Prominent Jewish Studies Scholars Ask Court to Dismiss Case Against SFSU and Prof. Abdulhadi

Left to right. Top: Chana Kronfeld, Diane L. Wolf, Daniel Boyarin. Bottom: Aaron Hahn Tapper, Barry Trachtenberg, Marjorie Feld. 

Left to right. Top: Chana Kronfeld, Diane L. Wolf, Daniel Boyarin. Bottom: Aaron Hahn Tapper, Barry Trachtenberg, Marjorie Feld. 

On May 18, twelve Jewish Studies scholars asked the court for permission to file an amicus brief opposing the Lawfare Project’s third baseless complaint against Professor Rabab Abdulhadi and San Francisco State University (SFSU). Drawing on their expertise in Jewish history, the professors seek to educate the court about an erroneous definition of antisemitism at the heart of the lawsuit.

The federal judge previously threw out the case in March 2018 because none of the claims had any legal merit. But the Lawfare Project refiled its case in April, repeating the same failed claims.  The professors explain that the lawsuit’s allegations of antisemitism are an attempt to silence advocates for Palestinian rights. 

The professors object to the Lawfare Project’s reliance on a definition of antisemitism that wrongly equates political criticism of Israel with antisemitism. They lay out why the discredited "State Department definition," and any other blanket equation of antisemitism with criticism of Israel, is overly expansive, and a danger to free speech.  

Professors Daniel Boyarin of University of California (UC), Berkeley, Hasia Diner of New York University, Marjorie Feld of Babson College, Gil Hochberg of Columbia University, Ari Y. Kelman of Stanford University, Chana Kronfeld of UC Berkeley, Charles Manekin of University of Maryland, Benjamin Schreier of Penn State University, Joshua Schreier of Vassar College, Aaron Hahn Tapper of the University of San Francisco, Barry Trachtenberg of Wake Forest University, and Diane L. Wolf of UC Davis authored the amicus brief. David Mandel, a member of the National Lawyers Guild and Jewish Voice for Peace, served as Counsel for Amici.

The brief argues:

The attempt by The Lawfare Project to limit critical discourse on Israel … is detrimental to public debate. Ironically, it serves only to once again affirm the antisemitic belief that Jews are fundamentally different: that the Jewish state cannot be protested or objected to, that collective Jewish power cannot be analyzed or debated, or that Jews, because they were once victims of one of humanity’s greatest genocidal crimes, are somehow immune from becoming perpetrators of acts of violence against other peoples.

Moreover, and perhaps most dangerously of all, attempts to broaden the definition of antisemitism to encompass phenomena that are clearly not anti-Jewish can only make it more difficult to recognize, isolate and oppose actual antisemitic hatred when it really does appear.

The case will be back in federal court on July 18, 2018, when Judge Orrick of the Northern District of California will hear argument on whether the lawsuit should be dismissed once again. Follow @Pal_Legal for updates.

For more on the Lawfare suit against Dr. Abdulhadi and SFSU, see Palestine Legal’s case page.