[News] Professor Rabab Abdulhadi Moves To Dismiss Frivolous Suit That Targets Campus Advocacy for Palestinian Rights

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Aug 22 10:24:18 EDT 2017

/2 articles follow/


  Professor Rabab Abdulhadi Moves To Dismiss Frivolous “Lawfare” Suit
  That Targets Campus Advocacy for Palestinian Rights

August 21, 2017


Law Offices of Ben Gharagozli
Attorney for Professor Rabab Abdulhadi
Law Office of Mark Allen Kleiman
Attorney for Professor Rabab Abdulhadi

August 21, 2017, San Francisco, CA – Today, San Francisco State 
University (SFSU) Professor, Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi, asked the court to 
dismiss a frivolous lawsuit that targets her academic freedom and 
threatens campus advocacy for Palestinian rights more broadly. The suit, 
brought by the /Lawfare Project/ along with mega-firm Winston & Strawn 
LLP, aims to suppress and punish campus debate about Palestinian rights. 
*(Read the Motion to Dismiss 
<http://palestinelegal.org/s/motion-to-dismiss-conformed.pdf> and the 
Motion to Strike 
<http://palestinelegal.org/s/SFSU-motion-to-strike.pdf> filed today.) *

Dr. Abdulhadi explained, “Israel’s apologists have long targeted my 
research and teaching on Palestine, to no avail. This /Lawfare /suit is 
the latest desperate attempt to abuse the law to shut down the Arab and 
Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies program at SFSU, which I 
founded and direct. This fits with SFSU’s history and legacy as a social 
justice campus. This too will fail, because, as an educator, I have the 
right to seek truth and justice, and to study Palestine.”

The suit was filed against SFSU in June 2017, naming as defendants the 
California State University Board of Trustees, multiple administrators 
and a single professor: Dr. Abdulhadi. The complaint alleges that the 
university tolerated a hostile climate of antisemitism, in violation of 
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, because students, faculty and staff 
have long expressed vigorous support for Palestinian rights on campus. 
The suit rests on the nefarious blanket equation of criticism of Israeli 
policy with anti-Jewish animus, attempting to impose a erroneous 
<https://static1.squarespace.com/static/548748b1e4b083fc03ebf70e/t/56e6ff0cf85082699ae245b1/1457979151629/FAQ+onDefinition+of+Anti-Semitism-3-9-15+newlogo.pdf> definition 
of antisemitism that has been rejected 
<http://forward.com/news/356220/expert-on-hate-opposes-campus-anti-semitism-bill-based-on-definition-he-cre/> by 
even its own author as unconstitutional if used to limit speech on 
college campuses.

Mark Kleiman, attorney for Dr. Abdulhadi, said, “This is a frivolous 
lawsuit, fomented by a politically motivated group that announced its 
intention <http://thelawfareproject.org/lawfare/what-is-lawfare-1/> to 
inflict ‘massive punishments’ 
on students and professors who would criticize Israeli policies. The law 
should not be misused for bullying and intimidation. We’re confident it 
will be thrown out of court because it has no basis in fact, no basis in 
law, and only ensnares Dr. Abdulhadi to intimidate her, drain her 
resources and distract her from her scholarly endeavors.”

In its own words, the /Lawfare Project /defines “lawfare” 
<http://thelawfareproject.org/lawfare/what-is-lawfare-1/> as “the use of 
the law as a weapon of war…[and] filing frivolous lawsuits and misusing 
legal processes to intimidate and frustrate opponents."

Behnam (Ben) Gharagozli, another attorney for Dr. Abdulhadi said, “The 
law is clear: The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects 
scholarship and advocacy, regardless of how some pro-Israel groups feel 
about advocacy for Palestinian freedom. The Lawfare Project’s own 
definition of ‘lawfare’ is revealingly incriminating.”

Advocates say the /Lawfare /suit is part of a broader pattern of 
suppression against Palestinian human rights activism, particularly on 
campuses, which includes administrative disciplinary actions, 
harassment, firings, baseless legal complaints, and false accusations of 
terrorism and antisemitism. Palestine Legal responded to 650 such 
incidents of suppression <http://palestinelegal.org/2016-report> from 
2014 to 2016.

