Amid ongoing tensions at SF State surrounding Jewish and Palestinian relations, a petition questioning the University’s partnership with a Palestinian university has garnered nearly 1,300 signatures since Wednesday.
The partnership with An-Najah National University, in the form of a memorandum of understanding – a document that signifies mutual respect and collaboration – is one of SF State’s 106 partnerships with universities in 35 countries, according to University spokesperson Elizabeth Smith.
“The purpose of an MOU with each of these international universities is to provide our students and faculty the opportunity to broaden their own intellectual landscape and develop opportunities for expanded creative activity,” Smith said. “The university supports the academic freedom of its faculty. Partnerships are initiated by faculty members based on their own academic interests, either for their own particular scholarly pursuits or to advance learning opportunities for their students.”
The petition on change.org was created just days after President Leslie E. Wong released a statement apologizing for the University’s handling of student protests during Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat’s visit to the school in April.
Xpress was unable to reach General Union of Palestinian Students, the group that led the protests, by the time of publication, but the group put out an earlier statement on the University’s response to the events.
Middle East Forum, the group that created the petition, requested that California State University investigate the MOU and make the terms of the memorandum public and called on Wong to terminate the University’s relationship with An-Najah National University. Two SF State alumni, Teri Blumenfeld and Cinnamon Stillwell, are Middle East Forum Staff. Stillwell wrote a blog post in February condemning SF State’s relationship with An-Najah.
Xpress was unable to reach Middle East Forum by the time of publication.
The petition also accused SF State College of Ethnic Studies Associate Professor Rabab Abdulhadi of being an “anti-Israel activist and an apologist for Palestinian terrorism.”
“The accusation that I support terrorism is both false and extremely dangerous in a post-9/11 climate that criminalizes advocacy and casts suspicion on even the most tenuous of associations with groups and individuals described as terrorists.” Abdulhadi said, responding to similar accusations in 2014.
The Palestinian university has been accused by the Anti Defamation League, a Jewish advocacy organization, of having links to Hamas and other terrorist organizations. The ADL was also critical of the April protests at SF State.
“The agreement was made with the desire to expand scholarly ties including staff and student exchange, scientific research, and co-teaching especially in the field of Political Science and American Studies,” according to the An-Najah National University website.