[News] Event honoring Edward Said prompts Zionist smear campaign against San Francisco State students
news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Nov 26 12:18:34 EST 2013
Event honoring Edward Said prompts Zionist smear campaign against San
Francisco State students
Submitted by Nora Barrows-Fr... on Tue, 11/26/2013 - 16:02
The mural honoring Edward Said at San Francisco State University.
An anti-Palestinian group is mounting an attack against students at San
Francisco State University. Following an on-campus event honoring a
mural of the late Palestinian scholar Edward Said
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/edward-said>, the group asserted
that an artistic stencil glorified "the murder of Jews."
The university's president, at the urging of pro-Israel advocates, has
joined the condemnation of the students.
On 7 November, as part of the sixth annual event to celebrate the mural
and Palestinian culture
activists with several allied student organizations, including the
General Union of Palestine Students
(GUPS) and the Student Kouncil of Intertribal Nations (SKINS), an
indigenous student group, set up informational tables on the campus's
Malcolm X Plaza.
The SKINS' table made various stencils available for students to express
themselves using images and slogans. One slogan read "my heroes have
always killed colonizers," which has been used for years by indigenous
cultural workers in commemorating the resistance to the genocide of
First Nations peoples and other indigenous communities around the world.
For the last two years, for example, indigenous communities have held
cultural events entitled "My Heroes Have Always Killed Colonizers" in
San Francisco during Indigenous Peoples' Day --- a day reclaimed from
the national holiday celebrating the legacy of Christopher Columbus.
It didn't take long for local Zionist watchdogs to launch a vicious
attack against the entire event, the student organizations involved, and
even the co-sponsoring academic department on campus, calling it
"anti-Semitic" and insinuating that the stencil "glorif[ies] the murder
Leading the charge is notorious anti-Palestinian racist Tammi
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/tammi-rossman-benjamin> and her
Amcha Initiative <http://electronicintifada.net/tags/amcha-initiative>,
who has sent repeated emails to San Francisco State University
administration officials demanding that the university investigate GUPS
and the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Initiative (AMED), an
academic department in the university's College of Ethnic Studies.
In the recent past, Rossman-Benjamin, a lecturer at the University of
California at Santa Cruz, has claimed
that students involved in Palestine solidarity organizing have ties to
"terrorist organizations" and made other racist assumptions which were
caught on video. She and Amcha have also attacked university professors
for publicly supporting and/or listing reading material on the
Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions movement
Additionally, Rossman-Benjamin's legal complaint against her own
university --- which alleged an anti-Semitic atmosphere and
discrimination against Jewish students because of Palestine solidarity
activism --- was recently thrown out by the US Department of Education
For years, Zionist groups such as Amcha have worked tirelessly to
undermine Palestinian self-determination and Palestine solidarity
student activism at San Francisco State University. In 2007, when the
Edward Said mural
was being planned, a pitched battle was waged against Palestinian
students and the muralists by outside political forces and the
The mural originally depicted symbols
of the Palestinian right of return
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/right-return> --- a key and an image
of Handala, the cartoon figure representing the struggle of refugees ---
but local and national Zionist organizations successfully forced the
removal of the symbols from the final mural. During a period of
sustained pressure from influential Zionist groups, the president of San
Francisco State University at the time said he considered the symbols
Neighboring murals at the campus's Cesar Chavez Student Center --- of
Malcolm X, Cesar Chavez and Filipino and Asian and Pacific Islander
communities --- depict militant resistance to colonialism and
displacement, but have been ignored by the Zionist groups and the
Rabab Abdulhadi <http://electronicintifada.net/tags/rabab-abdulhadi>, an
associate professor of ethnic studies at San Francisco State University,
told The Electronic Intifada that she believes this current attack is
yet another instance of attempts to stifle discussion and debate about
Palestine on campus.
"This is intended to intimidate university officials from continuing to
support academic freedom and freedom of speech on campus, which is the
real point of campus life," she said.
"It's a well-orchestrated attack --- we've seen these kinds of attacks
[by Amcha] against the University of California and California State
University campuses. This is a continuation. And we've been attacked
from early on."
"Justice for all"
In 2002, Abdulhadi noted, the university administration sanctioned GUPS
for its anti-war activities, and the pressure against students continued
when plans were being made to create the Edward Said mural years before
it was completed.
