top of page

Jewish Groups Denounce Upcoming SFSU Zoom Event Hosting ‘Known Terrorist’ Leila Khaled

Jewish Journal | By Aaron Bandler | September 3, 2020

Photo: Kit Leong /

Jewish groups issued statements to the Journal denouncing an upcoming San Francisco State University (SFSU) event featuring Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) member Leila Khaled.

As first reported by Israellycool blogger David Lange, the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities Diaspora (AMED) at SFSU is hosting the event on Sept. 23. Khaled will be speaking along with Acting Director of the Institute for Women’s Studies at Birzeit University in the West Bank Rula Abu Dahou, South African politician Ronnie Kasrils, former Black Liberation Army member Sekou Odinga and Jewish Voice for Peace member Laura Whitehorn. SFSU AMED professor Rabab Abdulhadi, who said Zionists were white nationalists in a 2019 UCLA guest lecture, and SFSU Women’s Studies professor Tomomi Kinukawa will moderate the panel.

According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the promotional materials for the event refer to Khaled as “militant” and feature a picture of her holding a firearm.

ADL Central Pacific Regional Director Seth Brysk said in a statement to the Journal, “It is bitterly ironic that a notorious hijacker and convicted terrorist will be welcomed at an institution of higher learning where the free exchange of ideas ought to be paramount. An individual with a demonstrated commitment to violent extremism will undoubtedly discourage students from free expression and exploration. While ADL respects and defends academic freedom, we urge SFSU leaders to reject violence and reassure all students of their safety and ability to learn without intimidation or coercion.”

American Jewish Committee (AJC) Director of Campus Affairs Zev Hurwitz said in a statement to the Journal, “Given San Francisco State’s troubled past with antisemitism, it is incredibly problematic that Leila Khaled, a known terrorist who promotes the murder of Israelis and Zionists, has been invited to speak to students. Terrorists, and those who propagate violence and extremism, should have no place in academic settings. [SFSU] President Lynn Mahoney must fully condemn Khaled and make it abundantly clear that terrorism will not be glorified on campus.”

StandWithUs CEO and co-founder Roz Rothstein similarly said in a statement to the Journal, “This event glorifies a member of a designated terrorist organization that has murdered Israeli civilians for decades, and SFSU must unequivocally condemn it. The host is part of the College of Ethnic Studies, which is disturbing because California recently passed legislation that makes ethnic studies a graduation requirement for CSU [California State University] students. The CSU administration must act so this requirement is not used to systematically push anti-Israel and antisemitic hatred and bias.”

AMCHA Initiative Director Tammi Rossman-Benjamin also said in a statement to the Journal, “Leila Khaled is a convicted hijacker and the most famous member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a terrorist organization responsible for more than 100 terrorist acts such as bombings, armed assault and assassinations. The fact that the university is allowing Abdulhadi to host an official university event, in essence condoning murder and terrorism against Jews and Americans, where Khaled will spew hate and incite violence, is incomprehensible.”

Like Rothstein, Rossman-Benjamin also decried the ethnic studies bill that Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law in August, saying that the bill requires CSU students to “take an ethnic studies course with professors like Abdulhadi where they can easily spread anti-Zionist lies and hate behind closed doors, which is exactly why 90 organizations had urged him to veto that bill. This new requirement permits professors to reprehensibly game the system and politicize education.

“CSU must adopt safeguards, just as UC has done, which prohibit politically-motivated faculty like Abdulhadi from using their positions and classrooms — including virtual classrooms — to promote rabidly anti-Zionist propaganda and activism that directly harm Jewish and pro-Israel students. In fact, we launched a petition yesterday demanding CSU do just that.”

Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center Rabbi Abraham Cooper also told the Journal, “No matter how many layers of whitewash academics apply to Leila Khaled she remains a terrorist who continues to promote hate, violence and terrorism.”

SFSU spokesperson Kent Bravo said in a statement to the Journal that just because Khaled is speaking at a university Zoom event doesn’t mean the university endorses her views.

“Higher education and the college experience are an opportunity to hear divergent ideas, viewpoints and accounts of life experiences,” Bravo said. “An important outcome of the college experience is to learn to think critically and come to independent, personal conclusions about events of local and global importance. A university is a marketplace of ideas and San Francisco State University supports the rights of all individuals to express their viewpoints and other speech protected by law, even when those viewpoints may be controversial.

“We also strive to be a welcoming and nurturing campus for students from a variety of ethnic, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. We recognize that the exercise of free speech and academic freedom can result in discomfort or pain for others. We have systems in place to support our students, including our Division of Diversity and Community Inclusion.”

Khaled, now 76, took part in two airplane hijackings in 1969 and 1970, although she said that she had instructions from the PFLP not to hurt anyone. She told Vice News in 2016 that she was happy to participate in the hijackings “because I was doing something for my people.” Khaled also told Vice that “calling for armed struggle — it was my dream.”

The State Department designated the PFLP as a terror organization in 1997.

Click here to read the full article.


bottom of page