On May 14, 2019, Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi, director and senior scholar of Arab and Muslim Ethnicities & Diasporas Studies at San Francisco State University, was invited to give a guest lecture to the undergraduate course, “Race and Racism,” taught by Dr. Kyeyoung Park, a professor of anthropology and Asian American studies. Dr. Abdulhadi is an esteemed scholar in the fields of Palestine, Islamophobia, feminist and diaspora studies. In her lecture, entitled “Islamophobia and the Attacks against Palestine Organizing and Scholarship,” Dr. Abdulhadi discussed the historical formation of Islamophobia, Zionism as a settler colonial and white supremacist project, the expulsion of Palestinians from their ancestral lands, and the ongoing violence of settler colonialism experienced by Palestinians within the borders of Israel, in the occupied territories, and in the global Palestinian diaspora.
During the question and answer period, a student called Dr. Abdulhadi an anti-Semite and said she was offended that Dr. Abdulhadi discussed Islamophobia in Israel and equated Zionism with white supremacy. Dr. Abdulhadi listened to the student’s comment before responding. Another student repeatedly disrupted and spoke over Dr. Abdulhadi, calling her an anti-Semite and a racist and demanding that she get out of the classroom. The interaction between students and Dr. Abdulhadi continued until the end of class at 3:15. As students left the classroom, the two students who disrupted the lecture once again accosted Dr. Abdulhadi, calling her “ignorant” and an “abomination.” One student subsequently sent a complaint about the lecture to a senior administrator. The Daily Bruinreported on the complaint and the class in its May 16 edition, entitling the article, “Anthropology guest lecturer accused by students of encouraging anti-Semitism.” This article was filled with omissions and misrepresentations, and has subsequently been picked up by far-right and Zionist individuals and organizations to smear Dr. Abdulhadi, Dr. Park, and the UCLA Department of Anthropology.1
The Anthropology Graduate Students Association wholeheartedly supports both Dr. Park and Dr. Abdulhadi, both on grounds of academic freedom and the substance of Dr. Abdulhadi’s lecture.
Dr. Abdulhadi’s lecture, and Dr. Park’s invitation of Dr. Abdulhadi to deliver the lecture within her class, are clearly covered within the University of California’s “General University Policy Regarding Academic Appointees.” The policy’s statement on academic freedom enumerates the freedom of teaching as one of the essential principles of academic freedom and calls for “teaching and scholarship [to] be assessed by reference to the professional standards that sustain the University’s pursuit and achievement of knowledge.” Dr. Abdulhadi’s lecture is well-supported by the forms of empirical evidence employed in anthropological research and allied disciplines, and her research and pedagogy fall within the realm of justice-oriented knowledge production.
As graduate students in the Department of Anthropology who lead discussion sections with undergraduate students, we are committed to creating inclusive and justice-centered academic settings. This includes ensuring that the loudest and most dominant perspectives in our society do not silence empirically verifiable evidence of oppression. Anti-Zionism is not anti-semitism, and, going forward, we hope UCLA students and the Daily Bruinwill employ a more intellectually rigorous perspective before weaponizing false allegations of antisemitism to erode academic freedoms.
Graduate students in our department have faced multiple hostile and even threatening incidents with students unwilling to confront structural white supremacy and settler colonialism in this academic year alone. It is no coincidence that those who face the brunt of this are faculty and graduate students of color. We condemn unequivocally these attempts to bully graduate students into silence in the face of white supremacy and avoidance of topics that make up critical areas of our research and teaching.
Anthropological research often reveals power structures that make oppression appear natural. As graduate students, it is our pedagogical duty to foster academic environments where oppressive and dominant logics are discussed, explored, and challenged in a way that is inclusive to the multiplicity of perspectives encompassed in any classroom. According to these principles, it is crucial that we teach Palestine.
Twitter of Adam Milstein, 17 May 2019
https://twitter.com/AdamMilstein/status/1129409748695052288 (accessed 17 May 2019);
Twitter of Campus Watch, 16 May 2019
https://twitter.com/CampusWatchMEF/status/1129140690288500737 (accessed 17 May 2019);
Twitter of Israel on Campus Coalition, 16 May 2019
https://twitter.com/IsraelCampus/status/1129058385364578305 (accessed 17 May 2019);
Twitter of Alums for Campus Fairness, 17 May 2019
https://twitter.com/CampusFairness/status/1129443779272818688 (accessed 17 May 2019).