AMCHA and 7 Other Organizations Write SFSU President Leslie Wong Regarding SFSU Professor of Ethnic Studies Rabab Abdulhadi’s Egregious Misuse of University and Taxpayer Funds and Meetings with Terrorists in University-Funded Trip “Labor Delegation to Palestine 2014”
To: Timothy White, Chancellor California State University
Leslie Wong, President San Francisco State University
Larry Mandel, CSU Vice Chancellor and Chief Audit Officer
Carrie Hemphill Reith, CSU Resource Attorney for Conflict of Interest & Governance
May 27, 2014
Dear Chancellor White, President Wong, Mr. Mandel, and Ms. Rieth:
We would like to bring to your attention a matter that we believe deserves your immediate attention.
Documents that we recently received in response to a California Public Records Act request submitted to SFSU on April 10, requesting any and all records regarding the University’s funding of a “Labor Delegation to Palestine 2014” led by SFSU Professor Rabab Abdulhadi, suggest an egregious misuse of University and taxpayer funds.
According to these documents, Prof. Rabab Abdulhadi received more than $7,000 from the University, including an advance of $2,000, to cover the cost of her trip. However, we believe that in order to procure the administrative approval necessary for securing such University funding, the nature and purpose of Abdulhadi’s trip were misrepresented on at least 4 official University documents that were reviewed and approved by the SFSU Risk Management Office and Abdulhadi’s Dean, Kenneth Monteiro. And since Prof. Abdulhadi was requesting approval for travel to “high risk” countries, her official documents were reviewed and approved by both the President’s and Chancellor’s offices (Request for Authorization to Travel/Travel Advance, Request for Travel Approval to High-Risk Country, Request for Foreign Travel Insurance Program (FTIP) coverage, and Request for Approval – International Travel).
Each of these 4 documents emphasizes that the purpose of Abdulhadi’s trip was related to University business: to present a paper at the 4th conference of the Center for American Studies and Research to be held at the American University in Beirut, Lebanon, as well as to conduct “research” and to meet with “potential collaborators towards [establishing a] memorandum of understanding with San Francisco State University” in Jordan and the West Bank.
However, a few weeks before her trip, though after she had already received confirmation of her approval for international travel as well as confirmation of her foreign travel insurance coverage, and presumably after she had received a $2,000 advance from the University towards her trip, Abdulhadi sent a short email to the SFSU Risk Management Office informing them that she would be neither presenting a paper nor attending the conference in Lebanon. Oddly, Abdulhadi gave the following off-hand explanation for the significant change in her itinerary and focus: “Unfortunately my name was dropped from the Beirut conference.”
Moreover, although on official University documents Prof. Abdulhadi had represented the purpose of her trip as being related to University business, there is considerable evidence showing that the purpose of Abdulhadi’s University-funded trip was to engage in her own personal political pursuits and further her own personal political agenda. In an event on March 6, 2014 that was advertised on the SFSU Ethnic Studies website, Prof. Abdulhadi and two other members of the “Academic and Labor Delegation to Palestine 2014” — SFSU Ethnic Studies Professor Joanne Barker and Abdulhadi’s husband Jaime Veve — discussed their trip to “the West Bank and the 1948 areas of Palestine [sic, i.e. Israel]”. In her presentation at the March 6 event, Abdulhadi called the trip to Jordan, the West Bank, and Israel, which she had led, a “political solidarity tour,” and she went on to say: “This was not ‘solidarity light,’ this was not ‘pre-Solidarity 101’.” Prof. Barker, in her blog documenting the trip, corroborated Abdulhadi’s statement, writing that the delegation “established working relationships and furthered their solidarities with Palestinian scholars, artists, and activists engaged in BDS and other efforts against the occupation.” The event announcement also confirmed that the purpose of Abdulhadi’s University-funded trip was not to engage in University-related business but rather to pursue her own personal political goals: to promote “resolute actions in support of the academic and cultural boycott of Israel.”
Prof. Abdulhadi also neglected to inform the University on the official documents required for the approval, insurance and funding of her trip, that she and the delegation she was leading intended to meet with individuals affiliated with organizations on the U.S. State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations:
- According to Prof. Barker’s blog, the group’s first meeting was in Jordan with Leila Khaled, a convicted hijacker and the most famous member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a terrorist organization responsible for 159 terrorist acts such as bombings, armed assault and assassinations, resulting in numerous injuries and deaths including those of more than 20 US citizens. As a result of her terrorist activities, Khaled has been refused entry to Israel, Britain, and Canada. Khaled still advocates armed struggle as “the only and the shortest way towards liberation [of Palestine]”.
