(October 20, 2020 / JNS) The University of Hawaii is scheduled to host a virtual conversation on Friday with a known Palestinian terrorist.
Leila Khaled played a critical role in two airplane hijackings as a member of the U.S.-designated terrorist organization the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The Israeli Shin Bet considers her part of the Jordanian command of the PFLP.
The Oct. 23 event, “We Will Not Be Silenced: The Case of Khaled and Solidarity from Hawaii to Palestine,” will take place via Zoom.
It will be sponsored by the University of Hawaii’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, the university’s ethnic-studies department, Hawaii Peace and Justice and Cancel Rimpac Coalition, and moderated by Joy Enomoto, an alum of the university, and include ethnic-studies professor Kaleikoa Ka’eo and Ma’an Odah. It will also include a “special appearance” by Khaled, according to the Facebook page advertising the event.
Facebook did not respond to a request for comment about the event.
Daniel Meisenzahl, a spokesperson for the university, told JNS on Tuesday, “This event does not reflect the views of the university.”
“The organization sponsoring the event is one of 200-plus registered independent organizations at UH Mānoa. The administration was just informed yesterday about the event via this and similar inquiries,” he continued. “The University of Hawaii is an institution where controversial viewpoints can be peacefully and openly considered and discussed. The sharing and debate of diverse and difficult ideas and opinions is fundamental to the mission of higher education in our society.”
The event is part of an all-day Oct. 23 campaign by the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel in response to a conversation with Khaled hosted last month by San Francisco State University’s Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies (AMED), which was deplatformed by Zoom, Facebook and YouTube.
StandWithUs has sent a letter to Zoom founder and CEO Eric Yuan, calling on him and his company to prevent the University of Hawaii event from happening. It cited that the event would be against Zoom’s Terms of Service of using the platform in any way that violates anti-terrorism laws.
“We understand that there are some who may argue that this is a matter of academic freedom. This is a specious argument,” wrote SWU in its letter to Yuan.
“Refusing to provide convicted terrorists or supporters of terrorism a platform is a sound decision that protects your company legally, distances Zoom from appearing to support morally repugnant individuals and in no way interferes with academic freedom. Terrorists can still speak elsewhere,” continued the letter. “You simply send the message that they are not welcome on your platform, just as Facebook and Twitter have recently communicated similarly in new policies banning Holocaust denial on their platforms.”
In an email to JNS on Monday, Yuan said his company is handling the matter.
“Zoom is committed to supporting the open exchange of ideas and conversations, subject to certain limitations contained in our publicly available Terms of Service, Acceptable Use Policy, and Community Standards,” a spokesperson for the video-conferencing platform told JNS on Tuesday. “We determined that this event is in violation of one or more of these policies and have let the host know that they may not use Zoom for this particular event.”
Brooke Goldstein, executive of The Lawfare Project, has corresponded with Zoom’s legal department. “Zoom already made it clear that members of FTOs, specifically Leila Khaled, cannot use their platform, and we fully expect them to continue to enforce their policy to comply with U.S. law,” she told JNS on Monday. “While it is unclear at this time if Lelia Khaled will appear live or through a pre-recorded video, the same material support issues may stand depending on the circumstances of her appearance.”
Khaled was one of the hijackers on TWA Flight 840 from Rome to Tel Aviv in 1969 and on El Al Flight 219 in 1970 from Amsterdam to New York City. She was released in both cases, in the latter as part of an exchange arranged by the British government whose purpose was to ransom hostages taken in different hijackings.
In 2017, she was barred entry to Italy.
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