Ironically, she added, Amcha's assertions "actually feed into
anti-Semitism. They're saying all Jews are colonizers, and all Israelis
are participating. This is real anti-Semitism. [The event] was about
justice for all, and everyone should be interested in it."
In a statement <http://president.sfsu.edu> posted last week, San
Francisco State University President Leslie Wong said he was "deeply
disturbed" by the "incendiary language" of the stencil.
I am dismayed by the glorification of violence that this message
conveys. There is no place at SF State for celebrating violence or
promoting intolerance, bigotry, anti-Semitism or any other form of
hate-mongering. We are a university community committed to
furthering civil dialogue. Each of us must remain vigilant in
working to achieve this goal.
The university is a place where dialogue, debate and the marketplace
of ideas are cherished. We must also maintain a safe environment.
Engaging in expressions that threaten and intimidate are counter to
these goals. In addition to conveying my firm commitment to a safe
and civil campus environment directly to any students involved, I
will be meeting with members of the campus community to express my
concerns, and to learn more about their perceptions of our current
campus climate. University leadership will continue to gather
information about this occurrence and address it appropriately. We
prize our role as a forum for open discourse and we will continue to
work toward a campus culture that cherishes civility.
"Less valuable" than Zionists
Since the historic 1968 student-led protests that led to the formation
of the first ethnic studies department in the US the following year,
students at San Francisco State University have fought hard to protect
representation on campus. The General Union of Palestine Students at
SFSU <https://www.facebook.com/GeneralUnionofPalestineStudents> --- the
last remaining chapter of the 54-year-old organization --- was opened in
Loubna Qatami, a graduate of San Francisco State University and an
organizer with the Palestinian Youth Movement, was an active member of
GUPS as a student. In a personal letter to SFSU President Wong, seen by
The Electronic Intifada, Qatami recounts the barrage of attacks
Palestine activists endured by the administration and outside political
Her letter states, in part:
I came into SFSU when it was popularly understood that the
administration did not care to protect Arab and Muslim students from
the rampant culture wars taking place on our campus after [11
September 2001]. I was there when GUPS was scorned for actions
against the Iraq war.
I was there when College Republicans defamed flags that had Islamic
religious writing on them. I was there when the College Republicans
had students throw shoes at these flags. I was there when other
students called us "terrorists," "camel-riders," and when they said
"there is no such thing as Palestine" and the university found it of
no interest to address such matters.
I was the one, President Wong, who checked the GUPS email account
with thousands of death threat emails! I was the one that opened up
the GUPS door in the mornings and found pictures of the Twin Towers
blowing up with captions titled "Terrorists."
Mr. President, I was there when President [Robert] Corrigan used
every indirect policy excuse to roadblock the inauguration of the
Edward Said Cultural Mural and called images so central to the
Palestinian community and cause, the key and Handala cartoon, a
reflection of a "culture of violence" and "hate to Jews."
... Despite being told we were not counted as part of the system,
despite being told we were less valuable than Zionist voices on
campus, we were the students who committed to believing SFSU was
We were the students who were both attacked and unprotected. Yet we
were the students that reflected the overwhelming majority of
student perspectives and interests on campus. Our student allies
were the first to come to our defense and to say that an attack on
GUPS was an attack on the SFSU student body. Yet time after time,
voices from outside campus, Zionist voices with national anchor
institutions, non-profit organizations ... and right-wing media
campaigns stole our place at SFSU. These forces stifled the voices
of the majority of the student body.
These power structures marginalized my community, time and time
again with nothing done by the university administration.
... We ask of you to maintain the university as a space of public
knowledge, freedom of speech and intellectual exchange. We ask you
to rise to the occasion of protecting your student body, those most
marginalized who are in fact being attacked by culture wars that
impact ethnic studies, student organizations and students of color
on campus. Rather than investigating a "stencil" we ask you to
investigate the broader political backing, rationale and agenda of
the people waging this war on our student body. We urge you to
practice your commitment to social justice.
