[News] Student activists at San Francisco State, UC Irvine facing repression

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Jul 13 15:48:56 EDT 2017

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      Student activists at San Francisco State, UC Irvine facing repression

          July 11, 2016

          Written By: Omar Zahzah

*An Escalating Backlash*

The crackdown on pro-Palestine activism in the United States has reached 
a fever pitch. Early last month, New York Governor Cuomo signed an 
executive order 
for the creation of a blacklist of institutions and individuals that 
support Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions 
<https://bdsmovement.net/call>(BDS) against Israel, and the denial of 
state funding to organizations that have participated in and/or support 
BDS activity. Though they may seem extreme, Cuomo’s actions actually 
the introduction  of similar legislation in state legislatures across 
the country <http://palestinelegal.org/legislation/>. As recently 
reported by the /Electronic Intifada, /the spate of anti-BDS legislation 
in the U.S. and the United Kingdom (U.K.) is the result of a concerted 
the Israeli foreign ministry and sympathetic lobbying groups, 
constituting the latest strategy to counter the spread of international 
support for BDS.

In addition to increasingly intervening in U.S. politics, Israeli 
officials and domestic Zionist organizations are also turning  their 
focus to American university campuses, even as university 
administrations display increasing hostility towards pro-Palestine 
activism. Amidst this escalating backlash, student activists now more 
than ever are in vital need of support, a reality with which several 
years with Students for Justice in Palestine at UCLA has made me all too 

*Student Activists Especially Vulnerable*

Two recent cases in particular show that students who dare to engage in 
direct action decrying Israeli settler colonialism 
ethnic cleansing 
<http://mondoweiss.net/2014/10/ethnic-cleansing-israeli/>are especially 
vulnerable to the rising opposition to Palestine activism.

On April 6th, along with a coalition of other student groups, the 
General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS) 
<https://www.facebook.com/GeneralUnionofPalestineStudents/> protested 
<https://www.rt.com/usa/338794-protest-palestine-israel-mayor/>a speech 
given by Nir Barakat, the mayor of occupied 
The event was hosted by San Francisco State’s Hillel. Following the 
action, San Francisco State president Les Wong sent out a statement 
concern for the “state of civil discourse” on the San Francisco State 
campus and promising an investigation. Many media outlets were swift to 
cast the protest in a negative 
often mirroring Wong’s tone in describing it as an assault on free 
State Hillel similarly claimed in a blog entry 
Barakat was “shouted down” by the protesters and “prevented from 
speaking,” despite the fact that even articles condemning the 
demonstration observe that Barakat continued his talk 
even if he needed to adjust accordingly.

“We protested Mayor Barkat because of his role as an Israeli official, 
who enforces violence and occupation against our communities on a daily 
basis…Providing a platform for Barkat on our campus erases the violent 
and brutal realities faced by Palestinians,” GUPS wrote in a statement 

GUPS’ statement goes on to enumerate several examples of policies 
supported or implemented by Barakat that amount to ethnic cleansing and 
including the demolition of Palestinian homes, continued expansion of 
settlements (or, as some of us more accurately term them, colonies 
in East Jerusalem, denial of Palestinian access to education and the 
right to own property, and measures taken to ensure that the Palestinian 
presence in Jerusalem does not exceed 30 percent of the total population 
by the year 2020. As GUPS’ statement makes clear, for Palestinian 
students and all who acted in solidarity, Barakat’s appearance was not 
simply about a distasteful perspective—it was about the presence of a 
figure whose actions are part of the cause of ongoing and systematic 
violence and dispossession of Palestinians. Framing the issue as simply 
a matter of challenged speech erases the disparity in power between 
Barakat and Palestinian students, whose families and communities suffer 
constantly under the violent and racist practices of the Israeli state.

Similarly, on May 18th, a coalition of student organizations at 
University of California Irvine (UCI) made up of Students for Justice in 
Palestine (SJP), the Black Student Union (BSU), the Muslim Student Union 
(MSU), Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MeCHa), La Resilencia 
Trans/Queer de UCI, American Indian Student Association (AISA), Asian 
Pacific Student Association (APSA), and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) 
protested a film screening put on by UCI’s Students Supporting Israel 
that included a panel of IDF soldiers. The purpose of the demonstration 
was both to express outrage at the normalized violence 
by the Israeli military against Palestinians as well as to denounce the 
Israeli military technology and surveillance and suppression tactics 
in the occupied territories to U.S. police forces and foreign governments.

