Abdulhadi to Al Mayadeen: I was threatened for advocating Palestine
Palestinian Professor Rabab Abdulhadi faces immense pressure within the Israeli lobby's institutional efforts to silence Palestinian academia and advocacy abroad.
This is not the first time we hear of a professor being silenced; otherwise, how will the Israeli occupation protect its image in the eyes of the world? The occupation's preferred tool is suppression, but censorship can take many forms. A rising trend among Israeli lobbies is to criminalize Palestinian advocates and accuse all critics of the so-called 'state' of anti-Semitism, because nothing beats victimizing oneself while soaked in a pool of blood.
But for some, silence is not an option.
A professor at the University of San Francisco, Rabab Abdulhadi, was subjected to a wave of Zionist incitement after receiving the Middle East Studies Association's Jerry L. Bacharach Award in 2022. Zionist groups accused Abdulhadi of "anti-Semitism" for her pro-Palestine stances.
The voice of Palestine has planted fear in the occupation and among the zionists who keep attempting to suppress Palestinian academia and advocacy by covering the voice of truth with "Israel's" chosen tool, anti-semitism.
Another chosen method by Zionist groups is "assessment reports" that claim Jewish students are uncomfortable with anti-Zionist activities on campus and that such activities should be prohibited. The Zionist campaign against Abdulhadi intensified, prompting Zionist groups to file complaints with the Zionist government demanding an investigation and dismissal of Abdulhadi from her position at the university.
Read next: “Israel” silencing a Palestinian lecturer with "anti-Semitic" claims
In an exclusive interview with Al Mayadeen English, Professor Abdulhadi revealed how the Zionists launched a campaign against her award. It all started with Martin Kramer, a professor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, which is a part of the AIPAC think tank associated with the Israeli lobby in Washington. She explained that he was behind the campaign and had created an alternative association for Middle East Studies Association under the pretext that the MESA association, which gave her the award, failed to predict the 9/11 attack in 2001.
“This is ridiculous. I mean, how would anybody actually be able to predict that? It's a failed association,” she said. Professor Abdulhadi added that the movement “has not been able to discredit MESA. MESA remains the most important and the most credible source of research on Middle East studies, including Palestine, Arab causes, and so on and so forth.” Other alternate associations were also Camera and Canary mission, which she described as “both very suspicious and ill-reputed organizations that have been caught in so many lies, fabrications, and distortions about everybody, including about me, posting left and right.”
According to Abdulhadi, Zionists are out of step with time, whereas advocates and organizations such as MESA are in sync with the sentiments of all academic organizations ranging from American Studies to Asian American, Native American, Chicano Studies, the United Autoworkers of graduate students in California, and so on. She added that all those organizations passed resolutions supporting Palestine, demanding that “Israel” be held accountable and boycott the occupation.
Abdulhadi: “Israel” loses influence in the academic battle
In 2020, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) awarded Abulhadi for her academic contributions, yet, the association was pressured by many Zionist organizations who threatened to stop funding the association if it acknowledged Abdulhadi. AAUP was the largest association of university professors at the time, with 40,000 members. According to Abdulhadi, the threats backfired because the chair of the Academic Freedom Committee published an article accusing the Israeli so-called academic group of lacking credibility.
She added that "Every time they do that, it backfires on them. But they do this because they are desperate and discredited. They are losing the battle of public opinion. They are losing the battle on university campuses. They are losing the battle among academics and intellectuals. Of course, they are also losing the battle against organizations like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, al-Haq, and other organizations that are affirming what the Palestinians themselves have been saying over and over and over that “Israel” is a practicing a system of apartheid, just like what South Africa was practicing since 1948."
Attempts to delegitimize Palestine
Abdulhadi highlighted the importance of maintaining and relying on archives to mark and commemorate Palestine's events to protect the Palestinian narrative. The project she initiated “Teaching Palestine Pedagogical Praxis and the Indivisibility of Justice” focuses on archiving but also works to challenge colonial narratives of submission, subjugation, and defeat the attempt to “erase Palestinians from their land, Palestinian culture, and the historical narrative and struggle.”
Nonetheless, she emphasized how Palestinian education poses a threat to "Israel" and the Zionist movement, which seeks to delegitimize Palestinian teachings to replace them as a topic of discussion. The move promotes a Jewish self-determination movement, which she considers a failure because "not all Jews actually support that, and an increasing number of Jews do not support that."
On another note, professor Abdulhadi asserted that "Palestine is a very important aspect of teaching and learning in the Academy, similar to critical race theory, black studies, indigenous people studies, and women studies," adding that the US is attempting to eliminate such studies from the curriculum in order to limit students' knowledge of history and avoid any awareness of their state's wrongdoing. That said, historical awareness could trigger students to “stop demanding abolition, demanding reparations and demanding solidarity and support for Palestine and holding 'Israel' accountable.”
Abdulhadi: I received death threats
Abdulhadi told Al Mayadeen English that she was exposed to hate speech, threats, and smear campaigns. “There have been death threats, letters that they sent to my office at the university and copies of which were sent to the office of the president of the university, saying that Netanyahu and the “IDF” [IOF] will win and you will be defeated.”
