Editor’s note: Over the past few months, the right-wing Zionist group called the AMCHA Initiative has been leading a campaign against Professor Rabab Abdulhadi, who teaches ethnic studies at San Francisco State University. Abdulhadi is outspoken in her support for Palestine, and recently led an academic delegation to the region, where her group was detained by Israeli authorities. AMCHA has sent letters to San Francisco State University’s president, demanding that the school conduct an investigation of Abdulhadi’s delegation and an event the professor held in order to determine “whether faculty behavior such as Prof. Abdulhadi’s is compromising the campus climate for Jewish and Israeli students at SFSU.”
Below, we print a letter from Sherry Gorelick, a well-known scholar, sent to San Francisco State University President Leslie Wong.
Dear President Wong,
I write as a Jew and as a Sociologist. I have spent almost 40 years studying North American Jews. For the last 30 years the focus of my research has been the relationship of various North American Jews to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and I have paid attention to the ways that they have experienced and defined Anti-Semitism. I have been greatly interested in the process by which various Jews have changed their views –or maintained them– in the face of the historical changes of the last 3 decades. I hope that you will find my comments useful concerning the controversy at San Francisco State University regarding Professor Rabab Abdulhadi and the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diaspora Initiative.
I have known Rabab Abdulhadi for over thirty years. I met her when she was a journalist in New York City. In the 1980s I attended an excellent series of lectures that she gave on the history of Palestine. (Most of the people in the audience were Jews.) Later, after she achieved her Ph.D, I knew her as a colleague. We were both participants at the City University of New York Graduate Center in a multi-year high-level seminar on Gender and Human Security, sponsored by the National Council for Research on Women. Last year we were among 6 panelists at a highly successful roundtable at the National Women’s Studies Association Conference.
Rabab Abdulhadi has my deepest respect as a scholar, an intellectual and a very humane human being. As an intellectual I admire the depth and complexity of her mind. As a human being, I deeply appreciate her humanity, the sensitivity of her understanding, and her commitment to the creation of a more just and humane world. And as a Jew I have found her wonderful to work with and to learn with. She has a deep, sympathetic and sophisticated understanding of the relationship of Jews, in all our diversity, to Israel/Palestine, including the emotional and historical elements of that relationship. She is what we call in Yiddish, a mensch.
Having studied Jewish responses to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict over three decades, I must note that in the past 6 years, the diversity of views among Jews has increased as never before. Israeli government extremism has forced Jews to question long-held beliefs. So when AMCHA attacks Prof Abdulhadi and the ethnic studies program she leads, claiming that her activism is “compromising the campus climate for Jewish and Israeli students at SFSU.” AMCHA is stereotyping Jewish students, attributing to all Jewish students their own limited and bigoted prejudices. To stereotype a group of Jews, and deny them their actual diversity of opinion and feeling, is, in my view bordering on anti-Semitism in itself.
In a way this conflict is not really about Professor Abdulhadi at all: it is one item in a broad campaign –I would call it an ideological vendetta– against anyone and everyone anywhere who is critical of Israeli policies and supportive of Palestinian rights. But I find it appalling beyond belief that Professor Abdulhadi, this excellent, and creative innovator, has been attacked so ignorantly and so viciously. I urge you to uphold the academic freedom of Prof. Rabab Abdulhadi, of the programs she leads, and of the students of San Francisco State University, and protect them all from these censorious attacks.
Thank you very much.