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StandWithUs to UC President Drake: Speak Out Loudly Against Leila Khaled

April 15, 2021


Dr. Michael V. Drake, M.D.


University of California

Office of the President

1111 Franklin St., 12th Floor

Oakland, California 94607

Dear President Drake,

We write on behalf of the StandWithUs Saidoff Legal Department and the StandWithUs Center for Combating Antisemitism, divisions of StandWithUs, an international non-profit Israel education organization. The purpose of our letter concerns an upcoming April 23, 2021 event on Zoom and sponsored by the Council of UC Faculty Associations and the University of California Humanities Research Institute titled “Whose Narratives? What Free Speech for Palestine?” featuring convicted terrorist Leila Khaled. The Zoom link associated with the event is from a UC Merced account.

As you may be aware, Khaled has long been—and remains today—a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a U.S. State Department-designated terrorist organization that has murdered Israeli civilians for decades. In this capacity, Khaled is personally responsible for two airplane hijackings, one of which failed in its attempted mass murder of civilian passengers only because of a deficiency in Khaled’s explosive device. The PFLP has committed devastating acts of terrorism, including killing 26 civilians and wounding 80 others at an Israeli airport in 1972.

You may be aware that Khaled was initially scheduled to speak at San Francisco State University through Zoom on September 23, 2020; however, Zoom determined that Khaled’s appearance violated its terms of service and cancelled the event on its platform. When the event organizers attempted to move Khaled’s speech to different online platforms such as Facebook and YouTube, these companies also deemed her presence to be in violation of their policies. Facebook has already removed an advertisement for the upcoming April 23 event from its platform.

We are also deeply concerned about the fact that these events were organized by a program within San Francisco State University’s College of Ethnic Studies. California recently passed AB-1460, mandating an ethnic studies graduation requirement within the California State University (CSU) system beginning during the 2021-2022 academic year. We strongly support AB-1460’s vision of an “inclusive multicultural democracy” where students learn about the diversity of American society and are empowered to “contribute to that society as responsible and constructive citizens.” Unfortunately, we see clear evidence that the implementation of the bill risks violating the legislature’s stated intent and creating a hostile learning environment for Jewish and Israeli students. While we know AB-1460 has no direct impact on the UC system, we are bringing it to your attention in case a requirement similar to the one at CSU is proposed. We are aware of an effort already underway calling for ethnic studies to become a UC A-G admissions requirement. We believe the events glorifying Leila Khaled illustrate the need for safeguards to ensure such courses are not exploited to promote bias, hate, and even support for violence.

Constitutional principles may permit such events to occur on public universities in certain circumstances. That is why we are not calling for the cancelation of this event. However, we believe your administration can and should take the following actions in response:

· Use your voice publicly and unequivocally to condemn the glorification of Leila Khaled, and her followers’ support for terrorism and violence against civilians;

· Make clear that glorification of terrorists and violence is wholly antithetical to the values of the University of California and each of its campuses; and

  • Express unwavering support for and protection of students within groups that have been targeted for violence by Leila Khaled, such as Jews and Israelis.

In response to concerns of rising antisemitism in the University of California system, the Regents of University of California and each of its campuses adopted Principles Against Intolerance. As such, we believe a strong stance here is necessary. In similar instances, other campus administrations have publicly distanced themselves from discriminatory ideas and conduct, even as they acknowledge the fundamental rights to such free speech and affiliation. For example, administrators at Michigan State University and the University of Florida openly condemned white supremacist Richard Spencer for his bigoted viewpoints and conduct prior to his appearances on each campus. Similarly, administrators from Clovis Community College in central California released a statement clarifying that they did not endorse hateful or antisemitic speech before anti-Israel activist Alison Weir appeared on campus.

Presumably should a notorious white supremacist arrive on campus as an invited speaker, you would immediately condemn that speaker and their associated racism and hate. So too should you unambiguously denounce Khaled’s invitation, as her upcoming presence crosses what should be a bright red line in civil society of whom we honor and to whom we give a podium.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. Given the urgency and time sensitive nature of this situation, we ask for your response by Wednesday, April 21, 2021.


Roz Rothstein

CEO & Co Founder


Yael Lerman


StandWithUs Saidoff Legal Department

Carly Gammill


StandWithUs Center for Combating Antisemitism


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