In another incident, the university assigned her an officer near the offices of the Israeli studies, which she said threatened her safety and security. “I received voicemails that threatened me and that said Muslims will die, Jews will live. I have received emails that threaten me with death. I have received very nasty emails. We have been targeted by Zionists. There have been many examples of this. I reported them all to the university, but the university has not investigated a single situation… The university is colluding with the Zionists and is very much part of this… They have been cutting down the courses.”
Another example is the university's collaboration with Hillel International, a Jewish campus organization, that is using the Middle Academic Engagement Network at the forefront. It was founded by the former University of California chancellor Mark Yudof, a right-wing pro-Zionist, who she claims received a no-confidence vote.
According to professor Abdulhadi, the Academic Engagement Network targeted her award from the American Association of University Professors with what she considers a problematic and contradictory methodology. “They are saying it's all intended to basically legitimize Zionism and delegitimize and criminalize teaching Palestine and criticizing anti-Zionism. And as you might imagine, I'm the only professor whose name is mentioned in that report.”
For many years, critics of Israeli policies, including Jewish critics, have been wrongly accused of being "anti-Semites", But for the past two years, those who preserved the status quo have made this charge the focus of their plan to discredit the expanding movement for justice in Palestine.
Anti-Semitism is defined as any form of hostility, prejudice, or discrimination against Jews. Anti-Semitism is defined as [an act of] hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group. However, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance reintroduced a new definition of anti-Semitism in 2016, which includes among its "contemporary examples" of anti-Semitism "denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination."
Such re-definitions and attempts to appropriate terminology reveal a systematic effort to equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism in order to demonize and presume that hate of "Israel" is comparable to the hatred of Jews.
“Israel” is losing the battle
Professor Rabab Abdulhadi explained that Zionist groups are trying to pass what is known as the IHRA, which redefines anti-Semitism as criticism of “Israel,” including anti-Zionism. However, she emphasizes that the majority of scholars, including the majority of Jewish scholars and the majority of the world, know that this is not true, that “criticizing ‘Israel’ and criticizing Zionism is not part of anti-Semitism.”
“There is a history of confronting anti-Semitism the same way that you confront other forms of racism and racial discrimination. You fight against it, you bring people together, and you build alliances around the indivisibility of justice and fight it.”
Abdulhadi stressed that the Zionists are losing influence and are failing to whitewash Israeli crimes, which have gained widespread criticism due to social media’s exposure of their violence against Palestinians. “Israel is losing the battle in public opinion and its lobby is losing the battle as well.”
An article titled “Jenna Ortega vs. Kanye: Whose anti-Semitic hate is worse?” shared by "The Times of Israel" has triggered an online backlash on #Twitter. pic.twitter.com/W270U4Ij9K— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish) January 8, 2023
To boot, Zionists are exerting all their capabilities to silence anything related to Palestinian academia to keep Israeli crimes in the shadows, but Abdulhadi emphasized how students are free to generate their own opinions, which in this case are mostly generated against the Israeli occupation.
“They are really implementing similar tactics to what Nazism had done, to what Mussolini, to what fascism Franco has done in other parts of the world to actually prevent younger people from learning about the history of their countries, about what has happened in order to engage in a collective amnesia to prevent people from learning about all that is going on.”
It is important to note that Zionists and the allies of the occupation frequently use anti-Semitism to silence critics of the Zionist occupation and its crimes in universities and societies all over the world in an effort to shield the occupation and the Zionist project from criticism over its policies and crimes against the Palestinians.
We will not be silenced: Abdulhadi
Abdulhadi introduced crucial points, collective movements, and the fight against Zionism. She said that what she is facing is very similar to what other advocates are experiencing as well. Her approach includes a fight, exposure, and a stand with justice on her side. According to her, the strength of any movement stems from a coalition of resilient and determined people.
“We will not shut up, we will not be silenced. We're going to continue to do this. That will minimize the possibilities for the Zionist to scare us, engage in new tactics of McCarthyism, intimidate us, make us lose our jobs, and scare students from studying about Palestine. And at one point, we will be able to succeed.”
In reference to a recent incident, Abdulhadi explains how Kenneth Roth, a human rights activist and former head of the Human Rights Watch, was stripped from a fellowship given to him at Harvard University. She stressed that Zionist donors pressured the administration to do so, but Harvard was forced to rescind and give him the fellowship back.
Read next: Exclusive: Roth reveals the role of 'Israel' in Harvard decision
“This really shows when there is a movement, when people come together and fight together and have the right strategy, they will not be able to defeat us. We will be able to win. There are sacrifices to be made. There is a heavy toll, of course, because they really would like to crush and silence us completely, just like what “Israel” is doing in Palestine because it's all the same strategy that allows "Israel" to get away with all the crimes that it's committing against humanity.”
She concludes that “it's our responsibility and our right as educators, as people who believe in justice, to stand up and speak up loudly and say, we're not going to be silenced.”
Abdulhadi demonstrates the breadth of Israeli lobbying power in Western countries, particularly in the United States, where Zionist campaigns are active. The Israeli occupation runs campaigns to track Palestinian and Arab academics, teachers, and students, as well as all criticism directed at "Israel." Such initiatives are done to label activists and academics as anti-Semitists to criminalize Palestinian advocacy and education. Rabab Abdulhadi is a prime illustration of the dangers and difficulties that activists and academics face around the globe as a result of their advocacy for the Palestinian people.