San Diego State University Women’s Center Apologizes for Sharing Photo of Palestinian Hijacker With AK-47 Rifle
The Women’s Resource Center at San Diego State University apologized on Thursday for sharing an image of an armed Palestinian hijacker, calling it “disrespectful to members of our Jewish community.”
The image, included in a May 8th newsletter that has since been retracted, depicted Leila Khaled — who helped seize two planes in Europe in 1969 and 1970 on behalf of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) — holding an AK-47 assault rifle. It was accompanied by the text, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”
The slogan has been used by Islamist and other Palestinian nationalist groups to refer to the establishment of an Arab state in the territory between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea, in place of Israel.
The PFLP is designated as a terrorist organization by the US government and more than 30 other countries, and has killed scores of Israeli civilians since its establishment in 1967. It was behind multiple suicide bombings during the Second Intifada that claimed more than 100 casualties, children among them, as well as a 2014 massacre of five worshipers and one police officer at a Jerusalem synagogue.
In a campus-wide email on Thursday, the WRC — which aims to support “women identified students on campus and [engage] SDSU in feminist dialogues” — said the “image and its implied framing are harmful and hateful toward members of our Jewish community and counter to our values of encouraging and promoting a safe, supportive and inclusive environment.”
“The image and what it represents is counter to our own values as well as San Diego State University’s values, which appreciate, honor and respect our individual and collective diversity,” the message continued.
SDSU also condemned the image in a separate statement on Thursday, and said “the university has imposed additional protocols with center staff to help ensure that this does not occur in the future.”
The school’s branch of the Jewish group Hillel thanked staff at the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the WRC later that day “for dealing with this deeply troubling issue in such a timely matter.”
Yet some other members of the campus community expressed frustration with the WRC’s apology, with Students Supporting Israel at SDSU calling on WRC staff “to attend courses provided by the Anti-Defamation League,” and for “the resignation of the responsible party.”
“Including terrorist propaganda that calls for the elimination of the state of Israel in a weekly newsletter is not simply ‘disrespectful,’ it is an abomination,” the group said in a Friday statement. “Leila Khaled shares the same values as the Sri Lanka bombers and [former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan] David Duke, all believing in the ethnic cleansing of a group of people.”
Peter Herman, a professor of English Literature at SDSU, wrote in an op-ed on Saturday that the inclusion of Khaled’s image in the WRC newsletter “provides yet another example of how anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism have become acceptable in progressive circles,” and was “especially shocking” in the wake of the recent shooting attack on a synagogue in nearby Poway.
He said J. Luke Wood, the school’s chief diversity officer, quickly responded to concerns over the image by having the WRC “take down the newsletter and issue an apology.”
“He has also spoken to several local rabbis, and has promised further action over the summer,” Herman wrote. “On the other hand, President Adela de la Torre has so far remained silent, even though she responded very quickly after similar racist incidents in the recent past.”