SFSU Exposed -- Undermining AMED & Dr. Abdulhadi
For nearly a decade, San Francisco State University (SFSU) has worked to undermine its own Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas (AMED) studies program and its director, Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi. A long chain of harassment and punitive actions has focused on Dr. Abdulhadi’s research and advocacy for justice for and in Palestine. Based on the false premise that teaching and advocacy on Palestine and Palestinian human rights constitutes antisemitism, these actions reflect the concerted campaign of right-wing, pro-Israel groups to silence this kind of work on college and university campuses everywhere.
Sadly, the university itself has also played a major role in undermining Dr. Abdulhadi and the AMED program. She was hired in 2007 expressly to set up and direct this unique program with an explicit promise of two additional professorial hires assigned to AMED and subsequent affiliation of 12 more faculty members from other campus departments. These promises were never kept. On the contrary, the university administration has repeatedly kowtowed to pressures from Israel lobby groups such as Campus Watch, AMCHA Initiative, Canary Mission and the David Horowitz Freedom Center. These groups have undertaken hateful smear campaigns against Dr. Abdulhadi, falsely alleging that she is antisemitic and a sponsor of terrorism and even that she misused public funds in her work for AMED and her research. Rather than defend her, SFSU officials have resorted to punitive measures such as cutting AMED’s budget, subjecting the program and Dr. Abdulhadi to repeated audits, refusing her requests for travel funds and disability accommodations, and continuing to deny the promised hires.
Advances and Groundbreaking Legal Victory In the Face of Harassment & Death Threats
Despite these attacks, Dr. Abdulhadi has been able to build the AMED program, offering 22 exciting courses (among others, Islamophobia, Arab and Arab American Feminisms, and Comparative Border Studies: Palestine and Mexico) and establishing an academic partnership with An-Najah National University in Palestine. The agreement with An-Najah is the first and only collaboration SFSU has with any Arab or Muslim site. Dr. Abdulhadi also helped start and directs the Edward Said Scholarship at SFSU, which supports students in the AMED program. Soon after joining SFSU, she worked with the General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS) to realize their project to inaugurate a Palestinian cultural mural in San Francisco honoring the late Professor Edward Said. This became the first Palestinian mural on a publicly owned campus building in the United States.
In October 2018 we achieved a major victory against the Israel lobby. With the help of supportive community members, we defeated the Lawfare Project, a right-wing, Israel lobby legal group that filed a lawsuit against SFSU and Dr. Abdulhadi in 2017, making baseless accusations of systemic antisemitism on campus. Federal Court Judge William Orrick III dismissed the lawsuit with prejudice, meaning it can never be refiled in that court. In his detailed opinion, Judge Orrick affirmed that being anti-Zionist or supporting Palestinian resistance does not make one antisemitic, and that there was absolutely no evidence to support these charges against Dr. Abdulhadi. Despite this definitive ruling, the university refused to accept being vindicated from accusations of antisemitism and instead decided to settle out of court a second lawsuit filed by Lawfare in Superior Court of California and to continue its bureaucratic harassment of Dr. Abdulhadi and AMED. SFSU and its president also sent out a campus-wide email noting, "Let me be clear, Zionists are welcome on our campus."
More Attacks: AMCHA Intimidation & Pressure at SFSU
Most recently, AMCHA has launched an attack on Dr. Abdulhadi and AMED targeting Facebook postings it characterizes as “hateful.” This past June, Dr. Abdulhadi -- along with hundreds of members of Jewish Voice for Peace, Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QAIA) Adalah-NY, Queers Against Islamophobia, Trans Jews Support Palestine, and other Palestine solidarity groups in New York City -- participated in the Queer Liberation March commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. As an expression of her often stated conviction that justice for Palestine is inseparable from sexual, gender and racial justice struggles everywhere, Dr. Abdulhadi posted a number of images and live-streamed interviews from the June 30 march on AMED’s unofficial Facebook page. AMCHA chose to focus on just one of these images -- a photo of the QAIA banner reading “Zionism = Racism” and “Boycott, Divest, Sanction.” Contrary to established principles of freedom of speech and political expression, AMCHA is trying to pressure the SFSU and CSU administrations to shut down the AMED Facebook page -- a form of communication used routinely by university programs.