“The connections between the Israeli Defense Forces and military, 
colonial, and genocidal regimes all over the world are numerous. Not 
only do police departments in the U.S. send police delegations to train 
in Israel, but weapons trade and marketing–especially after the siege on 
Gaza in 2014–allows Israel to demonstrate the ‘effectiveness’ of its 
violent military technologies in order to market it to other 
nations/regimes. … For opposing students to claim to feel unsafe at the 
presence of protesters is incomparable to the fear and vulnerability of 
Palestinians who face violence at gunpoint by [Israeli Occupation 
Forces] and who are facing systematic genocide, ethnic cleansing and 
erasure as a part of their colonization of Palestinian land,” UC 
Irvine’s Students for Justice in Palestine wrote in a statement 
<https://ucisjp.wordpress.com/>following the protest.

In what Palestine Legal has described 
a “predictable pattern,” Zionist organizations made false accusations 
against the protesters, calling 
disciplinary action and criminal investigation and the media 
demonstration. Administration has referred the case to the District 
measure UCI administration had previously pursued 
the 11 Muslim students who challenged a speech by then-Israeli 
ambassador Michael Oren—and are considering banning Students for Justice 
in Palestine. As with SF State President Les Wong, UC Irvine Chancellor 
Howard Gillman issued a statement 
that the protest had “crossed the lines of civility.” Gilman’s statement 
reiterated the false charges raised by Zionist organizations, including 
that student protesters had blocked exits, though these charges were 
legal observers working with the National Lawyers Guild 
<https://www.nlg.org/about>who were present at the demonstration.

The outcome in both  situations remains uncertain.


As most recently evidenced by the Steven Salaita affair 
“civility,” a colonial and racializing 
that privileges tone over content and establishes a rubric for etiquette 
by creating a contrast with a savage and non-white Other, has become a 
very popular framework for administrators in an increasingly 
corporatized university system to use in taking issue with student and 
faculty dissent. “Civility” allows for proponents of an allegedly 
all-encompassing freedom of speech to conveniently falter in their 
enthusiasm when the object of criticism is considered off-limits—in this 
case, Palestinian oppression and dispossession, and the entrenchment of 
Israeli military and surveillance strategies in globalizing systems of 
racialized state violence, surveillance and white supremacy. “Civility” 
can magically transform groups of vulnerable black, brown, undocumented, 
queer and trans students standing up to powerful politicians and 
soldiers responsible for the implementation of violent and racist 
policies of military occupation and ethnic cleansing into an “angry 
mob,” and divert what should be righteous indignation at the brutality 
endured by a colonized population into patronizing /tut-tutting/about 
the means of protest.

The framework of “civility” also obscures the way  (as both GUPS and SJP 
UCI demonstrate in their statements) that “ideas” put forward by Barakat 
and the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) are actually  extensions of violent 
acts of systemic erasure. For Palestinian students, every word spoken 
carried with it the weight of further harm to their families and 

*A Familiar Tactic*

Charlotte Silver documented 
President Wong’s response followed a phone conversation with Rabbi 
Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a pro-Israel lobbying group, 
and that the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), another lobbying 
group that recently called 
SJP to be investigated and banned from CUNY campuses on false 
accusations of anti-Semitism, is now urging administration at UC Irvine 
to take action against SJP. And, in a breakthrough report 
Ali Abunimah reveals how admissions from Brooke Goldstein of the Lawfare 
Project at an anti-BDS conference in early June “[cast] the latest 
attacks by pro-Israel groups on Palestine solidarity activists at UC 
Irvine and San Francisco State University in a new light . . . Goldstein 
said her group was encouraging Jewish students on those campuses to file 
police complaints against Palestine solidarity activists, ‘so we can 
pressure the [district attorney] to bring criminal charges against those 
students, just like was done with Michael Oren’s speech.’” These 
revelations should quell any serious doubt of a coordinated and 
far-reaching effort to shut down campus activism for Palestine. Sadly, 
as already revealed in the cases of San Francisco State and UC Irvine, 
it will be students who bear the brunt of this repressive campaign. //

