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August 6, 2018 4:38 pm

Stanford Student Who Threatened to ‘Physically Fight Zionists’ Steps Down From RA Position

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The Stanford University campus. Photo: Stanford.

A student at Stanford University who had threatened to assault Zionist peers has stepped down from his job as a resident assistant.

In a statement shared on Friday, Hamzeh Daoud — who pledged last month to “physically fight zionists on campus” in an online post, which he later amended to say “intellectually fight” — acknowledged that “the language in my first post had a strong negative effect on many in our Stanford community.”

“I apologize from the bottom of my heart to everyone who was triggered by it,” wrote Daoud, who identifies as a “third-generation Palestinian refugee” and said he received “graphic death threats and messages filled with Islamophobia and xenophobia” after his initial comments were publicized.

He suggested that his remarks were made “in an emotion filled moment” and reflected “trans-generational trauma,” an issue he would address by undergoing therapy meant “to help me learn how to regulate my emotions when triggered, and how to use my pain to build a new future, not just perpetuate old trauma.”

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In a statement, Stanford administrators reaffirmed their intolerance to “threats of physical violence” and referenced Daoud’s apology, which he included in an earlier letter sent “to members of the Jewish community at Stanford.”

“Following standard university procedure in cases of possible threat, the university has conducted an extensive case assessment, and concluded that the student does not pose a physical threat to other members of the community,” the school said.

The statement acknowledged the many expressions of concern made over the safety of Jewish students at Stanford, as well as over “the social media campaigns, including death threats, which have been targeting the author of the post.”

“We will be meeting with students on all sides of the issue to hear ideas for additional steps that can be taken to assure their feeling of safety and comfort in our community,” the school said.

Daoud’s resignation was applauded by the American Jewish Committee, which praised Stanford administrators for “acting quickly” to condemned “harmful” remarks that “many Jews on campus took as directed against them.” The group also expressed appreciation for Daoud’s recognition that his remarks barred him serving in a university-appointed leadership role.

“This episode should be a lesson for the entire Stanford community, indeed for colleges and universities across the United States, that fostering and maintaining an environment of peaceful and respectful discussion and inquiry is the essence of a university,” said Rabbi Serena Eisenberg, AJC’s Northern California regional director. “This incident was not about the Middle East, Israelis or Palestinians, but about the way ideas are debated on Stanford’s campus and the world beyond.”

Daoud’s initial remarks drew strident criticism from members of Stanford’s Jewish and Zionist community, including Hillel and the Stanford Israel Association, as well as the World Jewish Congress, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and the Lawfare Project legal nonprofit. An attorney representing an unnamed “Jewish and Zionist undergraduate” at the school warned the last week that continuing to employ Daoud would be a mark of illegal discrimination against Jewish students.

At the time, the lawyer also pointed to a series of social media posts made by Daoud, including a tweet from May that read, “f*ck your liberal zionist a**. f*ck your jewish state. and f*ck the notion that makes you believe that the resiliance [sic] and beauty that embodies judaism, jewish people, and the jewish religion is Israel. Israel is a state that needs to be dismantled. Any other opinion is complicity.”

Yet some members of the Stanford community have also come to Daoud’s defense, and criticized the launch of paid Facebook advertisements calling for Daoud to be dismissed from his RA position.

The anti-Zionist group Jewish Voice for Peace launched an “urgent” campaign late last month calling for supporters to email several administrators on his behalf.

It 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.

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 Stanford’s chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine and the International Socialist Organization.

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