How Low Can Universities Go?
Michelle Obama famously said, “When they go low, we go high.” When it comes to Israel on campus, universities seem to believe “if they go low, we go lower” — in what has become a limbo contest for the most contemptible behavior.
Last week, I wrote about the absurdity of Harvard hiring Saeb Erekat, a serial liar and failed negotiator who condemned the peace agreements between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain, to teach diplomacy. San Francisco State University (SFSU) has now out-limboed Harvard by hosting a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist group who hijacked an Israel-bound plane in 1969 and, a year later, attempted to hijack an El Al flight from Amsterdam to New York.
The Arab and Muslim Ethnicities Diaspora (AMED) initiative, a part of the Ethnic Studies department, invited terrorist Lela Khaled to take part in a discussion on September 23. The topic is, “Whose Narratives? Gender, Justice and Resistance.”
Apparently, the faculty of AMED believe that the first female Palestinian hijacker is uniquely qualified to speak on the subjects.
Then again, how surprised should we be that a department that offers an Edward Said Scholarship should welcome someone who is not just anti-Israel, but a terrorist who tried to murder a planeful of people.
Almost exactly 50 years ago, on September 6, 1970, Khaled and Nicaraguan American Patrick Argüello boarded El Al Flight 219 using Honduran passports. Once the plane was approaching the British coast, they drew guns and grenades and approached the cockpit, demanding entrance. When the pilots refused to open the door, Khaled threatened to blow up the plane. The pilot, Captain Uri Bar Lev, put the plane into a dive to throw the hijackers off balance and security and passengers subdued Khaled who was arrested by British police when the plane made an emergency landing in London.
The same day, Khaled’s PFLP terrorist comrades hijacked three other planes and forced them to land in Jordan, where more than 300 passengers and crew were held hostage. The Palestinians blew up the aircraft after removing their captives. This was the catalyst for Black September, when King Hussein of Jordan decided to send his troops to fight the Palestinians who, under Yasser Arafat, were attempting to depose him. Jordanian forces succeeded in routing and expelling the Palestinians (who then set up shop and destabilized Lebanon) in what was the greatest slaughter of Palestinians in history.
Just a week after the hijacking, in one of the early examples of the West capitulating to Palestinian terror, Khaled was freed in exchange for hostages from the planes hijacked by the PFLP. Khaled is unrepentant and, ironically, lives in Amman, not far from the airport where the hijacked planes were blown up.
Can you imagine a university inviting one of the 9/11 hijackers (had they lived) or another member of Al-Qaeda to speak to students? Prior to this, it would have been inconceivable.
As in so many cases, however, when Jews are the victims, the perpetrators are given a pass, never mind the fact the hijackers took non-Jewish hostages as well. University principles require that terrorists be free to speak on campus.
University President Lynn Mahoney defended AMED’s decision with the dodge that “an invitation to a public figure to speak to a class should not be construed as an endorsement of point of view.” Now terrorists are apparently public figures like politicians and celebrities.
Mahoney offered the requisite condemnation of bigotry, tossing antisemitism in with all the rest as is now also obligatory, but defended “the right of our faculty to academic freedom and to conducting their teaching and scholarship without censorship … while also condemning the glorification and use of terrorism and violence, particularly against unarmed civilians.”
But what does having Khaled speak have to do with teaching and scholarship? This is yet another example of how universities are dumbing down education by allowing anything a professor says or writes to be regarded as “scholarship.”
And where is the condemnation? Mahoney’s statement does not mention Khaled or criticize her role as a terrorist. By giving Khaled a platform without denouncing her, the university is condoning her actions.
Mahoney boasts her campus is “one of the most diverse campuses in the US,” not mentioning it has historically been one of the most anti-Israel. “But we may also find ourselves seated next to or hearing from someone with completely divergent views and even views we find personally abhorrent,” she says. “These encounters, here and at other universities, have sometimes led to discord, anger, confrontation and fear. We can allow these moments to pull us apart. Or we can use them to launch new conversations, offer alternative viewpoints and affirm our commitments to viewpoint diversity…. There is — and must be — space for all viewpoints at SF State.”
How often have we heard similar refrains from university officials whenever anti-Israel or antisemitic speech is involved? Is there really no limit to what would be allowed at SFSU? If defending the use of terror is a valid viewpoint, what about Holocaust denial or eugenics? Does anyone seriously believe Mahoney would allow space for racist or sexist speakers?
Just when you think the limbo bar cannot go any lower on campus, another university finds a way to bring it down another notch.
Mitchell Bard is a foreign policy analyst and authority on US-Israel relations who has written and edited 22 books including: The Arab Lobby, Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews and After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.