Nearly four years of involvement with SJP UCLA has allowed me to see 
first-hand that this state of affairs is far from anomalous: consistent 
outside pressure from Zionist groups can often lead to serious 
ramifications for students who engage in Palestine activism. In June 
2014, in collaboration with Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and the 
Armenian Student Association (ASA), SJP at UCLA circulated a non-binding 
ethics pledge 
student politicians to sign promising on good faith not to accept free 
or sponsored trips from lobbying groups with a history of discriminatory 
behavior. Working with six other pro-Israel organizations, the AMCHA 
Initiative initiated a campaign 
pressure UCLA administration to take action against SJP UCLA and casting 
the impetus for the ethics pledge (as well as earlier Judicial Board 
charges filed by SJP against student representatives we believed had a 
conflict of interest 
voting for a divestment resolution presented in February of that year) 
as rooted in anti-Semitism and terrorist sympathies. The ethics pledge 
garnered condemnation 
both UCLA Chancellor Gene Block and UC President (and former Head of 
Homeland Security) Janet Napolitano, and the Los Angeles City Council 
even considered 
the ethics pledge and calling on the UC Regents to intervene more 
directly in campus affairs by instituting harsher punishments for 
actions such as the ethics pledge, which included consulting law 
enforcement “where appropriate.” Though this resolution was ultimately 
tabled, the chilling effect of having a legislative body consider taking 
action against your campus activist group by calling on administration 
to refer you to the police cannot be overstated.

More recently, the AMCHA Initiative pushed for the UC Regents 
adopt the State Department Definition 
<http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/fs/2010/122352.htm>of anti-Semitism, a 
move that would have stigmatized virtually all student organizing for 
Palestine as this definition does not distinguish 
criticism of Israeli policy and genuine anti-Semitism. The UC Regents 
abandoned the State Department definition following considerable 
However, they later drafted a “Statement of Principles Against 
Intolerance” that in its earliest stages directly linked anti-Zionism 
with anti-Semitism (a conflation that would have been just as damaging 
as the adoption of the State Department definition), but which was later 
further outcry to condemn instead “anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism.” 
Yet this change has not stopped the racist and Islamophobic 
Initiative co-founder Tammi Rossman-Benjamin from citing the Regents’ 
“Statement of Principles” in a recent letter 
Chancellor Gillman making false and inciting allegations about UCI SJP 
and asking for him to make clear how he “intends to implement” the 
Regents’ statement—not so subtle code for sanctioning SJP.

*Means of Support*

As my own experiences with SJP UCLA taught me, what has befallen 
protesters at SF State and UC Irvine is not exceptional: Zionist 
organizations are aggressively intervening in campus affairs in an 
ongoing attempt to stamp out pro-Palestine activity.

Given that Palestine activism is often grassroots, it is all the more 
imperative for all who advocate for Palestinian freedom and 
self-determination to come together in lending our support to the 
student activists who put themselves at great personal risk to denounce 
Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people. Two simple yet 
nevertheless crucial displays of such support would be to sign the 
action alert 
by Jewish Voice for Peace 
<https://jewishvoiceforpeace.org/mission/>(JVP) urging the Orange County 
District Attorney not to  prosecute the student activists at UC Irvine, 
as well as contacting both SF State President Les Wong 
<http://president.sfsu.edu/>and UC Irvine Chancellor Howard Gillman 
<http://chancellor.uci.edu/about/>and calling on them to end the 
proceedings against members of GUPS and SJP, respectively. “Civility” 
should not be a binding criterion for circumscribing political activism, 
and pressure from external organizations should not determine students’ 
ability to advocate for a just cause.

          July 11, 2016

          Written By: Omar Zahzah

      About Omar Zahzah

Omar Zahzah is a PhD student in comparative literature at UCLA of 
Lebanese Palestinian origin as well as a member of Students for Justice 
in Palestine (SJP) and the Palestinian Youth Movement (PYM).



  Struggling for justice at San Francisco State University

Saliem Shehadeh - July 13, 2017

Students, staff, and faculty at San Francisco State University are under 
investigation by the university on trumped up charges of anti-Semitism 
brought forth by San Francisco Hillel. This is the latest in a long 
history of accusations made against Palestinians and Palestinian 
advocates at SFSU by the pro-Israel organization. Pro-Israel groups have 
time and again sought criminal and punitive charges for political and 
scholarly expressions critical of Israel on college campuses 
constituting assaults on civil liberties and anti-colonial struggles. 
One of the more famous cases includes the Irvine 11 in which the Orange 
County District Attorney’s Office charged students who protested a 
speech by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren on UC Irvine campus with two 
And most recently, pro-Israel legal organizations have brought a civil 
rights based lawsuit alleging the institutionalization of anti-Semitism 
on SFSU campus and blaming a slew of defendants including top-level SFSU 
administrators, staff, and Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi the founding director of 
the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies program and the 
longtime advisor to the General Union of Palestine Students on campus. 
The Lawfare Project and the law firm of Winston & Strawn who brought 
filed the lawsuit on behalf of three SF Hillel students is similar in 
nature to a 2011 lawsuit alleging an “anti-Semitic climate at UC 
Berkeley.” US District Judge Richard Seeborg dismissed the lawsuit as 
its accusations presented no coherent or plausible argument 
Such episodes highlight the willingness and strategy of pro-Israel 
organizations to legally harass Palestinians advocacy on campuses and to 
attack knowledge production rooted in social justice and anti-colonial 

