SFSU may have violated federal law by hosting terrorists associated with Islamic Jihad and the PFLP at a Beirut conference.
A San Francisco State University (SFSU) department has recently hosted members of US-designated terrorist organizations at a conference in Beirut, possibly in violation of anti-terror laws.
The two-day conference in Lebanon, led by SFSU prof. Rabab Abdulhadi, hosted on September 10-11 by SFSU Arab and Muslim Ethnicities Studies Department (AMED), featured Sami Al-Arian, who is tied to the Islamic Jihad and who was deported from the US, and founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) Salah Salah.
Based on the open letter of support for Abdulhadi published in Mondoweiss this week, it appears that SFSU’s administration was aware of the Beirut conference. According to the letter, SFSU pressured Abdulhadi not to affiliate AMED with the conferences.
“SFSU has since taken a series of injurious actions in order to seize control of and diminish the AMED program,” including “threatening Dr. Abdulhadi with disciplinary action for listing her academic affiliation with AMED in conjunction with two conferences on Teaching Palestine which she is organizing or co-organizing, and in which she is participating as an SFSU faculty member,” the report said.
Abdulhadi has apparently disregarded SFSU’s request, as the Beirut conference did take place.
SFSU is a public university, and it is unclear if US taxpayer funds were used to facilitate the conference. If taxpayer funds were used, such as paying speaking honorariums to members of terror groups and individuals convicted of terror-related offenses, AMED might have violated US anti-terror laws.
Salah, one of the founders of the PFLP, spoke on a panel alongside Abdulhadi. Conference organizers introduced Salah as one of the PFLP’s co-founders, and Salah and Abdulhadi even embraced each other during the event.
On September 11, Abdulhadi interviewed Sami Al-Arian, a former professor at the University of South Florida who pleaded guilty in 2006 to assisting the Islamic Jihad. Following a short period in prison, he was deported from the US and moved to Turkey, where he currently resides.
AMED may have paid for Al-Arian’s trip to Lebanon from Turkey and his accommodations, though at the moment this is unclear.
PFLP terrorist and airplane hijacker Leila Khaled was also set to participate, according to the itinerary, but did not appear in person. However, during the session where Khaled was supposed to participate, the sound was turned off online by the organizers, and, on two separate occasions during the session, an unseen individual spoke over Zoom. This individual may have been Khaled. The sound was not shut off at any point during the other sessions of the two-day conference.
SFSU’s AMED has previously faced criticism for attempts to host Khaled for events over Zoom before the platform shut it down over fears of violating US anti-terror laws. On September 11, 2021, AMED hosted an online event featuring Al-Arian.
A second online AMED event planned for April 2021 with Khaled was blocked after multiple tech companies removed links on their platforms to the online presentation. In April 2021, the SFSU’s AMED Facebook page was taken down, though it is now back online.