San Francisco State University (SFSU) will feature Leila Khaled, a prominent Palestinian terrorist and plane hijacker, as a speaker in an online event that focuses on “gender, justice, and resistance.”
Leila Khaled, 76, is a veteran member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which was designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. Department of State. Khaled is most notorious for her participation in the hijacking of a passenger jet en route from Rome to Tel Aviv in 1969. A photo of her holding an AK-47 rifle while wearing a kaffiyeh became a popular icon of feminism and Palestinian militancy.
Other guest speakers of the Sept. 23 discussion panel include Ronnie Kasrils, a high ranking South African Communist Party official and frequent critic of Israel; Sekou Odinga, a leading member of the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army who served 30 years in prison for attempted murder in a Queens shootout with six police officers; and Rula Abu Dahou, the acting director of women’s studies program at Birzeit University, where Islamic extremist group Hamas maintains a strong presence.
The event will be hosted by Rabab Abdulhadi, the founder and director of the SFSU’s Department of Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies. Over her teaching career, Abdulhadi has built a reputation as an outspoken anti-Israel activist, particularly known for problematic remarks such as equating Jewish students who support Israel to white supremacists. In 2014, Abdulhadi reportedly met with Khaled during a SFSU-sponsored trip to Jordan and the West Bank.
Several pro-Israel and Jewish organizations have called on the SFSU to reconsider the event.
“Given San Francisco State’s troubled past with antisemitism, it is incredibly problematic that Leila Khaled, a known terrorist who promotes the murder of Israelis and Zionists, has been invited to speak to students,” Zev Hurwitz, American Jewish Committee’s director of campus affairs, told Jewish Journal. “Terrorists, and those who propagate violence and extremism, should have no place in academic settings.”
In response, the SFSU said the decision to include Khaled as a speaker “should not be construed as an endorsement of point of view.”
“Higher education and the college experience are an opportunity to hear divergent ideas, viewpoints and accounts of life experiences,” the statement reads. “A university is a marketplace of ideas, and San Francisco State University supports the rights of all individuals to express their viewpoints and other speech protected by law, even when those viewpoints may be controversial.”