The latest allegations of anti-Semitism by Hillel were made in reaction 
to the organization not receiving a table at a “Know Your Rights” (KYR) 
Fair held in February of 2017 at SFSU. The purpose of the Fair was 
consistent from its inception: to outreach to groups vulnerable in the 
new political climate, with a focus on Arab and Muslim, LGTBQ, and 
Undocumented communities. Participating at the fair included Palestine 
Legal, La Raza Centro Legal and ACLU, it featured one-on-one interface 
among Fair participants, self-defense training led by Girl Army, and 
legal advice panels to educate students on community efforts combatting 
Trump’s Executive Orders. Jewish Voice for Peace participated in the 
Fair, among the over 20 participating organizations, where they reached 
out to Jewish students (some of whom were members of Hillel) in the 
potential makings of a JVP chapter at SFSU. Despite this reality, Hillel 
continues to allege that Jews were excluded from the fair and that the 
Fair organizers not making room for Hillel at the already over-booked 
event was an act of religious discrimination. I, being one of the 
organizers of the Fair, have stated at every occasion that no such 
discrimination has taken place. There is no evidence to support such 
claims, and in fact, the evidence proves that such claims are false. 
Instead, Hillel has fabricated a storyline in which the Fair organizers 
changed the description of the Fair to the exclusion of pro-Israel and 
Zionist organizations. /Anti-Zionism is not Anti-Semitism./**I reject 
Hillel’s or any other definition of anti-Semitism which equates 
criticism of Israel with anti-Jewish hatred. The literature (and we’re 
at an academic institution where knowledge is paramount) is full of 
debates on what anti-Semitism constitutes and how it should not be used 
to stifle political criticism of Israel. If this is the definition of 
anti-Semitism which is being used to determine the merits of Hillel’s 
complaint, then the university is in violation of the First Amendment 
and ignoring volumes of scholarship.

Hillel not receiving a table at the event was a unanimous and consensus 
decision based on Hillel’s conduct and table capacity.  The discussion 
and decision took place over email and during two meetings. It was given 
ample time to raise points, concerns and to address those points or 
concerns. Our adherence to shared governance and accordance with 
horizontal leadership style was reaffirmed the day of the Fair when a 
paid staff member of Hillel attempted to “negotiate” his way into the 
Fair by cornering one of the Fair organizers and attempting to force 
them into making a unilateral decision displacing already booked 
organizations for the benefit of Hillel. This is the same Hillel staff 
member who made false claims that the organizers had invited Hillel on 
the basis that he received an email /forwarded /to them by an 
unaffiliated organization who was in fact invited. Attempting to hide 
their blunder, Hillel removed the sender’s address before submitting it 
as evidence, but us having the original email were quickly able to prove 
Hillel’s tampering of evidence. This is the same staff member of Hillel 
who told university investigators that he had no intention of discussing 
Israel at the Fair. This is not a credible statement given that his job 
title, as the SF Hillel website 
<http://www.sfhillel.org/our-professional-team.html>confirms, is “Israel 
Engagement Associate.” Lastly, this is the same individual who told one 
of the Fair organizers that even if Hillel had a table, Hillel would 
have a very limited/ no participation in the Fair because they were 
already otherwise committed to tabling on the University quad for Jewish 
Heritage Week. His misrepresentations and actions are only relevant to 
point out that his statements are dishonest; despite this, the 
university has based their investigation on the accusations brought 
forth by this Hillel staff member.

Further, GUPS and other Arab groups noted that they would pull out of 
the Fair if Hillel was given a table. This guardedness is a defense 
tactic, one in which we avoid the same organization that harasses and 
seeks to criminalize us, one that does so with the complicity and 
involvement of the university. University administrators who were made 
aware of the potential pull-out noted their indifference if GUPS and 
other Arab groups did not attend the Fair. This is a racist reflection 
of the impression that Palestinian and Arab voices are disposable.  The 
absence of Palestinian and Arab organizations would have destroyed the 
very event that was intended to make them a focal point and it is 
alarming to learn that the administration would so easily dispose of 
them. University prejudice against Palestinians is also seen in that 
every single public General Union of Palestine Students event is 
monitored by university administrators in the Office of Student Services 
who have tightened the screws on GUPS activities. All of these 
administrators have a visibly and publicly friendly relationship with 
the Hillel director Ollie Ben.

