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May 24, 2020 8:10 pm

Outrage After Leading Academic Association Awards Professor Who Engaged in Hate Speech Against ‘Zionist’ Students

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Anti-Israel protesters disrupt a speech on antisemitism by Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt, Feb. 13, 2020. Photo: Twitter.

Outrage over the weekend greeted the decision by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) to give an award to a San Francisco State University professor who engaged in hate speech and violent rhetoric against “Zionists” and Jewish students who support Israel.

Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi, founding director of SFSU’s Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies (AMED) program, was given the 2020 Georgina M. Smith Award for “a person or persons who provided 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 AAUP said in a statement that it gave Abdulhadi the award because she “exemplifies courage, persistence, political foresight, and concern for human rights.”

The organization also praised Abdulhadi’s work to “advance the agenda for social change in Palestine.” Part of that agenda includes promoting ferocious hatred of Zionist and pro-Israel students.

In response to the announcement, famed UCLA professor and Turing Award winner Judea Pearl called for the IRS to investigate the AAUP’s tax exempt status.

Miriam Elman, executive director of the independent pro-Israel campus group Academic Engagement Network, called the decision “appalling” and a “poor choice.”

In 2018, Abdulhadi engaged in violent hate speech that attempted to exclude Jewish students who support Israel from campus life, following a statement friendly to Zionism from President Leslie E. Wong.

“I consider the statement below from President Wong, welcoming Zionists to campus, equating Jewishness with Zionism, and giving Hillel ownership of campus Jewishness, to be a declaration of war against Arabs, Muslims, Palestinians and all those who are committed to an indivisible sense of justice on and off campus,” she wrote on Facebook. The majority of Jewish students consider themselves to be supportive of Israel.

In 2019, Abdulhadi proved she had not mellowed, posting a large banner on a department’s official Facebook page saying, “Zionism = Racism,” and, “Boycott! Divest! Sanction!”

As a result, 80 Jewish and pro-Israel organizations led by pro-Israel campus group AMCHA Initiative wrote California State University Chancellor Timothy White that they were “deeply concerned about the unlawful use of the name of California State University or any of its campuses to promulgate anti-Zionist propaganda and promote a boycott of Israel.”

In response to the AAUP’s award to Abdulhadi, AMCHA Initiative’s director, Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, told the Algemeiner, “It is both shocking and disappointing that an award exists for faculty who bring activism onto the campus and into the classroom.”

“The AAUP specifically applauds Abdulhadi for ‘leadership’ that ‘transcends the division between scholarship and activism that encumbers traditional university life,’” she noted. “The division between scholarship and activism doesn’t encumber traditional university life, is 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 BDS, in their classrooms.”

“The frightening truth is our research demonstrates that BDS promotion incites antisemitism,” she said. “In fact, last year academic BDS-compliant behavior was linked to 86% of Israel-related acts of antisemitic harassment.”

Rossman-Benjamin 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,” she concluded.

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