Hearing Wednesday in Lawsuit Targeting Palestine Advocacy at SFSU

Contact: Zoha Khalili, Palestine Legal, 510-246-7321, zkhalili@palestinelegal.org

Professor Rabab Abdulhadi

Professor Rabab Abdulhadi

Lawyers for Professor Rabab Abdulhadi and San Francisco State University (SFSU) appeared in federal court today, fighting a third attempt to compel the university to restrict the speech of its students and faculty who support Palestinian freedom.

The case, Mandel v. Board of Trustees, was filed in June 2017 by the Lawfare Project, a right-wing anti-Palestinian organization, along with the 900-lawyer firm Winston & Strawn LLP. The third version of the lawsuit alleges that speech critical of the political ideology of Zionism and advising a Palestinian student group created a hostile environment for Jewish and Israeli students at SFSU.

“While no one knows with certainty where this is going, we are confident that the judge will see through this frivolous and malicious lawsuit and deliver justice. The judge began saying that he was inclined to dismiss the complaint,” Mark Kleiman, attorney for Abdulhadi, told a crowd gathered outside in support of Abdulhadi. “He said he would deliver his decision later.”

A packed courtroom of about 50 SFSU students, faculty, and community members attended the hearing after about 100 rallied outside the Phillip Burton Federal Building.

Ben Gharagozli, attorney for Abdulhadi, said, “The judge obviously had a sophisticated understanding of what was in the complaint and what was not in the complaint. He is focused on the pleadings and on the facts, and he indicated at the beginning of the hearing that he did not think that Lawfare met the legal standards. That shows that when there is a neutral playing field, Israel’s supporters don’t stand a chance.”

Abdulhadi explained, “Lawfare is trying to tie me up with litigation to distract me from my scholarship, teaching and advocacy. I will not be deterred. My students are my pride and joy. They come from diverse backgrounds to learn and engage in critical thinking. I do not believe in policing students. Lawfare is trying to force authorities to police students and faculty and stop their organizing. I am not going to allow that to happen so that other junior faculty, graduate students, and my students are free to speak their minds.”

Abdulhadi is represented by Mark Kleiman, Ben Gharagozli and Gavin Cunningham & Hunter. SFSU is represented by Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP. For more background, see Palestine Legal’s case summary.