      SFSU Top-Level Administrators Interfering with the Investigation

 From the beginning, the university has treated us with the utmost 
disrespect by violating our due process and through the consistent 
oddities in the manner the university has carried out the investigation. 
The allegations against the KYR committee were not made formally in 
writing, rather, members from SF Hillel’s paid-staff met with Vice 
President Luoluo Hong whom they have a very public friendly relationship 
with and who oversees a number of university departments including the 
Title IX Coordinator/ Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation 
Administrator. After one of their meetings, VP Hong issued formal 
allegations against the Fair organizers on March 10, 2017, two weeks 
after the Fair took place on February 28, 2017. For weeks the university 
made little to no progress on the investigation, that is until the 
Jewish Studies program at SFSU and SF Hillel made claims of 
institutional anti-Semitism at SFSU and cited the KYR Fair as a point of 
evidence. In response, SFSU President Leslie Wong issued a campus-wide 
statement shifting attention away from university administrators and 
onto Palestinians and the KYR Fair organizers promising a forceful 
investigation and affirming anti-Semitic activity on campus by 
Palestinian advocates. This new position from Wong is in stark contrast 
to multiple university investigations that proved those claims false. 
Within the week, the university added a second investigator onto the 
case in the middle of the investigation, another oddity itself. The 
co-investigator admitted as much when he noted that in his time at SFSU 
he held the role of co-investigator a ballpark of ten times and that 
those were usually for the purpose of training new investigators. As 
there was no training involved, the move was a clear attempt to 
politically side with pressure from pro-Israel communities. This display 
was repeated in an SF State News announcement 
June 20, 2017, responding to a lawsuit brought forth by The Lawfare 
Project on formal allegations of institutionalized anti-Semitism. When 
such displays are made by the University President, they are reminiscent 
of subtle discursive tactics prejudging the outcome and a “guilty 
verdict”. It is widely known that bosses and managers engage in such 
tactics, as former FBI Director James Comey made clear in the latest 
Congressional hearings concerning Russian interference.

We were not made aware of the evidence and the specificities of the 
allegations against us until Monday, June 26, 2017. This is over four 
months after we received notice from VP Hong on March 10, 2017, to 
appear for interrogation. And, on March 1, a member of the university’s 
staff asked the Fair organizers for a comprehensive list of all emails 
sent from our private accounts about the planning of the Fair, 10 days 
before a formal investigation was authorized. Having not been presented 
with specificities of the allegations nor with their scope of evidence, 
we have been forced to respond solely based on speculation for the 
majority of the investigation. This is just days before the hard 
deadline of July 13, 2017, set by California State University Chancellor 
Executive Order <https://www.calstate.edu/eo/EO-1097-rev-10-5-16.pdf>for 
timely response to investigate and to present findings. The 
investigators set into place a scheduling system that has prohibited us 
from preparing the most basic defense and our access to the “evidence” 
brought against us until the latest opportunity. When we requested 
sufficient time to respond to the allegations, the university 
investigator did not accommodate the request and noted the quickly 
approaching deadline. While the deadline in the governing Executive 
Order was presented as neutral and immutable, I interpret the inflexible 
approach as an intimidation tactic, disparate treatment, and 
discrimination against Palestinians and advocacy for justice in 
Palestine. It is commonly known that the university violates its own 
deadlines routinely. For example, it has kept on the back burner and 
lacked follow up with Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi’s grievance filed against SFSU 
in February of 2017, in which she offers evidence to the systemic 
hostile and unsafe work and study environment for Palestinians and the 
physical threats and administrative retaliation against her. But in the 
KYR case, the deadlines are strict, in what is believed to be a response 
to public political pressure to punish the organizers of the Fair. And 
in doing so, the university is engaged in discriminatory application of 
the Executive Order.

