[News] California university comes to defense of professor targeted by Zionist groups

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Jun 27 11:16:39 EDT 2014

  California university comes to defense of professor targeted by
  Zionist groups

Submitted by Nora Barrows-Fr... on Thu, 06/26/2014 - 20:29


A professor at San Francisco State University has been cleared of 
accusations made by Israel-aligned groups of "misusing funds" by 
traveling to Palestine and Jordan earlier this year and meeting with 
Palestinian leaders and political figures.

Just days ago, San Francisco State University forcefully concluded that 
such accusations have "no merit" and that the university "will not 
censor our scholars nor condone censorship by others." In addition, the 
dean of the college of Ethnic Studies has admonished the accusers for 
their "propaganda-style tactics."

Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi, a senior scholar and associate professor of ethnic 
studies and race and resistance studies, has been the target of a 
months-long campaign led by the Santa Cruz-based Amcha Initiative 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/amcha-initiative>, a Zionist 
watchdog group that harasses student Palestine solidarity activists and 
faculty members critical of Israel's policies.

    "Fundamental to scholarship"

Amcha and other Israel-aligned watchdog groups including the Simon 
Wiesenthal Center 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/simon-wiesenthal-center> Campus 
Outreach, StandWithUs <http://electronicintifada.net/tags/standwithus>, 
the Zionist Organization of America 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/zionist-organization-america> and 
Scholars for Peace in the Middle East 
Abdulhadi in May of "misrepresenting" the nature of her trip and 
"neglect[ing] to inform" San Francisco State University officials of her 
planned meetings with Sheikh Raed Salah and Leila Khaled, whom Amcha and 
the other groups identify as "terrorists."

They also accused the professor of "egregious abuse of university and 
taxpayer funds as well as potential violations of California state law 
prohibiting the use of state resources for personal or political purposes."

Sheikh Raed Salah <http://electronicintifada.net/tags/raed-salah>, a 
Palestinian citizen of Israel and a political and religious leader, has 
been a target of anti-Palestinian groups in the US and UK. He was 
arrested by British authorities on baseless charges in 2011, which were 
thrown out by a judge 
a year later. He has also been jailed multiple times by Israel.

Leila Khaled <http://electronicintifada.net/tags/leila-khaled> is a 
Palestinian refugee and an icon of the Palestinian armed resistance 
<http://electronicintifada.net/content/bio-shows-why-leila-khaled-remains-icon-resistance/11324> due 
to her involvement in two separate airline hijacking operations in 1969 
and 1970.

In a public, eight-page statement she released last week 
Abdulhadi writes: "My stated intention to research and network with 
scholars in the region and throughout the world is a legitimate and 
important use of state funding. As Senior Scholar at the Arab and Muslim 
Ethnicities and Diasporas Initiative, it is part of my job duties to 
establish educational and research collaboration on Palestine and 
between Palestinians in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world. Research 
and discussion between actors in the US and Palestine is fundamental to 
my scholarship. It is one of the reasons why SFSU hired me in the first 

The professor adds that "meeting with diverse and controversial figures 
in Palestine furthered the educational purpose of the trip." She notes 
that there is "no law or university regulation that prohibits meeting 
and speaking with figures seen as 'controversial' in US media and 
dominant discourses. Such activity is clearly protected under the First 
Amendment and is a necessary part of gathering and sharing information. 
Such encounters are the very lifeblood of academia, journalism and other 
fields of knowledge production and are also protected by academic freedom."

    "No merit"

In a brief statement released on 24 June, San Francisco State University 
and its president, Les Wong, say the university reviewed the allegations 
and has concluded that Amcha's claims "have no merit."

The university's statement 
reads in full:

    Recently the AMCHA Initiative, Simon Wiesenthal Center Campus
    Outreach and others have made allegations against Professor Rabab
    Abdulhadi regarding her travel. San Francisco State University takes
    allegations about the use of state funds seriously, investigates any
    issues and responds as appropriate.

    The records for Professor Abdulhadi's travel have been reviewed, and
    they comply with established rules without fault or violation.
    Therefore, we conclude that the allegations made against Professor
    Abdulhadi have no merit. The CSU's Travel Procedures and Regulations
    can be viewed at: http://fiscaff.sfsu.edu/content/csu-travel-policy

    Faculty can and do communicate with others relevant to their
    research, communicating by various methods that can involve travel.
    Professor Abdulhadi's academic work in race and resistance studies
    requires examination of some of the world's most challenging and
    controversial issues. San Francisco State University will continue
    to respect academic freedom, and we will not censor our scholars nor
    condone censorship by others.

