SFSU’s Motion To Dismiss and Strike “Lawfare” Suit Are Worth the Read

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On Monday, California State University (CSU) and Professor Rabab Abdulhadi asked a federal court to dismiss a frivolous lawsuit against the university that targets Prof. Abdulhadi’s academic freedom and Palestinian rights advocacy on the San Francisco State University (SFSU) campus. The suit was filed in June by the Lawfare Project and mega-firm Winston & Strawn LLP.

The university and Professor Abdulhadi filed separate motions to strike the Complaint, which the university noted is “bloated with irrelevancies, redundancies, groundless personal attacks, and legal conclusions.”

The filings are worth reading. We compiled some highlights, which reveal the Lawfare Project’s misuse of the law to bully and intimidate those who advocate for Palestinian rights.

On irrelevant information included in the Complaint

  • “Plaintiffs’ Complaint, weighing in at a gravitationally significant 72 pages and comprising over 235 paragraphs, is bloated with irrelevancies, redundancies, groundless personal attacks, and legal conclusions—to the point that the legal claims themselves are obscure and hard to understand.” CSU Motion to Strike, page 1.
  • “Plaintiffs’ allegations are neither short nor plain and, ‘[r]ather than set out the basis for a lawsuit, the pleading seems designed to provide quotations for newspaper stories.’” CSU Motion to Strike, page 1.
  • “The large quantities of material unmoored from any claim, the sections spent recapitulating irrelevant history and/or other parts of the Complaint, legal argument disguised as allegations of fact, and unsupportable attempts to smear several defendants all add up to a Complaint that is nearly impossible to answer. It should be stricken in its entirety…” CSU Motion to Strike, page 4.

On relevant information excluded from the Complaint

  • “… Plaintiffs never state that Dr. Abdulhadi has somehow harmed them, and do not even describe her as a party in the body of the Complaint. Although Dr. Abdulhadi does not know if she is actually a defendant, since the Sixth Cause of Action seeks relief against “all Defendants”, out of an abundance of caution, Dr. Abdulhadi moves for dismissal of the Complaint.” Dr. Abdulhadi Motion to Dismiss, page 9.

On use of the term “terrorist”

  • “The inflammatory term ‘terrorist’ is routinely applied in a highly political and racially charged manner to demonize brown, black, and Muslim people.” CSU Motion to Strike, page 12.
  • “…the allegations regarding Professor Abdulhadi’s ‘meeting with terrorists’ should also be stricken as scandalous…they are an obvious attempt to draw headlines and smear Professor Abdulhadi’s name.” CSU Motion to Strike, page 12.
  • “The attempt to associate Professor Abdulhadi with violence by alleging that she met with Leila Khaled is analogous to scurrilous attempts to paint Barack Obama as ‘pallin’ around with terrorists’ because of his association with 1960s radical William Ayers. These allegations should be stricken as scandalous.” CSU Motion to Strike, pages 12-13.

On the First Amendment

  • “This lawsuit is an attempt by Plaintiffs to compel SFSU to restrict the speech and assembly of its other students, in violation of those students’ First Amendment rights.” CSU Motion to Dismiss, page 1.
  • “Plaintiffs attack an academic who is a recognized expert on Palestinian, Arab, Muslim and Middle East affairs for traveling to the Middle East to conduct her research. Plaintiffs complain that this research included meetings with representatives of designated terrorist organizations. Dr. Abdulhadi’s role as an academic is to conduct research even if that research involves meeting and interviewing individuals who Plaintiffs do not like. The First Amendment also protects such actions...” Dr. Abdulhadi Motion to Dismiss, pages 14-15.
  • “Plaintiffs’ Title VI claim fails because … it is based primarily on Plaintiffs’ objections to student protests against Israel, and SFSU cannot be liable for allowing speech that SFSU could not have prohibited without violating the First Amendment …” CSU Motion to Dismiss, page 15.

 On Allegations of Harassment

  • “A reasonable person would not believe that criticism of Israel is harassment at all, let alone harassment of Jewish students for being Jewish.” CSU Motion to Dismiss, pages 21-22.
  • “The other incidents that Plaintiffs allege were harassment include political speeches, demonstrations, online postings, and other similar activities critical of Israel and supportive of Palestinians. These incidents, while perhaps disruptive, are not alleged to have been directed at Plaintiffs or any other Jewish student on the basis of their Jewish background. These alleged events cannot reasonably be characterized as religiously motivated harassment….” CSU Motion to Dismiss, page 22.

On the State Department Definition of Antisemitism

  • “Plaintiffs devote nearly a full page to a ‘working definition of anti-Semitism’  ‘adopted’ by the U.S. State Department. The State Department, of course, is not charged with enforcing Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000(d), on university campuses, and naturally any definition of anti-Semitism it creates will not be tailored to that end. The State Department definition does not apply to college campuses under Title VI…” CSU Motion to Strike, page 7.
  • “Reprehensibly, Plaintiffs’ Complaint distorts the U.S. Department of State’s definition of anti-Semitism and otherwise calls upon this Court to adjudicate a disputed and irrelevant definition. This is a distortion at best and a misrepresentation at worse. Perhaps this was inadvertent since if it were intentional, it would be in violation of well-established ethical rules prohibiting misrepresenting material facts to the Court.” Dr. Abdulhadi Motion to Strike, pages 14-15.

Read CSU's Motion to Dismiss and Motion to Strike.

Read Professor Abdulhadi’s Motion to Dismiss and Motion to Strike.

Read more about the case.