Such disparate treatment of Palestinians by SFSU’s investigators is both 
well documented and patterned, all of which found that SF Hillel’s and 
other pro-Israel organizations accusations are baseless. In the spring 
of 2016, two members of the General Union of Palestine Students were 
formally investigated by SFSU’s Office of Student Conduct for their 
participation in the protest of Barkat. They were the only two students 
investigated of the over 20 protesting, on allegations which included 
threatening Jewish students. After having completed the in-house 
university investigation which held possible suspension or expulsion for 
the students, the university hired an independent law firm to conduct 
yet another investigation, this too holding possible punitive measures 
to the students’ academic standing. In 2014, the university investigated 
Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi’s financial records of five years of her 
international travel in three redundant investigations after pro-Israel 
groups led by The AMCHA Initiative accused her of misusing university 
funds to support anti-Semitism and terrorism. In 2013, the former GUPS 
president had his information released to investigations conducted by 
the FBI, the Joint Terrorist Task Force, the Israeli Consulate, the SFSU 
Police Department and the San Francisco Police Department after The 
AMCHA Initiative, SFSU Jewish Studies and SF Hillel accused the 
Palestinian student of threatening the lives of Jewish students. And in 
2002, the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office investigated two 
Palestinian students on request of SFSU after they were accused of 
anti-Semitism during a pro-Israel rally on campus put together by SF 
Hillel during the Al-Aqsa Intifada. Every single one of these 
investigations found no merit to the allegations of terrorism or 
anti-Semitism alleged by SF Hillel and cleared the names of the 
  Palestinians accused. Despite having their names cleared, the smear 
campaigns based on false allegations remain a stain on their character. 
Further, SFSU has been a willing participant and has enabled such 
harassment and bullying tactics to be practiced with impunity against 
Palestinians. This is a nation-wide trend as Palestinian faculty, 
students, and their allies across college campus have been targeted in a 
similar manner, many times by the same organizations.

      Evidence of Hillel’s Conduct threatening students’ and faculty rights

SF Hillel was not issued a table at the Fair by the organizers after 
discussion of Hillel and its ill fit in the mission of the Fair. Our 
intent in organizing the KYR fair was to provide resources and 
information for vulnerable communities to protect themselves. Providing 
a table to Hillel, whose conduct has threatened the safety of campus 
Palestinians and other advocates for justice in Palestine, is akin to 
giving a table to ICE at a gathering of undocumented communities, or 
having the Ferguson Police Chief table at an event discussing police 
brutality against black teenagers. The committee acknowledged, by 
consensus, that there was no table for Hillel given the strain on 
capacity and the clear problems with Hillel’s presence at a table based 
on Hillel’s conduct.

The objections to Hillel were always, and are still, about the 
organization’s conduct threatening students’ rights. It was in no way an 
issue of religious discrimination nor retaliation. Hillel’s threatening 
conduct is most evident in the way that Hillel made false accusations 
against Palestinian students and our allies alleging that protesters 
threatened Jewish students during the 2016 protest of a campus visit by 
Nir Barkat, the mayor of occupied Jerusalem and an architect of 
apartheid, colonialism, and displacement in the city. Hillel broadcast 
false allegations that protesters were violent and anti-Semitic. 
Hillel’s accusations were not only factually incorrect, but they are 
allegations rooted in Islamophobic fear mongering and racist Orientalist 
tropes of Palestinians as savages. Hillel’s public allegations against 
the protesters were proven false by testimonies from the University 
Police Department, by an in-house university investigation, and by the 
external investigation of a law firmcontracted by the university. And 
yet, the stain and trauma of these allegations continue to follow SFSU 
students in their academic and professional pursuits, threatening 
student’s rights to speak, to study, and to even organize for our own 
protection in this political climate. Indicative of this is the means in 
which these false claims were circulated by Islamophobic, racist and 
anti-Palestinian organizations including Canary Mission and David 
Horowitz who on October 14thand May 3rdplastered posters 
campus that targeted Dr. Abdulhadi, GUPS, 
student advocates, Muslim students, Palestinian community leaders, and 
the organizations Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for 

While Hillel expressed a condemnation of the David Horowitz posters, it 
never retracted its false accusations against students. As a result, 
students who were already scheduled to table at the KYR Fair, and many 
other students, were publicly smeared, cyber-bullied, harassed, 
threatened with violence and rape, and stalked on campus and off-campus. 
The university has refused to press charges or even to conduct an 
investigation into how and why these posters were allowed to be put up 
and stay up on our campus. The organizers of the Fair understood that 
many students, faculty members, and organizations have been victimized 
by Hillel’s lies. To force us to sit side-by-side to our oppressors 
cannot be done in clear consciousness, violates principles of 
restorative justice, and would vastly endanger students and faculty members.