AMCHA’s use of legal tactics as a form of intimidation is an integral part of the pro-Israel lobby’s playbook. Like the failed Lawfare suit charging antisemitism last year, its purpose is to put pressure on the university’s administration and above all to exhaust and demoralize scholars and movements that criticize Israeli policies and support Palestinian rights. But Dr. Abdulhadi refuses to be intimidated and continues working as a one-person academic program and a courageous advocate for justice. Since 2017 she has initiated and co-leads an academic research project, Teaching Palestine: Pedagogical Praxis and the Indivisibility of Justice. The program has held conferences and panels in Palestine, the United States, Cuba, Spain, Quebec and South Africa. It builds off her work in organizing and leading delegations to Palestine, including the Indigenous and Women of Color Feminists Delegation. Her research and advocacy during this period earned her courage awards from American Muslims for Palestine and Al-Awda: The Palestinian Right of Return Coalition. She was invited to participate on a presidential panel of the National Women's Studies Association and won a Service to the Campus award at SFSU after being nominated by her students and faculty peers. Her edited book, Arab and Arab-American Feminisms, won the National Arab-American Book Award for non-fiction in 2012 and continues to be used in Middle Eastern Studies and women & gender studies courses across the globe. The systematic harassment to which she has been subjected, in the workplace and outside, obviously threatens to sabotage this important ongoing work.
Our Resistance Continues
In response to the long chain of arbitrary and discriminatory actions by SFSU, Dr. Abdulhadi has filed workplace grievances, discrimination charges and lawsuits in federal and state courts against the university administration. The lawsuits aim to right the wrongs against her and AMED and to hold the university accountable for its policies favoring the agenda of the Israel lobby and jeopardizing a singular Arab and Muslim academic program. The SFSU faculty union has been quite supportive of Dr. Abdulhadi’s case, as have many faculty and student organizations on campus. From her position on the Executive Committee of California Scholars for Academic Freedom, her advocacy work extends to other professors who have been attacked and smeared by the same forces.
As faculty and students on campuses across the country increasingly find themselves under attack, not only for teaching and learning about Palestine and supporting boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign, but also for many other forms of constitutionally protected political expression; as academic institutions become more and more enveloped in the corporatized and authoritarian climate under which we now live, Dr. Abdulhadi’s case has clear implications for all of us and for principles of justice and academic freedom. At this crucial moment, her lawsuits against SFSU need our support to:
*Stop the harassment of Dr. Abdulhadi;
*Ensure that AMED is supported as promised.
Supporting AMED & Dr. Abdulhadi Advances Our Movement Overall. How You Can Help?
Send A Strong Message: Sign The Solidarity Statement
Send a strong message that officials must not bow down to the bullying tactics of the Israel lobby, which seeks to silence voices calling for equal rights and an end to bigotry.
Donate Now: Support Our Struggle Financially
Please join us in condemning these injustices and standing up for Dr. Abdulhadi. Sign on to the statement and make a donation to help defray legal costs.
Donate to the campaign: launchgood.com/supportrabab
Contact the California State University Chancellor and SF State President to share your support and defence of Dr. Abdulhadi
CSU Chancellor Tim White: email@example.com
SFSU President Lynn Mahoney: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information about the case, please check out the following links:
The International Campaign to Defend Professor Rabab Abdulhadi (Facebook page): https://www.facebook.com/DefendProfAbdulhadi/
Support Prof. Rabab Abdulhadi website: https://supportprofabdulhadi.org/
Palestinian professor sues SF State for breach of contract, discrimination: Article in Mondoweiss, http://tinyurl.com/y5gpmlgg
Professor files discrimination lawsuit against top-ranking administrators: Article in the Golden Gate Xpress http://tinyurl.com/y2pocd85