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Israel’s parliament hears powerful testimony on antisemitism from StandWithUs staff and students

A major American university is about to host a terrorist.”

(JERUSALEM, September 15, 2020) -- A photo of the notorious gun-toting airplane hijacker, Leila Khaled, was held up at the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, today to protest San Francisco State University’s (SFSU) hosting of the terrorist at a September 23 event.

Michael Dickson, Executive Director of StandWithUs Israel, showed the photo to a Knesset committee hearing looking at the effects of antisemitism on Jewish students on campus. The bipartisan Knesset Aliyah and Integration Committee’s subcommittee on Israel-Diaspora Relations is chaired by Knesset member Michal Cotler-Wunsh.

Khaled was invited by a division of SFSU's College of Ethnic Studies to give a virtual seminar on “gender, justice, and resistance.” She reportedly still has ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which is classified as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, the European Union and Israel. Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi, who heads SFSU's Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies (AMEDS) program within the College of Ethnic Studies, is hosting the event. She is a professor with a long record of antisemitism, including an incident at UCLA which led StandWithUs to help a student file a Title VI complaint with the U.S. Department of Education.

Dickson told the subcommittee, Just days after the commemoration of 9/11, San Francisco State University will be giving its stage to Leila Khaled, a terrorist who, with a grenade in her hand, held airplane passengers hostage. Khaled is a terrorist who participated in multiple plane hijackings, including TWA Flight 840 on its way from Rome to Tel Aviv in August 1969. Although she thankfully didn't succeed in mass murder, hosting Khaled is not so different from inviting a 9/11 hijacker, had any survived, to speak at a university event. SFSU President Lynn Mahoney issued a statement about the convicted terrorist coming to her campus, but disappointingly did not name the terrorist or the PFLP in her statement. Sound educational practice should dictate that President Mahoney and SFSU ought to invite families of the innocent victims of PFLP terrorism as other voices. Otherwise, this is only an exercise in political indoctrination.”

StandWithUs has launched an email campaign, in support of SFSU students and Hillel, urging the university to take much stronger action against antisemitism and normalization of terrorism on campus.

StandWithUs also provided powerful testimony about the experiences of Jewish students on American campuses. Director of International Campus Strategy, Sarah Tagger, spoke about signing up for a course on the Middle East as a student at UC Santa Barbara, hoping to be briefed on all current events in the region. “Instead what I got was a professor masking antisemitism through anti-Zionist rhetoric,” she said. “I knew claims such as ‘Israel is a colonialist entity’ were false and felt they were attacks on my identity, but wasn't sure how to respond. However, after getting involved with StandWithUs, I got the knowledge and confidence I needed to find my voice, and now work to empower other students around the world to be resilient in the face of hate.”

Sarah then shared her insights about how the antisemitism she experienced has evolved, shifting online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She reaffirmed the importance of the IHRA definition in StandWithUs' efforts to define and fight hatred on campus and beyond.

StandWithUs invited Noah Shufutinsky, a Black and Jewish student at George Washington University, to address the committee as well. He shared about how his, "heritage was targeted, attacked, and demonized,” on campus. He went on to say, “I was told that the racism I face as a Black man is not worth attention if it is not perpetrated by Israelis. My peers said, they only talk about racism if it is convenient to their anti-Zionist rhetoric. I was verbally harassed walking back from my workplace at a DC synagogue when wearing my kippah.” He then described how Israel is a central part of his Jewish identity and why it is antisemitic to be singled out and discriminated against for his support for Israel.

In his testimony, Dickson added: “All campuses should adopt the important IHRA definition – we must define antisemitism in order to fight it. Today we heard the stories and testimony of American-Jewish students who have personally experienced antisemitism and bravely fought back against it. Although the threat of antisemitism seems to constantly grow and evolve, our community is resilient and strong. At StandWithUs, our students, staff, and partner organizations come together as a unified front to fight back against this ancient hatred. We welcome the partnership of all those of good faith in this important mission.”

Student representatives from the US, Canada, Australia, Latin America, South Africa and Europe also joined the discussion.

Committee Chairperson Michal Cotler-Wunsh said: “As we heard today in the hearing, antisemitism on campus affects students across the world. COVID-19 has led to new and additional manifestations of hate for students, who are on the forefront of what all communities face worldwide, at a time of economic, health, and social challenges. Alongside the challenges are opportunities that must identified and advanced. I am grateful, as Chair of the Subcommittee on Israel-Diaspora Relations, to have been able to provide the platform and engage with the students in the Knesset. It is a part of our role and responsibility, to deepen the engagement and collaboration with Diaspora Jewry. As a Member of Knesset and Chair of the Subcommittee on Israel-Diaspora Relations, it is crucial that I make it clear that the appearance of a PFLP terrorist on an American campus is shameful and is a dangerous message about the toleration of violence and hatred not only for Jewish students but for all students. It is imperative we expose and address the double standard which enables this and encourages the continued culture of impunity.”

About StandWithUs

StandWithUs (SWU) is an international, non-profit and non-partisan Israel education organization that works to inspire and educate people of all ages about Israel, as well as challenge misinformation and fight against antisemitism.

Through university fellowships, high school internships, middle school curricula, conferences, materials, social media, educational films and missions to Israel, StandWithUs supports people around the world who want to educate their schools and communities about Israel.

Founded in 2001 and headquartered in Los Angeles, the organization has chapters and programs on 5 continents, including the U.S., Israel, UK, Canada, South Africa and Brazil.

For the last 7 years, SWU has consistently received the highest possible ratings from Charity Navigator (4 stars) and Guidestar (Platinum).


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