Dr. Abdulhadi was also smeared by such lies due to her many campus roles 
including faculty adviser to GUPS and other student organizers on 
campus, and the director of the AMED program. AMED also tabled at the 
KYR Fair, sitting alongside GUPS and JVP, as AMED is the is the only 
academic program on SFSU campus whose mission is to combat Islamophobia 
and anti-Arab discrimination. Framing her scholarship and activism under 
the principles of an “indivisibility of justice 
<http://www.solidarity-us.org/site/node/4220>” in all her classes, Dr. 
Abdulhadi teaches how to defy anti-Semitism. She presents diverse Jewish 
experiences that challenge the monolithic construction of Jews across 
time, place and contemporary times, and that differentiate between 
Judaism, Jewishness, Israel, and Zionism. At the AMED Studies table 
(which I staffed), I included a list of all the classes that AMED offers 
as well as T-shirts depicting the Palestinian Cultural Mural (also known 
as the Edward Said Mural) on SFSU campus, our pride and joy. I 
intentionally requested that JVP sit at the table between the General 
Union of Palestine Students and that of the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities 
and Diasporas Studies to both enjoy the presence of the community 
organization with whom we closely work, and to symbolically show 
Palestinian-Jewish solidarity.

Hillel’s accusations of anti-Semitism are the same ones used in the 
aforementioned lawsuit brought forth by The Lawfare Project. Adding 
insult to injury, Hillel students have actually added additional false 
accusations against those protesting Barkat 
They now claim that GUPS students “adjust[ed] their head coverings in a 
threatening manner,” and that “one of them [protestors] would eventually 
try to use a weapon on those of us who attended the event to hear the 
[occupied] Jerusalem Mayor speak.” Such racist and Islamophobic 
perceptions of Arabs and Palestinians is not a new phenomenon by 
White-identifying groups, which Hillel’s predominately Ashkenazi Jewish 
demographic is. Such prejudices remind us of racist fear mongering of 
Black men wearing hoodies, articulated in the hunting down and murder of 
Trayvon Martin. Anti-Arab racism and Islamophobia have resulted in the 
mass incarceration and deportation of, and, most recently, the third 
reiteration of a Travel Ban against Arabs and Muslims exacerbated by the 
fear mongering generated after the attacks on the East Coast on 
September 11, 2001, and Palestinian struggles for liberation during the 

Hillel’s claims were and continue to be /public/fabrications, blatant 
lies that have led to death threats, threats of rape, and stalking 
against students and faculty. And here is where the university 
misinterprets genuine concern that any and all interactions with Hillel 
results in such smearing, a smearing that comes with consequences that 
threaten the safety of those targeted. Their racist impressions of 
Palestinians along with their deliberate conflation of anti-Zionism and 
critique of Israel with anti-Semitism has resulted in a calculated 
attack on civil liberties as its attempts to criminalize anti-Zionist 
political ideologies. In non-normalizing with Hillel, campus community 
organizers are protecting ourselves from an organization whose behavior 
seeks to target and eliminate those they are in political disagreement 

The umbrella organization that SF Hillel is a chapter of, Hillel 
International, has a long record of targeting and discriminating against 
Palestinians and those who stand with them. The International Guidelines 
of Hillel, that all Hillel chapters including SF Hillel, must abide by, 
codifies their exclusionary and discriminatory policies. The Hillel 
/Standards of Partnership/ 

Hillel will not partner with, house, or host organizations, groups, or 
speakers that as a matter of policy or practice:

  * Deny the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state
    with secure and recognized borders;
  * Delegitimize, demonize, or apply a double standard to Israel;
  * Support boycott of, divestment from, or sanctions against the State
    of Israel;
  * Exhibit a pattern of disruptive behavior towards campus events or
    guest speakers or foster an atmosphere of incivility.

These policies constitute built-in discrimination and their alignment 
with pro-Israel lobby organizations. Hillel International enforces this 
policy by threatening litigation and expulsion of chapters who do not 
strictly comply. This policy has led to students being excluded and 
kicked out of Hillel chapters. There are clear examples of Hillel 
excommunicating students and organizations that do not toe Hillel’s line 
on Israel, regardless of the issues or communities those organizations 
served. Hillel has expelled those who support Boycott, Divestment and 
Sanction (BDS) of Israel, protect justice for/in Palestine political 
expression or criticize Zionism as a settler-colonial project. Hillel’s 
activity centers on Zionist expressions of Judaism and has invested much 
political currency and funds into making such articulations mainstream 
and part and parcel of hegemonically imaged Jewish-American experiences. 
As such, Jewish organizations such as Jewish Voice for Peace and 
International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network have been cast as fringe 
organizations and expelled by Hillel. Hillel is not the only Jewish 
organization in the Bay Area, on college campuses or in the world. And 
it must be remembered that there has never been a consensus among Jewish 
communities on Israel or on Zionism. Jewish communities are *not *a 
monolithic unit.

