Jewish Groups Urge Stanford University to Discipline Student Who Pledged to ‘Physically Fight Zionists on Campus’
Several Jewish organizations called on Stanford University on Thursday to take action against a student who pledged to assault Zionist peers on campus, amid ongoing efforts by anti-Zionist groups to shield him from censure.
In a statement organized by the Lawfare Project legal nonprofit, World Jewish Congress chief Ronald Lauder and Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations CEO Malcolm Hoenlein urged administrators to take “immediate action” over the “clear threat to Jewish students” issued by Hamzeh Daoud, a rising junior.
Daoud — who will work as a residential assistant (RA) at the Norcliffe undergraduate dormitory this fall — threatened in a Facebook post last Friday to “physically fight zionists on campus next year if someone comes at me with their ‘israel is a democracy’ bullshit.”
“[And] after i abolish your ass i’ll go ahead and work every day for the rest of my life to abolish your petty ass ethnosupremacist settler-colonial state,” he wrote.
Daoud amended his statement almost four hours after posting it to say “intellectually fight,” explaining that “physical fighting is never an answer to when trying to prove people wrong.”
The remarks — initially exposed on Saturday by the Stanford College Republicans (SCR) — were condemned by the Jewish student group Hillel, as well as Stanford’s Israel Association.
“Zionism is a longstanding and sincerely held religious belief central to the Jewish religion,” Lauder, Hoenlein, and representatives of the Lawfare Project said in their joint statement.
As an incoming RA who served as a student senator during the 2017-18 academic year, Daoud holds a “position of power over his peers,” and “has expressed his real desire to physically harm members of the Jewish religion,” they argued. “The law mandates that minority communities be offered protection from this kind of vicious, bigoted targeting.”
Lauder separately called Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne on Thursday to express the Jewish community’s concern on this issue, a source familiar with the conversation told The Algemeiner.
University spokesperson E.J. Miranda addressed the controversy on Friday by reiterating that “threats of physical violence have absolutely no place in the Stanford community,” and saying the administration is “actively addressing” Daoud’s Facebook post.
“The author of the post amended it to make clear that he does not support physical violence, and he apologized in a personal letter to members of the Jewish community at Stanford,” Miranda noted. He said the school nonetheless maintains an obligation “to address the original communication and its effects.”
“Our students must feel they are able to voice their own views on campus without fear of physical retaliation,” he explained, while cautioning that the university may not be able to publicly disclose any action it may take due to privacy laws.
Daoud — a member of Students for Justice in Palestine — told the student-run Stanford Daily earlier this week that his comments sought “to share my pain” over recent legislation passed by the Knesset enshrining Israel as a Jewish nation-state. “I apologize if I made anyone feel unsafe,” he wrote in a follow-up email. “That was not the intent and will never be an intent of mine at all.”
Despite expressing regret for his initial comments, he suggested that he should not be subject to penalties.
“Having consequences [for] a Muslim, third-generation Palestinian refugee [who] has been constantly called a terrorist by multiple members of SCR, guests of SCR on campus and other students, is rather shameful,” Daoud asserted.
Some members of the Stanford community have come to his defense, with the anti-Zionist group Jewish Voice for Peace launching an “urgent” campaign on Tuesday calling for supporters to email several administrators on his behalf.
They shared “possible talking points” that should be amplified, including that Daoud’s displayed “incredible restraint and growth” by independently removing the threat to physically assault his peers, and that he “should not be expelled or fired because of an intentional misinterpretation.”
The group also introduced a petition describing Daoud as a victim of a “right-wing smear campaign” and claiming that neither he “nor his comments are anti-Semitic,” while the “attacks” against him are “political and Islamophobic in character.”
The petition was promoted by SJP and the school’s chapter of the International Socialist Organization.
SCR responded on Wednesday by initiating its own email campaign, which urged concerned individuals to ask that Daoud be removed from his RA position.
“About 10% of Stanford students are Jewish; some even come from Israel,” the group pointed out. “Would a freshman potentially thousands of miles from home feel comfortable with an RA like Hamzeh?”