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March 18, 2022 1:23 pm
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Yeshiva University Cancels Talk by Scholar Over ‘Support’ for Palestinian Terrorism

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

Yeshiva University David H. Zysman Hall. Photo: Beyond My Ken/Wikimedia Commons

Citing her past support for Palestinian terrorism, Yeshiva University (YU) confirmed on Tuesday it cancelled a student event set to bring a controversial San Francisco State University (SFSU) scholar to campus.

The March 1 event, organized by the law school group Cardozo on Israel and Palestine (CIP), was to feature Rabab Abdulhadi, the founder of SFSU’s Arab and Muslim Ethnicities Diaspora Studies program.

In an email to the YU community on Tuesday, YU President Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman described Abdulhadi as “a professor who has supported violence by inviting students to meet with terrorists and even praised those who hijacked planes and held innocent civilians as hostages.”

Berman cited Abdulhadi’s repeated support of Leila Khaled, a member of US-designated terrorist organization Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) who took part in the hijacking of a Tel Aviv-bound commercial flight in 1969.

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He pointed to past comments by Abdulhadi saying she “idolized” Khaled, and calling the PFLP terrorist “somebody who actually stands up for herself, speaks for herself, actually goes to a plane and hijacks it.”

In April 2021, a virtual SFSU event featuring Khaled and hosted by Abdulhadi was removed from streaming platforms for violating their terms of service due to Khaled’s affiliation with the PFLP.

“While I know that our students were well intentioned, all people of good conscience must stand against hate,” Berman continued in the Tuesday email. “Spirited debate about government policy and actions cannot descend into advocacy of violence. The current antisemitic vitriol on college campuses today that so often uses anti-Israel rhetoric will find no home or harbor at this university.”

In a statement on Tuesday, the two student co-presidents of Cardozo on Israel and Palestine claimed Abdulhadi had been “falsely accused of antisemitism” and called for the restoration of the event, where the SFSU professor was to speak about “her professional experiences teaching about and advocating for Palestinian rights.”

“We were excited for Dr. Abdulhadi to illuminate perspectives that are often excluded or overlooked, and which we feel Cardozo should uplift,” wrote second year Cardozo law students Sydney Artson and Heidi Sandomir. “Yeshiva University’s censorship is offensive to Dr. Abdulhadi’s prestige, integrity, and intellectual labor.”

In September 2020, an earlier event hosted by Adbulhadhi and featuring Leila Khaled was dropped mid-stream by YouTube over the latter’s terrorist affiliations. That prompted a faculty grievance filed by Abdulhadhi last year, alleging that SFSU had failed to intervene in the controversy and thus violated her academic freedom. A faculty panel upheld the grievance, but the decision was later vetoed by SFSU President Lynn Mahoney.

In a separate development last week, Mahoney vetoed another faculty grievance that ruled in Abdulhadi’s favor, which had called for the university to add two additional full-time faculty to the Arab and Muslim Ethnicity and Diaspora Studies (AMED) program founded by the scholar.

Overriding that decision last Friday, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, the university said that AMED’s current enrollment did not justify the additional positions, and that a failure to add them did not constitute a “hostile” work environment for Adbulhadhi. The matter will now be decided in arbitration.

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