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Syracuse cancels ‘Occupation of Palestine’ talk by Arab scholar who once praised plane hijacker

Campus leaders cite safety concerns

A Middle Eastern studies professor who has praised a Palestinian terrorist and reportedly compared Israel supporters to “white supremacists” will not be speaking at Syracuse University, campus leaders said Tuesday.

In a campus-wide email, university leaders said they decided to postpone “The Occupation of Palestine” talk amid “a sharp uptick in antisemitism, Islamophobia and abhorrent conduct threatening members of campus communities based on their identity.”

According to a petition against hosting the speaker, Syracuse University has seen a spate of antisemitism in recent weeks.

The petition claims the “words ‘Dirty Jew’ were carved into a Day Hall dorm room door, a swastika was drawn in the BBB dorms, and an Israeli flag was ripped off a freshman girl’s door which resulted in her requesting a dorm change; all events that have happened in the last 3 weeks at the university.”

The featured speaker was Professor Rabab Abdulhadi, director of Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies at San Francisco State University, according to Syracuse.com.

Abdulhadi has faced criticism repeatedly for making antisemitic remarks. During a guest lecture in 2019 at UCLA, students said Abdulhadi called supporters of Israel “white supremacists” who want to “ethnically cleanse the Middle East.”

She also praised a plane hijacker and leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which the U.S. government deems a terrorist organization.

“We really idolize somebody like Leila Khaled, somebody who actually stands up for herself, speaks for herself, actually goes to a plane and hijacks it,” Abdulhadi said in 2020, Golden Gate Express reported.

Syracuse leaders did not mention Abdulhadi by name in their announcement, which was sent a few hours prior to the event.

In their joint statement, university Chancellor Kent Syverud and Vice Chancellor Gretchen Ritter said they learned of the potential “safety concerns” less than 24 hours prior and worked with the Department of Public Safety, local and federal law enforcement to make the decision.

They did not specify what type of threat or give any details. Nor did campus leaders mention in their announcement a Change.org petition calling for the talk to be canceled, arguing Abdulhadi’s comments could lead to violence against Jewish students.

“23 days after our people were slaughtered, raped and kidnapped in the worst days for Jews since the Holocaust are children are facing hate speech on your campus. Unacceptable. Events and organizations that promote terror and hate should not be held on campus and should not be funded by Syracuse,” states the petition, signed by 1,385 people as of Wednesday afternoon.

Syverud and Ritter said they canceled the event because Syracuse University cannot “confidently ensure the safety of the attendees, the speaker and our whole campus community.” They said they plan to work with organizers to reschedule.

“Syracuse University cares deeply about free speech and remains strongly committed to academic freedom,” they said.

Organizers of the event included the Black Graduate Student Network, African Graduate Student Association and African American Studies Department at the New York university, The Daily Orange student newspaper reported.

Since the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks on Israel, college campuses have been a hotbed of antisemitism and pro-Palestinian protests.

At Tulane University last week, a pro-Palestinian protest turned violent and three students were assaulted, The College Fix reported. And at Drexel University in Pennsylvania, a Jewish student’s door was set on fire.

During another protest earlier this month, a Cornell University professor described the Hamas attacks as “exhilarating” and “energizing.” Meanwhile, Yale University Professor Zareena Grewal wrote on X that “settlers are not civilians.” Hamas murdered more than 1,300 Israeli civilians, including babies and the elderly in the Oct. 7 attack.

On Tuesday, New York law enforcement officials arrested and charged a Cornell University student for allegedly making online threats to slaughter Jewish students.

Since the attack, Abdulhadi repeatedly has accused Israel of “genocide” on X. In one post, she criticized U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres, a New York Democrat, for saying anti-Israel protesters support “Hamas butchering and burning babies.”

In 2018, Abdulhadi also criticized UCLA President Les Wong for declaring that “Zionists are welcome” at the public university. She called it a “declaration of war against Arabs, Muslims, [and] Palestinians,” driven by “donor pressures and the Israeli lobby.”

MORE: Congressman makes criminal referral to DOJ after San Francisco State University hosted terrorist

IMAGE: Main, Change.org screenshot/ Inside, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs/YouTube

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About the Author
Micaiah Bilger is an assistant editor at The College Fix.