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October 15, 2021 3:11 pm

Faculty Panel Says SFSU Violated Professor’s Academic Freedom When Event With Palestinian Terrorist Was Denied Platform


avatar by Dion J. Pierre

Palestinian terrorist Leila Khaled speaks at an event in Barcelona, Spain, in 2017. Photo: Fira Literal Barcelona / Wikimedia Commons.ell

A three-member faculty panel at San Francisco State University (SFSU) has upheld a grievance filed by Professor Rabab Abdulhadi, ruling that SFSU violated the scholar’s academic freedom when a 2020 seminar she organized was cut off for featuring Leila Khaled, an affiliate of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

The online seminar, titled “Whose Narratives?, Gender, Justice, and Resistance,” briefly streamed live on YouTube in Sept. 2020 before the service provider cut its feed, and was previously denied a platform by both Zoom and Facebook because of the participation of Khaled, who, as a member of PFLP, hijacked a Tel Aviv-bound commercial flight in 1969. In a statement, Zoom said hosting a speaker affiliated with a US-designated foreign terrorist group on its platform would violate its terms of service.

The Faculty Hearing Committee at SFSU said Thursday that school officials violated the academic freedom of Abdulhadi by “not providing adequate support” to the organizers of the event, and, citing an email from a school administrator warning Abdulhadi and her co-instructor, Tomomi Kinukawa, that hosting Khaled might be a criminal act, alleged Abdulhadi had been caused “mental health stress.”

The panel called on SFSU to issue a public apology to Professor Abdulhadi and issue a “public letter of support of faculty with regards to academic freedom,” and provide a site for rescheduling the event.

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Algemeiner requests for comment to both SFSU and Abdulhadi were not immediately returned.

The Thursday ruling prompted a support group for the professor to accuse SFSU of “complicity with Zionist and right wing groups aiming to silence Palestinian voices on campus” on Facebook Thursday.

The group also said that SFSU President Lynn Mahoney had three weeks to decide on whether to uphold the panel’s findings.

In April 2021, Abdulhadi and the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas program invited Khaled to another webinar on Zoom. The event’s registration link was later deactivated.

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