California professor with history of pro-terrorism comments honored

The Middle East Studies Association gives Rabab Abdulhadi its Annual Service Award.

San Francisco State University professor Rabab Abdulhadi. Source: YouTube.
San Francisco State University professor Rabab Abdulhadi. Source: YouTube.

Rabab Abdulhadi, a San Francisco State University associate professor with a history of expressing support for terrorist groups, has received the 2022 Jere L. Bacharach Service Award from the Middle East Studies Association.

“I wanted to grow up to be like Leila Khaled. I didn’t want to grow up to become a homemaker. I really wanted to be part of the struggle,” said Abdulhadi during a 2020 panel discussion streamed on YouTube (28:41 onwards), referring to the Jordan-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist notorious for her role in hijacking two civilian airliners in 1969 and 1970.

Abdulhadi has also praised other PFLP terrorists on social media, including Georges Abdallah, Rasmieh Odeh and Shadia Abu Ghazaleh.

Antisemitism watchdog Canary Mission has archived many of Abdulhadi’s comments and social media posts. 

In a 2021 post on Facebook, she hailed Odeh and Abu Ghazaleh as “freedom fighters” who “garnered most attention.” 

Odeh is a Jordan-based anti-Israel activist, convicted by an Israeli court in 1970 for her participation in a 1969 supermarket bombing terrorist attack that killed Israeli college students Leon Kanner and Eddie Joffe. After she was released from an Israeli prison in a prisoner exchange in 1980, Odeh immigrated to the United States, from where she was deported in 2017 for immigration fraud, for failing to declare her terrorism-related conviction in her immigration papers.

Abu Ghazaleh was a 19-year-old PFLP terrorist notorious for crafting explosives used in attacks carried out against Israel. Abu Ghazaleh died in 1968 when a bomb she was preparing for an attack in Tel Aviv detonated in her home.

Abdulhadi is the San Francisco State University’s Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies Program’s founding director and senior scholar. She is also a founding member of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel—an organization advocating for the boycott of Israeli academia and cultural organizations in alignment with the goals of the BDS movement. Before joining San Francisco State University, she was the first director of the University of Michigan-Dearborn’s Center for Arab American Studies.

Abdulhadi and the San Francisco State University Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diaspora Studies program were the organizers of a 2020 Zoom conference featuring Khaled that Zoom Video Communications canceled out of fears that hosting such an event could be a felony.

In 2020, Abdulhadi wrote on Facebook that she was the faculty adviser for the San Francisco State University chapter of the General Union of Palestinian Students.

Abdulhadi has also made comments accusing pro-Israel and Jewish members of Congress of having dual loyalty to Israel and the U.S.

‘Antisemite of the Week’

In August 2019, watchdog StopAntisemitism named Abdulhadi “Antisemite of the Week” for “feeding the minds of the next generation of students and academics with hate, racism and antisemitism.”

“I think we need to go to [then U.S. vice presidential candidate] Kamala Harris and say to her: ‘… It’s not okay that some of our representatives actually have dual Israeli-U.S. passport [sic]. That’s not okay! That’s not okay!’” Abdulhadi said (44:30) during a 2020 Livestream hosted by Palestinian American comedian and activist Amer Zahr on Facebook.

Speaking of pro-Israel groups, Abdulhadi said during a 2019 interview with Arab Talk,  “These groups are bullies…they push around in Congress and they bribe them, and they give them money, they twist their arms and so on, they are used to basically silencing everybody and crushing everybody.”

Abdulhadi has also expressed opposition to the presence of Zionists on campus. In 2018, when San Francisco State University President Leslie Wong sent an email to the university community saying: “Zionists are welcome on our campus,” Abdulhadi responded with a lengthy condemnation on Facebook.

“I consider the statement below from President Wong, welcoming Zionists to campus, equating Jewishness with Zionism, and giving Hillel ownership of campus Jewishness, to be a declaration of war against Arabs, Muslims, Palestinians and all those who are committed to an indivisible sense of justice on and off campus,” wrote Abdulhadi, denouncing Wong’s statement as “​​racist, Islamophobic and colonialist.”

“I’m waiting for him to say, ‘White supremacists are welcome, KKK is welcome…, Neo-Nazis are welcome, homophobes are welcome, misogynists are welcome.’ Why stop only at Zionists? Welcome them all. I mean bring the…whole club. Bring everybody who is right-wing and racist, bring them to campus, why only stop at Zionists?” Abdulhadi later said (34:05) of Wong’s statement in an interview published on Facebook.

The Anti-Defamation League criticized MESA’s decision to honor Abdulhadi.

“Rabab Abdulhadi is not a scholar worthy of honoring, rather she uses her position of authority to propagandize and promote extreme views,” said Seth Brysk, Central Pacific Regional Director for ADL, adding that Abdulhadi’s “odious” endorsement of “known terrorists” and calls for the exclusion of Zionists form a “hostile” on-campus environment for many students, including Jews.

“MESA’s decision to give her an award is the most recent example of its own radicalization and calls into question its academic relevance and commitment to contributing to the field of Middle Eastern studies,” said Brysk.

Liora Rez, director of StopAntisemitism, said MESA awarding Abdulhadi its service award, “delegitimizes the organization’s mission, though it’s not surprising given their recent alignment with the BDS movement.

“Academic freedom, touted by MESA and Abdulhadi, does not extend to indoctrinating students with propaganda from terrorist organizations that they collaborate with, even at schools known for tolerating such conduct, like SFSU,” said Rez.

The Middle East Studies Association did not respond to JNS’s requests for comment.

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