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Leila Khaled event at S.F. State gets Israeli Knesset’s attention

J, The Jewish News of Northern California

Gabe Stutman

SEPTEMBER 17, 2020




After drawing outrage from Bay Area Jewish organizations, an upcoming video event hosted by San Francisco State professors featuring a Palestinian militant who hijacked two commercial airliners has garnered the attention of lawmakers in Jerusalem.


Michael Dickson, executive director of StandWithUs Israel, held up a photo of Leila Khaled, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, at a Tuesday hearing of the subcommittee on Israel-diaspora relations. Khaled is scheduled to address S.F. State students and members of the public remotely on Sept. 23.


The topic before the subcommittee was anti-Jewish and anti-Israel sentiment on college campuses in the U.S. and around the world.


“It is with horror that I update Israel’s parliament today, that a major American university is about to host a terrorist,” Dickson said.


In 1969 and 1970, Khaled hijacked the two planes with other members of the PFLP, and more recently said she supports both “nonviolent and violent” resistance to Israel and Zionists. She will be speaking at an event on “gender and resistance” hosted by SFSU’s Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diaspora Studies program. A flyer for the talk, co-moderated by professor Rabab Abdulhadi, a pro-Palestinian activist and founder of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, describes Khaled as a “Palestinian feminist, militant, and leader.”


University president Lynn Mahoney has defended the right of Abdulhadi and co-host professor Tomomi Kinukawa to hold the event on academic freedom grounds, and has questioned whether it would be legal to censor it.


“If universities cannot be a place where a range of ideas — some of those ideas some people will find abhorrent — are out there and allowed by academic freedom and the freedom of expression, it can’t happen anywhere,” Mahoney told J.


Addressing the subcommittee in English, Dickson, a British Israeli and one of the top executives at the Los Angeles-based pro-Israel advocacy organization, echoed Bay Area Jewish groups, including the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation and the Jewish Community Relations Council, in sharply condemning the event.


“Hosting Khaled is no different from allowing a 9/11 hijacker to speak at a university event,” Dickson told the Knesset members. “It says Jewish blood is cheap.”


Knesset member Michal Cotler-Wunsh, a member of the centrist Blue and White party who heads the subcommittee and presided over the hearing, also shared strong words in opposition to the talk.


“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,” she said in a statement.


The Israeli MK added that it was “our imperative to expose the double standard that would enable university campuses to host a PFLP terrorist on their campus.”


The hearing featured testimony on experiences of bias from Jewish students based in the U.S., Europe, South Africa and elsewhere, including from a Black Jewish student at George Washington University who said he had been called racist for supporting Israel, and from Sarah Tagger, a student at UC Santa Barbara who said a course she took on Middle East studies was hopelessly skewed. “What I got was a professor masking antisemitism through anti-Zionist rhetoric,” she said.


The Sept. 23 SFSU event, titled “Whose Narratives? Gender, Justice, and Resistance,” is open to the public.


Read the article here.

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