As the College of Ethnic Studies prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary, a Palestinian professor received a vulgar letter in her mailbox on Aug. 13 calling for ethnic cleansing of Muslims in the U.S.
Rabab Abdulhadi, Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas studies director and Muslim Student Association adviser, relies on student volunteers to check her mailbox when she is away. A student found the envelope and quickly shared it with Dr. Abdulhadi. The letter’s author didn’t provide a name but claimed to be a retired New York City police detective.
The letter called Abdulhadi a “filthy, sneaky, malevolent swine,” “filthy eater of camel s—” and “sand monkey.” The author described Israel as triumphant and wrote that the Israel Defense Forces will win against Palestine, Abdulhadi’s country of origin.
“I am very scared for my safety, my students and my community members,” Abdulhadi said. “This is a direct threat that is intended to silence me.”
Abdulhadi has been targeted before as a pro-Palestine advocate. Canary Mission, a website that hosts dossiers on students, faculty and organizations it claims promote hatred of the U.S., Israel and Jewish people, has posted about her before, saying she endorsed hate speech.
The Lawfare Project sued her and SF State in 2017, ultimately losing when a federal judge dismissed the case with prejudice in October 2018. The AMCHA Initiative also accused her of supporting terrorism.
Abdulhadi compared the language used in the threatening letter to Islamophobic and racist tweets by President Donald Trump against U.S. Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, who are both Muslim.
The self-described police detective claims in the letter that although he would “never advocate violence as a remedy,” Abdulhadi should be careful if “accidents happen and if one should strike.”
Abdulhadi alerted the dean of the College of Ethnic Studies and the University Police Department upon receiving the letter. Kent Bravo, a media relations specialist for SF State, said UPD has “an active investigation so [they] cannot provide any additional information.”
Jemina Amatoru, a cell and molecular biology graduate, saw the letter on Facebook where Abdulhadi had uploaded it.
“I felt disgusted by the letter,” Amatoru said. “The profanity stood out to me and the fact [SF] State can’t really protect the faculty is already not great.”
Amatoru and Abdulhadi fear for the safety of students as well.
“I am worried about my students and for the upcoming semester,” Abdulhadi said. “They [the sender of the letter] know where my office and AMED is.”
Although the letter was made known to the university, no email or other forms of notice have been sent to the student body.