Yet Hillel continues to seek partnership with communities of color and 
LGBT organizations who are politically aligned with Israeli political 
supremacy. Such groups include the Hindu right, Christian Zionists, 
Greek (Sororities and Fraternities) student organizations and Queer 
organizations that partner with Israel and its “Pink Washing” 
propaganda. Despite this history, Hillel misrepresented itself as LGBTQ 
and as an immigrant rights organization when requesting to table at the 
Fair. As James Baldwin said, “I can’t believe what you say because I see 
what you do.” Tabling space at the Fair was reserved for organizations 
whose intersectional social organizing aligned with its social-justice 
focus. The KYR Committee was clear in noting that Hillel’s conduct 
emboldens injustice and should not be given a platform in a Know Your 
Rights Fair for Arabs and Muslims, Latinx communities, undocumented 
peoples, and LGBTQ communities.

      Pro-Israel Campus Groups’ Smear Tactics

Working closely with on-campus Hillels nationwide is The David Project. 
It serves to train pro-Israel students on college campuses as 
instigators and has engaged in numerous aggressive campaigns to suppress 
dissent on Israel from US campuses, by focusing on smear tactics. The 
Hillel staff member who brought the false allegations forward and 
attempted to strong-arm his way onto the Fair underwent extensive 
training from the David Project while working with them for over a year. 
Shedding light on these smear tactics is a report by The David Project’s 
executive director, David Bernstein, titled “How to ‘name-and-shame’ 
without looking like a jerk 
In addition, as quoted from their white paper on “Israel Advocacy at 
America’s Universities and Colleges 
the David Project promotes targeting Palestinian advocates on campus: 
“Accusing faculty members who propagandize against Israel of ‘academic 
malpractice’ is likely to be a much more effective strategy than 
challenging specific allegations of invoking anti-Jewish bigotry.”

This indicates their willingness to use anti-Israel and anti-Semitism 
accusations interchangeably, in a deliberate and false conflation of the 
two. This distinction is important because anti-Zionism and anti-Israel 
politics are legitimate anti-colonial positions and protected civil 
liberties while anti-Semitism is hate and oppression. And, the David 
Project, in clear terms, reveals that the tactics they use for smearing 
are neither anti-Semitic nor an infringement of rights despite their 
accusations to the contrary:

Pro-Israel organizations have often cast the challenge on campus as an 
assault on Jewish students rather than as a spreading pervasive 
negativity toward Israel. Casting the issue in these terms does not jive 
with the lived experiences of many Jewish students, who /know they can 
identify as Jews and largely not suffer repercussions /(emphasis theirs).

And it’s attached footnote in the handbook.

This was a recurring theme in much of the research we undertook for this 
report. There are also numerous public instances of pro-Israel Jewish 
students, even at schools with a harsh anti-Israel climate, arguing that 
while anti-Jewish outbursts occur and should be taken seriously, they 
don’t significantly erode their freedom, even to advocate on behalf of 

All the while the David Project has named San Francisco State University 
one of its priority schools of target in the USA 
it is yet another indicator of the targeted harassment we face today. 
  This harassment largely stems from both public smearing and legal 
bullying as the two build off one another but are based on lies and 
misrepresentations. Those propagating this harassment are part of a 
concerted national effort.


The evidence points to the conclusion that Hillel’s baseless complaint, 
in this case, is intended to wash out the grievances that the Arab, 
Muslim and Palestinian community have made to SFSU. And the university’s 
misconduct of this investigation affirms that /the university is not 
able to make an objective decision based on the facts. /The last 
university official who conducted an investigation against Palestinian 
students, Mr. Osvaldo Del Valle, was promptly “let go” after his 
investigation cleared members of the General Union of Palestine Students 
of charges of anti-Semitism and other trumped up charges after they 
protested a visit by the mayor of occupied Jerusalem, Nir Barkat. This 
experience casts doubt on the ability of any employee at SFSU whose 
career and employment at SFSU is on the line to fairly investigate 
grievances or charges against or by Palestinians. Already, the 
university appears to be investigating allegations of which we have not 
been notified until the last week of the four-month long investigation. 
Apparently, because there is no evidence of anti-Semitism on the part of 
the Fair organizing committee in words or deeds, the university has 
expanded the scope of the investigation to include additional 
allegations of retaliation. All of this underscores our experience of a 
systemic and consistent disparate treatment. Instead of protecting 
Palestinians on campus, SFSU seeks to penalize us on trumped up and 
false charges, this cannot be allowed to continue.

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