Lawfare Project Re-Files Baseless Lawsuit Against San Francisco State and Professor Abdulhadi (Updated)

Updated May 7, 2018: On Monday, April 30, Professor Rabab Abdulhadi asked the federal court to again dismiss a frivolous lawsuit that targets her academic freedom and threatens Palestinian scholarship and advocacy. The suit aims to suppress and punish campus debate on Palestine. Read Abdulhadi’s Motion to Dismiss and Motion to Strike filed Monday. San Francisco State also filed a Motion to Dismiss the complaint.

Abdulhadi explained, “This is a desperate attempt by Israel’s apologists to pressure San Francisco State into muzzling the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies program, which I founded and direct. I will not be intimidated, and I will not be silenced. Professors are role models for their students, and I have a responsibility to demonstrate that fearless pursuit of critical scholarship, pedagogy and advocacy for justice in/for Palestine will survive this ‘lawfare’ attack.”

March 30, 2018: The Lawfare Project has re-filed its harassing lawsuit against San Francisco State and Professor Rabab Abdulhadi. The suit, which was thrown out of court earlier this month, alleges that support for Palestinian rights amounts to discrimination against Jewish students.

Professor Rabab Abdulhadi. Credit: Jamal Dajani

Professor Rabab Abdulhadi. Credit: Jamal Dajani

The latest complaint is the Lawfare Project’s third attempt. They withdrew the first complaint themselves, and the second was dismissed by a federal Judge in March because it alleged no unlawful conduct.

One of Abdulhadi’s attorneys, Mark Kleiman, explained, “The Lawfare Project’s latest complaint has recycled losing allegations and baseless charges from the prior proceedings. It’s the same claims dressed up in new jargon.”

Her other attorney, Behnam (Ben) Gharagozli added, “This lawsuit will ultimately fail because Lawfare Project simply lacks the evidence and the requisite legal allegations that they need to prevail.”

The lawsuit culminates a years-long suppression campaign targeting Abdulhadi and other campus activists. Plaintiffs argued that Abdulhadi’s research in Palestine, establishing a partnership with the Palestinian An-Najah University, a 2016 student protest of the mayor of Jerusalem, and a 2017 know your rights fair have created a hostile environment for Jewish students at SFSU.

Lawfare’s third attempt adds multiple false statements about Abdulhadi and other supporters of Palestinian rights. After the judge determined that she is not an official university actor, the new complaint also sues Abdulhadi in her personal capacity.

The Lawfare Project, which identifies as the “legal arm of the pro-Israel community,” has declared their intent to punish and silence advocacy for Palestine at San Francisco State. Abdulhadi, who is returning from a research trip to Palestine, was traveling and could not be reached for immediate comment.

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.

The Lawfare Project has also filed a second lawsuit in California state court alleging that SFSU violated state anti-discrimination laws by allowing student speech for Palestinian rights. This separate suit does not name Abdulhadi or any of the other individuals.

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