scheduled talk at the school, where he faced disruptive protests led by GUPS the previous year. Barkat accused the university of making “no legitimate effort … to publicize the lecture” — a claim rejected by SFSU, which said the mayor only confirmed his appearance one week before it was set to take place.

In response to the controversy, 25 students from SF Hillel’s community sent a letter to Wong criticizing the university’s handling of the event and pointing out other concerns, including that “Jewish students are excluded from participating in campus events.”

After five Jewish students said in a follow-up letter that they routinely face “lies, intimidation, and one-sided stereotypes” on campus, Wong met with the group for nearly two hours in May.

That month, SFSU Hillel’s director warned that the university “keeps the organized Jewish campus community at arm’s-length, excludes our students from participating in campus events, allows speakers we invite to be shouted down and refuses to publicly stand against intolerance when it’s directed at the Jewish community.”

In June, after intervention from the California Legislative Jewish Caucus, the California State University chancellor appointed a liaison to review the campus climate for Jewish students. The liaison attended two sessions held by SFSU’s Task Force on Campus Climate, before it was suspended following resignations in December.

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  • 1personvoice

    Sounds like Ziophobia is running rampant on this campus. The apology and declaration is a good step in the right direction.

  • tvjye .

    Hmmm…San Fransisco…sanctuary city….the epicenter of the American liberal movement….everyone deserves a chance…..give everyone a hug…..everyone is welcome….More like the epicenter of hypocrisy, antisemitism, and just plain idiocy.

  • glsfbg

    The reverend Martin Luther King is turning in his grave

  • Paul

    Moslem hatred of Jews predates Zionism – it is proscribed in the Koran. Saying it is anti-zionism but not anti-semitism is a disengenious form of deception. The guy who wrote the chalk marks is playing the well-meaning liberals. In Arabic they say “Itbach Al Yahud ” – slaughter the Jews. Not “slaughter the zionists”, but “Slaughter the Jews”. They do NOT distinguish between Jews and Zionists, as the one who wrote the chalkmarks is deceitfully implying. And they have an equal hatred toward Christians, who they label “Crusaders”. they are instructed to pretend to befreind infidels, concealing their hatred. It is interesting to note that Iran and other extreme Moslems call Israel the Little Satan, while America is the Big Satan. Those liberal minded persons who show understanding toward the Moslem activists are being successfully duped by the Moslems successful execution of Takkiya – the Korans requirement to deceive infidels (ALL NON MOSLEMS) in order to enable Islam to take over the world with Sharia law. Those who lend support to the Moslem activists are being successfully fooled, and are cutting of the branch they sit on.

    • A. Golem

      Does Moslem hatred of Jews also predate Judaism, Jewish people and even ancient Israeli people? Regarding “Amalek,” Wikipedia says “certain Arabic writings claimed that the Amalekites existed long before Abraham.”

  • I’m not surprised that various Muslim terrorist organizations are spreading their vile antisemitic hatred within university grounds.
    What I don’t understand is why the university authorities do nothing about it and expel these hate mongers?
    As for these self-hating auto-antisemitic so called Jews, they were and are the scourge of the earth, the worst historical enemies of the Jewish people.

    • A. Golem

      Self-hating auto-anti-Semitic so called Jews?! I like it!! May I suggest another new name for such scourges of the earth – such as Social Justice Warriors, SJWs, which I suggest represents Self-hating Jews and Whites!?

  • Zvi Gross

    Concrete action Is required against these anti-Semitic bigoted, racist organisations, who cry foul each time some one care to express disagreement with their hateful preaching and actions.

  • watsa46

    The Fed Gvt must punish this University and their authorities! An example must be set once for all.

  • gornishthelfen

    Why would any parents send their Jewish children to this anti-semitic hellhole? I am cognizant of the fact that many other schools in Kalifornia are highly anti zionist aka anti-semitic. However there are other choices, albeit growing fewer and fewer each day..
    I support the David Horowitz Freedom Center which fights anti-semitism on campuses via fighting for freedom of speech.
    Kalifornia has just been voted in the media as the worst of , well, everything, go look up today’s news. And SF is covered with used needles and human excrement, from the homeless, many of whom are ex vets including ex female vets, who are not eligible for housing welfare, nor timely healthcare.
    Unvetted immigrants are treated to free health care, housing, phones, and welfare, for a very small percentage of them ever become employed.

  • cbusa

    These Palestinians are entirely delusional. Their so-called “nationalism” is built on a foundation of dead bodies of countless Israelis and others who they brutally murdered for their cause. And they have the nerve to call Zionism “violent” for the temerity of defending against Palestinian terror? Orwell is alive and well in San Francisco. At least the SFSU president came to his senses.

  • Connie Goldman

    San Francisco State has a huge problem on their hands. They have given the radical left and Muslim extremists way too much leeway in their outrageous behavior and demands. It’ll be very difficult to walk any of that back. Good luck, SFSU. You’ve opened up a Pandora’s box. As far as I’m concerned, Dr. Wong’s apology is too little way too late. Damage done.

  • Mike jones

    And leftist Jews worry about white supremacists.

    • A. Golem

      Leftist Jews should worry about their own Diaspora Disease! Perhaps they should pack a bag and goy back to their own country – the Jewish State – Israel! Perhaps there and only there will they ever learn what real anti-Semitism and real anti-Semites are! Surely, leftist Jews in the USA don’t recognize how anti-Semitic they are!

  • Josh Pactor

    Why does the director of an Arab-Muslim group get to declare who should or should not “own campus Jewishness”, again? We’re not your dhimmis, woman. You don’t get to tell us who is Jewish or who is not.

    • A. Golem

      Speaking of “who is Jewish or who is not” – are these Jewish Vipers for Palestine (JVP, also known as “Jewish Voice for Peace”) Jewish or not?

  • Toby

    These groups would welcome muslims who consider all of us infidels to be ruled by them. Idiots.

    • A. Golem

      Ruled by them? Are you presuming they would survive being decapitated! Oh, well, those idiots have already lost their heads – so what difference would it make?

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