SF State: Lawsuit Seeks to Silence Research, Advocacy on Palestine

Palestine Legal is providing advocacy support for San Francisco State University (SFSU) professor Rabab Abdulhadi, who together with SFSU, was sued for speech supporting Palestinian rights.

Dr. Abdulhadi on november 8 after Judge Orrick said he would dismiss the lawfare suit.

Dr. Abdulhadi on november 8 after Judge Orrick said he would dismiss the lawfare suit.

On October 29, 2018, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit against Professor Rabab Abdulhadi and San Francisco State University (SFSU) that had sought to compel the university to restrict the speech of students and faculty who support Palestinian freedom. The lawsuit was first filed in June 2017 by the Lawfare Project, a right-wing anti-Palestinian organization with an avowed mission of inflicting massive punishments against critics of Israel.

The court dismissed an earlier version of the lawsuit in March 2018, noting that the complaint was “full of barely relevant material” and did “not state a plausible claim for relief.” The court threw out all of Lawfare’s claims, including claims that speech critical of Israeli policies violated Jewish students’ First Amendment rights, their right to equal protection and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The judge gave the plaintiffs an opportunity to re-file the suit, which they did later that same month. In October 2018, the court dismissed the case with prejudice, meaning the lawsuit could not be filed again. Lawfare filed notice with the Ninth Circuit that it intends to appeal the case.

The lawsuit culminates a years-long suppression campaign involving years of harassment against campus activists by Israel advocacy groups. Plaintiffs argued that Abdulhadi’s research in Palestine and her efforts to establish a partnership with the Palestinian An-Najah University, a 2016 student protest of the mayor of Jerusalem, and a 2017 know your rights fair organized by a coalition of students and administrators have created a hostile environment for Jewish students at SFSU. Federal courts and the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights have consistently held that speech critical of a nation’s policies is protected under the First Amendment and does not constitute harassment.

After the judge announced at a November 2017 hearing that he planned to dismiss the case, the Lawfare Project filed a second lawsuit in California state court alleging that SFSU violated state anti-discrimination laws by allowing student speech for Palestinian rights. That case is scheduled for trial in March 2019.

Abdulhadi is represented by Mark Kleiman, Behnam Gharagozli and Gavin Cunningham & Hunter. SFSU is represented by Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP.

Legal Documents

Letters of Support for Professor Rabab Abdulhadi

  • California Faculty Association Resolution in Defense of Academic Freedom for Professor Abdulhadi (November 2017)

  • Middle East Studies Association Letter to SFSU President Wong, (June 29, 2017)

  • Petition of Scholars and Students to SFSU President Wong

  • Jews of Color, Sephardi and Mizrahi Jewish Caucus Statement in Support of Professor Rabab Abdulhadi Against Censorship Campaigns (August 23, 2017)

  • Feminist Statement in Support of Professor Rabab Abdulhadi (August 2017)

  • Jewish Community Statement of Support for Professor Rabab Abdulhadi (July 14, 2017)

  • California Scholars for Academic Freedom Letter to President Wong (June 28, 2017)

  • Association des Universitaires pour le Respect du Droit International en Palestine Letter to SFSU President Wong and CSU Board of Trustees (July 8, 2017)

  • US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel Statement in Support of Professor Rabab Abdulhadi

  • National Lawyers Guild International Committee Statement in Support of Professor Rabab Abdulhadi (August 15, 2017)

  • United Auto Workers Local 2865 Letter of Support for Professor Rabab Abdulhadi

  • Samidoun statement of solidarity with Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi

  • Veteran Participants of the 1968-69 Student Strike at SFSU Issue Letter of Support to Dr. Abdulhadi

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