US Congressman Urges Universities to Cancel Planned Webinar With Terrorist Leila Khaled
US Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-CO) has urged the heads of UC Merced and San Francisco State University to cancel a webinar planned for April 23 featuring Leila Khaled — a member of the US-designated terrorist organization Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) – as a speaker.
“I am amazed that UC Merced is joining San Francisco State University’s continued attempts to host the terrorist Leila Khaled for a seminar. I am deeply concerned with the relationship that SFSU has with radicals and even terrorists. This antisemitic terrorist has no place speaking in America. The university officials who continue to give platforms to this hate are participating in this evil. I remain committed to limiting the spread of terrorist propaganda,” Lamborn stated.
According to a letter seen by The Algemeiner sent on Wednesday, and addressed to UC Merced President Michael Drake and Chancellor Juan Sanchez Munoz, Congressman Lamborn said that he finds it “deeply disturbing” that the university agreed to co-host the event calling it a “travesty to any academic inquiry” and deeming it as being “illegal.”
“The First Amendment protects freedom to express ideas. It does not, however, protect providing services and equipment to terrorist organizations,” Lamborn wrote in the letter arguing that UC Merced hosting the event is in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2339B.
“This is not a matter of silencing views that one finds repugnant; it is a matter of not allowing a criminal terrorist organization to utilize a legitimate university for its own purposes,” he wrote in the letter which was also sent to SFSU President Lynn Mahoney and Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, amongst others.
Lamborn explained that his concern was also connected to his role as a Congressman to “potentially provide federal funding for higher education.”
The PFLP — which is founded on a Marxist-Leninist ideology and has been involved in suicide bombings, shootings, and assassinations, among other terrorist attacks — is dedicated to the removal of Western “imperialism” and capitalism from the Middle East to create a “democratic Palestine.”
Meanwhile, the registration link for the April 23 webinar has this week been taken down from the Zoom videoconference platform. The change came after Eventbrite decided to remove the event, co-sponsored by SFSU’s University’s Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas (AMED) program and hosted via the UC Merced Zoom portal, from its platform, for violating its terms of service. The webinar — titled “Whose Narratives? What Free Speech for Palestine?” and moderated by SFSU’s Professor Rabab Abdulhadi — was originally advertised via a Facebook streaming event, before the social media site removed the event.
In September 2020, Zoom joined other platforms in blocking a similar event featuring Khaled — who took part in the hijacking of a Tel Aviv-bound commercial flight in 1969 — but had recently announced a change in policy to give more deference to universities to host events that allegedly violate the company’s terms of service.
“It is only the invention of various inexpensive conferencing services that make this event possible. Khaled would never be given a visa to come to the US, and she has been denied visas to multiple countries precisely of her involvement with PFLP and prior acts of terrorism,” Lamborn wrote in the Wednesday letter.
“A society in which peaceful transfers of power are of the utmost importance cannot be preserved if leaders in international terrorist movements are aided by large, powerful institutions, including universities, without any consequence,” he concluded.
Separately, the Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel (IBSI) started the petition “Stop Zoom From Hosting Events That Promote Terrorists,” which has amassed 600 signatories.
“We’re glad the event was cancelled, and are ready if they try to host Leila Khaled or any other terrorist again,” IBSI told The Algemeiner in an emailed statement.