Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) hijacker Leila Khaled. Photo: Sebastian Baryli via Wikimedia Commons.

Dozens of organizations expressed outrage on Thursday after the president of San Francisco State University (SFSU) defended an upcoming online event featuring infamous Palestinian terrorist Leila Khaled.

Khaled — a leading member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) who took part in the hijacking of a Tel Aviv-bound commercial flight in 1969 — will take part in Zoom call titled, “Whose Narratives? Gender, Justice and Resistance: A Conversation with Leila Khaled,” on Sept. 23.

The 76-year-old Khaled remains affiliated with the PFLP, which is classified as a terrorist organization by the United States and European Union.

Khaled compared Israelis to Nazis in a 2017 speech at the European Parliament.

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September 19, 2020 10:51 am

“You can’t compare the actions of the Nazis to the actions of the Zionists in Gaza,” she claimed, later adding, “The Nazis were judged in Nuremberg but not a single one of the Zionists has yet been brought to justice.”

Following criticism of the planned event, SFSU President Lynn Mahoney earlier this week penned an opinion piece for The Jewish News of Northern California, in which she justified it on the grounds of academic freedom and diversity.

“Let me be clear: I condemn the glorification of terrorism and use of violence against unarmed civilians,” she wrote. “I strongly condemn antisemitism and other hateful ideologies that marginalize people based on their identities, origins or beliefs.”

“At the same time, I represent a public university, which is committed to academic freedom and the ability of faculty to conduct their teaching and scholarship without censorship,” she added.

“Rather than stifle speech, we must encourage robust questioning and dissent, and ensure that our students and faculty are free from retaliation or censorship for doing so,” Mahoney claimed.

“While we undertake these important efforts to create safety and inclusion, the university will not enforce silence — even when speech is abhorrent,” she said.

In response, 86 groups issued an open letter, organized by the AMCHA Initiative, asking, “What if an invitation to speak to a class — in fact an entire event — is an endorsement of a point of view and a political cause? And what if the intention of the faculty member who extended such an invitation and organized such an event was not to encourage students ‘to think critically and come to independent, personal conclusions about events of local and global importance,’ but rather to promote the faculty member’s own narrow political view and to weaponize students to be foot soldiers in the faculty member’s own political cause?”

“Does academic freedom protect faculty who intentionally use their classrooms or other academic platforms not to educate their students but to indoctrinate them with propaganda consistent with their own political causes and to encourage their students to engage in political activism consistent with those causes?” the letter stated.

The letter drew Mahoney’s attention to the professor who invited Khaled, the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas (AMED) program’s Rabab Abdulhadi.

Abdulhadi is openly and proudly anti-Zionist and has stated her intention to promote and engineer anti-Zionism in her students.

She has assigned students to make placards and t-shirts glorifying terrorism, murder and violence; and posted messages to the program’s Facebook page slandering Israel, Zionists and their Jewish supporters.

“We recognize that it is not always easy to know whether a faculty member intends to educate or politically indoctrinate students,” the groups said in their letter. “However, sometimes it is crystal clear, as in the case of AMED director Professor Rabab Abdulhadi.”

“Abdulhadi’s continuous and intentional use of her SFSU position and the name and resources of the University to indoctrinate students with her own personal animus towards the Jewish state and its supporters and to promote anti-Israel activism, does not constitute a legitimate use of academic freedom, but an abuse of it,” they continued.

Addressing Mahoney directly, the signatories said, “In light of the above considerations, we ask whether you still believe the upcoming event is a legitimate expression of academic freedom, and if not, what you intend to do about it.”