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San Francisco State University fights against censorship of Palestinian voices

San Francisco (The Inside Palestine)- Two upcoming sets of statutory grievance hearings at San Francisco State University (SFSU) could have nationwide impact on academic freedom, the rights of faculty, and student access to education regarding Palestinian narratives.

On 9/30, from 10-4pm PST, Professors Rabab Abdulhadi and Tomomi Kinukawa will seek redress for the cancellation of “Whose Narratives?”, a virtual open classroom they co-organized. This highly popular event was attacked by the Israel lobby and right-wing groups with false and discredited allegations of “material support for terrorism,” and shut down by Zoom, YouTube, and Facebook, without any protest from the university.

Instead of providing an alternative platform, SFSU posted defamatory articles about the open classroom on their websites and falsely warned Professors Abdulhadi and Kinukawa that they could themselves be criminally liable for holding this virtual open classroom. The University is bound by contract, law, and AAUP policy to protect academic freedom; and by allowing outside tech corporations to shut down a for-credit class, SFSU has jeopardized academic freedom for any teacher with a counter-narrative.

The second hearing on 10/19 from 10-4pm PST addresses 14 years of attacks on Professor Abdulhadi and the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas (AMED) program she directs.  This abuse includes:

  • contract violations that have sabotaged  the efficacy of AMED Studies.
  • reneging on the written promise of creating two new  AMED faculty positions.
  • repeated class cancellations and changes, and
  • personal and professional smears, threats, and character assassination–abuses that have impacted her health, interfered with her scholarship, and reduced this unique program to a one-person operation.

For years, a series of administrations have tolerated and promoted egregious attacks against the Arab, Muslim and Palestinian communities at SFSU. SFSU administrators have consistently opposed and thwarted the growth of the AMED program and systematically participated in efforts to dismantle it.

The university has been complicit with Zionist organizations to conflate criticism of Israel with antisemitism and to elevate the interests of the Zionist Jewish community above other communities and ethnicities, including anti-Zionist Jews and Black, Indigenous, and other people of color.

The administration has recently intensified their promotion of Zionism. On September 9th, 2021, Jeff Jackanicz, SFSU’s Vice President for University Advancement sent an email announcing that SFSU intended to, “address and take action on the campus climate experiences of several affinity and identity groups at SF State” by partnering with SF Hillel, Hillel International, and the Academic Engagement Network (AEN,) three groups committed to defending Israel from criticism.  The partnership makes clear that the university is prioritizing Zionism and reiterates the longstanding and false conflation of Jewishness with Zionism.

Defending academic freedom

University administrators often act as though academic freedom and freedom of speech do not apply to Palestine. Israel’s defenders have made suppressing Palestinian narratives and activism on campus a top priority, and they do it by alleging their critics hate Jews.  Scholars who challenge Israel, like Dr. Norman Finkelstein have been denied tenure. Steven Salaita PhD, a highly-regarded professor, was removed from his job at University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana after a vicious smear campaign by friends of Israel. He wrote, “Mainstream journalists, administrators, and politicians are receptive to Zionist pressure because their primary obligation is to serve centers of power. You’re not simply up against devotees of Israel, but more broadly an imperialist geopolitical structure in which pro-Israel sentiment is embedded.”

The grievants want SFSU to commit to support AMED, honor Dr. Abdulhadi’s contract, and protect faculty against tech censorship. The grievances will be heard by a committee of three faculty members. If they vote to redress Professors Abdulhadi and Kinukawa, SFSU President Lynn Mahoney will review the decision and decide what, if any, actions to take. The decision will then be reviewed by CSU Chancellor Joseph Castro. In this process, the case will bring attention to the question of how far Israel’s influence on American higher education extends.  Strong support from the community and academia will make it hard for administration to ignore the hearing’s results.

How you can help

Professor Abdulhadi’s supporters are calling people of conscience, educators, community organizers, activists and student groups to attend both grievances online, write statements and/or sign petitions in support of Dr. Abdulhadi and against the erasure of Palestine from the curriculum.

Send letters:

Dr. Lynn Mahoney, President, San Francisco State University President@sfsu.edu

Dr. Joseph Castro, Chancellor, California State University   csu-chancellor@calstate.edu

Send copies of letters of support to: team@professorabdulhadidefense.com

Sign our petition

And learn more — https://www.nationalsjp.org/save-amed

Attend the hearings

September 30, 2021 https://sfsu.zoom.us/j/81030517339?pwd=NysyZ0NIUHB5ZGNTa1BZMWpDd04rUT09

Source: Mondoweiss

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