- The delegation led by Abdulhadi also met with Sheikh Raed Salah, leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, who was convicted of funding Hamas, a terrorist organization whose charter calls for the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews, and he served a two-year prison sentence 2003 – 2005. In 2008, Salah was charged by an Israeli court with incitement to violence and racism, over a speech he gave in which he accused Jews of using children’s blood to bake bread. In 2010, Salah was arrested for his participation on the Mavi Marmara, a boat that was part of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla funded by the International Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), a known radical Islamic and anti-Western Turkish organization which, in addition to humanitarian efforts, provides support and funding to global jihad networks. And 6 weeks after meeting with Abdulhadi’s delegation, Salah was sentenced to another term in Israeli prison for incitement to violence after he called for a third intifada.
Evidence that these meetings were planned before Prof. Abdulhadi submitted official University documents seeking approval of her trip comes from a March 2013 social media posting of Mohammad G. Hammad, then an SFSU student and member of the General Union of Palestine Students (GUPS). In an entry on his Tumblr account, Hammad described how excited he was that his professor/advisor (whom he had identified in previous posts as Prof. Rabab Abdulhadi) had offered to have him “join her and a delegation that she is taking to Palestine on a 10-Day trip…during which we will be visiting with prominent figures associated with the Palestinian Resistance movement, as well as ex-Palestinian Detainees…But most of all / The thing that has me fangirling and going crazy / is / That as long as I can take care of some border/transportation issues / I WILL GET TO MEET LEILA KHALID”. Not only does Hammad’s posting demonstrate that meetings with Khaled and other “figures associated with the Palestinian Resistance movement” were planned by Abdulhadi months before she submitted to the University official documents in which she omitted all mention of these meetings, it also highlights the deeply troubling behavior of Prof. Abdulhadi, who involved a vulnerable student in her plans to meet with members of a known terrorist organizations. It is ironic that Hammad, who in May 2013 became President of GUPS, was no longer a student at SFSU by January 2014 after dozens of his social media postings, in which he expressed murderous violence towards Jews and glorified the terrorist organization PFLP, were revealed.
SFSU Professor of Ethnic Studies Rabab Abdulhadi went on a “political solidarity tour” to Jordan, “1948 areas of Palestine” [i.e. Israel] and the West Bank, a trip whose primary purpose was to build relationships between Palestinian and North American anti-Israel political activists in order to promote antisemitic academic, cultural and economic boycotts of Israel. Abdulhadi arranged for the delegation she led, which included SFSU Ethnic Studies Professor Joanne Barker and Abdulhadi’s husband Jaime Veve, to meet with at least one known terrorist, Leila Khaled, as well as with a Muslim cleric who had been imprisoned by Israel because of his ties to Hamas and who was again incarcerated by Israel a few weeks after meeting with Abudlhadi’s delegation, on charges of incitement to violence.
On at least 4 official University documents signed by several SFSU and CSU administrators, including SFSU President Wong and CSU Chancellor White or someone from his office, Abdulhadi concealed the fact that the true purpose of her trip was political activism to promote efforts to harm the Jewish state, as well as the fact that she had planned to meet with individuals affiliated with organizations on the U.S. State Department’s list of Designated Terrorist Organizations. Presumably by concealing these crucial facts, Abdulhadi was able to receive from the SFSU Office of Human Resources, Safety & Risk Management approval to travel to “high risk” countries and insurance coverage paid for by the University (and California taxpayers), and she was able to receive from the University (and California taxpayers) more than $7,000 dollars for her transportation, lodging and food during the 21 days of her “political solidarity tour.”
We believe that there has been an egregious abuse of university and taxpayer funds as well as potential violations of California state law prohibiting the use of state resources for personal or political purposes.
We urge you to investigate this matter immediately, and to make public the results of your investigation.
We and many California taxpayers look forward to hearing from you soon.
Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law
Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel
Proclaiming Justice to the Nations
Scholars for Peace in the Middle East
Simon Wiesenthal Center Campus Outreach
Zionist Organization of America
Cc: CSU Trustees
CSU General Counsel Framroze Virgee
Kenneth Monteiro, Dean of SFSU College of Ethnic Studies
Sue Rosser, SFSU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
Michael Martin, SFSU Associate Vice President, Enterprise Risk Management
Dao VanQuate, SFSU Associate Risk Management
Patricia Bartscher, SFSU Counsel
Attorney General Kamala Harris
Deputy Attorney General Stepan Haytayun
California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson
California State Senator Mark Leno (San Francisco)
California State Senator Leland Y. Yee (San Francisco)
California Assembly Member Philip Y. Ting (San Francisco)
California Senator Carol Liu, Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Education
California Assembly Member Das Williams, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Higher Education
California Assembly Member Shirley Weber, Chair of the Select Committee on Campus Climate
California State Senator Marty Block, Chair of Legislative Jewish Caucus
California Jewish Community Leaders