    San Francisco State University remains committed to providing a safe
    and civil campus environment that supports all members of its community.

In addition, the dean of the College of Ethnic Studies issued a 
statement of his own 
on 25 June, admonishing Amcha "for their continued ill intent and 
propaganda style tactics."

"Historically, Amcha's awareness of fact has not discouraged its 
unrelenting and mean-spirited attacks," Dean Kenneth Monteiro says.

Monteiro adds 

    [F]or a number of years, Amcha has gone well beyond just expressing
    its views, and developed a reputation for misrepresentation of facts
    against individuals and institutions. Moreover, it appears to also
    try to provoke very powerful people to punish those with whom it
    disagrees. It has done that to individuals at San Francisco State
    University and campuses across California. Recently, Amcha has made
    a number of sensationalized and false claims about students and
    faculty at our campus. Further it has promoted these claims to
    sympathetic media. Most perniciously, it has lobbied powerful civic
    and private figures, including the state Governor and dozens of
    elected statewide and local leaders, encouraging them to punish
    individuals and institutions based on misleading or false claims. 

    ... Sensationalized attacks based on incomplete or inaccurate
    information such as these (at times accompanied with requests for
    monetary donations) exploit the worst fears of many, causing unfair
    and unnecessary distress for both Amcha's intended targets as well
    as its stated allies. Coupling misinformation instigation or direct
    attack academic organizations or individuals degrades the campus
    climate for all. 


In January, The Electronic Intifada's Asa Winstanley 
<http://electronicintifada.net/people/asa-winstanley> and I published an 
investigatory report on Amcha's lengthy history of spying on student 
and faculty who support the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and 
sanctions <http://electronicintifada.net/tags/bds> movement.

Amcha's co-founder, Tammi Rossman-Benjamin 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/tammi-rossman-benjamin>, is a 
lecturer at the University of California at Santa Cruz. She has 
previously claimed that students involved in Palestine solidarity 
organizing have ties to "terrorist organizations" and that "many of them 
are foreign students who come from countries and cultures where 
anti-Semitism is how they think about the world." Her racist statements 
were caught on video 
in 2012.

Students at University of California at Santa Cruz at the time called on 
the university to condemn her hate speech. The administration declined 
to comment and took no disciplinary action.

    History of failure

Rossman-Benjamin and Amcha have targeted other professors in California 
who are outspoken in their criticism of Israel, accusing such educators 
of "anti-Semitism" and "misuse" of public resources. To date, none of 
these allegations have resulted in punishment of the professors. 
Meanwhile the group's attempt to use civil rights law claims in order to 
shut down discussion on Israel was thrown out by the US government last 

The National Lawyers Guild's San Francisco Bay Area chapter stated in a 
recent letter 
to the University of California's Board of Regents and the California 
State University Board of Trustees that Amcha's history of "relentless 
bullying" of professors and educational institutions "can be foiled by 
universities issuance of clear, strong statements upholding principles 
of academic freedom in general, and discussion of Israel-Palestine in 
particular --- and by promptly rejecting the unconstitutional demands by 
Amcha and others whenever they occur."

    "Series of incidents"

Lawyers with the Palestine Solidarity Legal Support, which has supported 
Dr. Abdulhadi in protecting her freedom of research and scholarship, 
stated in a press release 
that "Amcha's attack was the latest in a series of incidents intended to 
stifle and criminalize any and all discussion of Palestine or Palestinians."

Since San Francisco State University's rejection of the accusations this 
week, Amcha says that it has now demanded 
along with the other Israel-aligned watchdog groups, that the California 
State Controller conduct a state audit of the university.

In the Palestine Solidarity Legal Support press release, Abdulhadi says: 
"All over California, the Amcha Initiative's accusations have repeatedly 
proven to be all smoke and no fire. SFSU President Wong's statement 
confirms there was no wrongdoing here. But we must do more to protect 
California scholars from Amcha's McCarthyist campaigns, which aim to 
strait-jacket Ethnic Studies scholars, especially those studying Palestine."

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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