"Belligerent smear campaign"
Local and national solidarity groups and coalitions, including the
International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN), Movimiento Estudiantil
Chican@ de Atzlan <http://electronicintifada.net/tags/mecha> (MEChA) and
SKINS have drafted letters and a petition
denouncing Amcha's attacks and demanding the university protect freedom
In a petition to San Francisco State University President Wong, MEChA
and SKINS say that they represent students who are "horrified by the
baseless attack and allegations of anti-Semitism that have been leveled
against the General Union of Palestine Students, the Arab and Muslim
Ethnicities and Diasporas Initiative, the Cesar Chavez Student Center
[and] the organizers of the sixth annual anniversary of the Palestinian
Cultural Mural honoring the late Professor Edward Said."
The petition adds:
We are proud to continue the rich legacy of justice-centered student
activism at SFSU. GUPS has historically stood for justice in/for
Palestine and has linked our struggle with that of all people's
struggles for self-determination, justice and peace.
We are concerned over our own safety and the safety of our friends,
allies, and all those standing in solidarity with our movement,
especially when their photos and names have been posted online as if
to make them a moving target for violence.
This belligerent smear campaign meant to slander the Palestinian
movement on campus has directly created a hostile environment that
makes it impossible for us to express our views and exercise our
The petition concludes by demanding that Wong "condemn this smear
campaign, uphold our academic freedom as a core value of SFSU, and
ensure our safety and the safety of all."
Sara Kershnar of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN)
told The Electronic Intifada that several groups, including a cadre of
anti-Zionist Jews, are demanding a meeting with the SFSU president.
"This is about the right of people who are struggling for liberation to
have their expression of that struggle protected," Kershnar said. "It's
not the same as hate speech, expressions of fascism or racism or
homophobia. Those are very different things, and we look to institutions
to make the correct distinction."
She added that it's important for the administration to know that these
political Zionist organizations do not represent general Jewish values
"Manipulation" of Jewish history
The International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network's letter states, in part,
As Jews committed to ending racism, sexism, homophobia and all forms
of oppression, we stand with the General Union of Palestinian
Students (GUPS) and the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas
Initiative (AMED), and we stand against the baseless attacks on them
by Tammi Benjamin and the Amcha Initiative. We urge President Wong
to recognize this attack for the politically motivated attempt to
silence Palestinian students and faculty that it is.
These attacks on student activists are political attacks and are a
reflection of politically motivated, false charges of anti-Semitism
targeting Palestinian and Arab students around the country. On
campuses from UC Berkeley to Rutgers, organizations like the Amcha
Initiative and the Zionist Organization of America, and others, have
attempted to manipulate the Title VI Civil Rights Act to serve its
political ends. This is cheapening and weakening crucial civil
rights protections by characterizing protected political speech as
anti-Semitism. This is but one example of the outrageous lawfare
being used to target Palestinian students and professors and their
Furthermore, these attacks come in a climate in the United States
that is extremely hostile to Arabs and Muslims. From acts of
vigilante violence to racist ads displayed on buses in San Francisco
to government use of immigration law to target well-respected
Chicago community activist Rasmea Odeh, Arabs and Muslims face a
climate of intimidation and repression that extends far beyond campus.
As Jewish people well-versed in the history of anti-Semitism backed
with state power, we reject Ms. Benjamin's manipulation of our
history. As people committed to ending racism, sexism, homophobia,
anti-Arab and anti-Muslim racism and all other forms of oppression,
we reject this attempt to undermine the true meaning of racism.
Tammi Benjamin and Amcha do not speak for Jews when they
irresponsibly slander Palestinian students; rather, they intervene
politically to support Israel and Zionism.
GUPS, AMED and the Cesar Chavez Student Center are incredibly
important parts of the SFSU campus and are a space where
under-represented voices are heard. Whenever people would use
political clout and intimidation to silence those who are
vulnerable, it is incumbent upon all of us to defend them.
In the interest of full disclosure, I have signed on to this statement.
Kenneth P. Monteiro, the dean of the Department of Ethnic Studies, did
not respond to a request for comment by Monday afternoon.
Meanwhile, as activists wait to meet university officials, Professor
Abdulhadi said she has been extremely gratified by the huge amount of
support by allied student groups. Dozens of student representatives from
a wide spectrum of communities of color and grassroots organizations
attended a coalition meeting last week to address this situation. "The
extent of support is amazing," she said. "It really shows that we are a
part of a coalition of justice on campus."
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415
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