Palestine Legal director Dima Khalidi said, “The Lawfare Project’s 
attempt to define Dr. Abdulhadi’s and SFSU students’ advocacy for 
Palestinian rights as antisemitic is a central tactic of dozens of 
Israel advocacy groups attempting to shut down the growing U.S. movement 
for freedom, justice and equality for Palestinians. It must be rejected 
for its clear intent to curb critical inquiry on one of the most 
enduring human rights issues of our time in order to maintain the status 
quo in favor of Israel’s decades-long subjugation of Palestinians.”



  SF State asks court to dismiss suit accusing it of allowing anti-Semitism

By Bob Egelko - August 21, 2017

Saying they have no power to censor campus speech, officials at San 
Francisco State University asked a federal judge Monday to dismiss a 
suit by current and former Jewish students accusing the school of 
fostering anti-Semitism.

Lawyers for the school and the California State University Board of 
Trustees denied that the incidents described in the suit — disruption of 
a talk by the mayor of Jerusalem, exclusion of the Jewish group Hillel 
from a campus fair, and several past provocations including the 1994 
defacement of a mural showing stars of David — had been fostered or 
tolerated by SFSU officials or had interfered with anyone’s freedom of 

But even if religious liberties had been burdened, the lawyers said, 
“the source of that burden would be the actions of other students and 
groups at the university, who were also exercising core First Amendment 
rights that the university could not curtail.”

They noted that another judge threw out a similar suit against UC 
Berkeley in 2011.

U.S. District Judge William Orrick III will decide whether to let the 
suit proceed.

Filed in June by present and past students and several local residents, 
the suit alleged that “SFSU has fostered and sanctioned anti-Semitism 
from the highest levels and affirmed the actions of hostile, aggressive 
and disruptive students to regularly violate the rights of Jewish students.”

The suit focused on an April 2016 appearance by Jerusalem Mayor Nir 
Barkat. Six minutes into his remarks, about 20 students stood and 
started shouting, “Free Palestine,” “Israel is an apartheid state” and 
other chants, according to a report commissioned by the university.

The protesters soon began using a microphone and prevented listeners 
from hearing most of Barkat’s speech, said the report, by an outside law 
firm. It concluded the protest had been disruptive and violated school 
policies but posed no physical threat to Barkat or others.

But the lawsuit said the protesters had threatened violence, that Jewish 
students felt frightened, and that school officials had contributed to 
the hateful atmosphere by instructing campus police to “stand down,” and 
later by letting the demonstrators off with a warning. The suit also 
accused officials of bias for moving Barkat’s speech to an off-campus 

In Monday’s filing, however, the university said it had relocated 
Barkat’s speech because of concerns about student safety, not religion. 
And university lawyers said the protesters “were engaged in political 
speech and expressive conduct — core First Amendment-protected rights.”

The lawyers also said Hillel had been excluded from a campus “Know Your 
Rights” fair in February because the group had missed a registration 
deadline. The Jewish students’ lawsuit contended the deadline was 

“We stand by our claims, which outline a discriminatory environment 
unlawfully targeting Jewish students,” attorney Brooke Goldstein of the 
Lawfare Project, a pro-Israel nonprofit representing the plaintiffs, 
said Monday.

SFSU officials also cited a 2011 ruling by another federal judge 
dismissing a lawsuit by two Jewish students that accused UC Berkeley of 
turning a blind eye to alleged intimidation by Arab students and 
encouraging campus anti-Semitism.

Even if the claims in that lawsuit were proved, U.S. District Judge 
Richard Seeborg said, the conduct mainly involved “pure political 
speech” that was constitutionally protected.

Seeborg, however, allowed the Berkeley students to refile their suit 
with narrower and more specific claims. Their lawyer, Joel Siegal, said 
Monday that the case was ultimately settled with bans on some types of 
intimidating conduct by protesters.


Bob Egelko is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: 
begelko at sfchronicle.com <mailto:begelko at sfchronicle.com> Twitter: 
@egelko <http://twitter.com/egelko>

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