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The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

Groups demand Academic Senate removes political holiday from list of religious observances

James Chan
Arab and Muslim Ethnicities Diaspora studies Rabab Abdulhadi hands out a list of demands to community members at the Academic Senate meeting on Feb. 19 2019 (James Chan/Xpress)

Allies of Palestine presented a list of demands at the Academic Senate meeting Tuesday to echo points made at last week’s protest about the administration’s inclusion of Israeli Independence Day on the list of religious holidays.

Arab and Muslim Ethnicities Diaspora Studies (AMED) professor Rabab Abdulhadi, members of the General Union of Palestine Students (GUPS), Jews Against Zionism (JAZ), Students for Quality Education and other community members spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting.

JAZ read a formal statement explaining why acknowledging Israeli Independence Day as a religious holiday is a misstep.

The day is known as “Nakba,” or the “Great Catastrophe” to Palestinians, and as JAZ noted in its statement that it marks the displacement of thousands of Palestinians from their homes by armed Israeli forces seeking to occupy the region.

In an email shared with the Xpress before the meeting, interim Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Jennifer Summit apologized in a memo sent to department chairpersons and directors for not including Muslim holidays.

In the same memo, Summit said the Office of Academic Affairs will include Ramadan and Eid Al-Fitr on the list.

But a public apology to all faculty, students and staff for including Israeli Independence Day on the list of observance of religious holidays list has not been issued.

“We came to hold people accountable and ask the Senate to take action,” Abdulhadi said at Tuesday’s meeting.

The JAZ statement said keeping Israeli Independence Day on the list contributes to ongoing Zionist rhetoric on campus, which undermines groups affected and oppressed by Israel’s military industrial complex.

“May 9, [Israeli Independence Day] represents, for a great number of people, a solemn day of mourning resulting from the Zionist insurgency into Palestine almost 71 years ago,” the statement read.

Students for Quality Education read an additional statement in support of GUPS, saying the administration refused to address and condemn racism, Zionism and Islamophobia publicly on campus. The statement also said administration tried to systematically eliminate AMED through inadequate funding and support.

“President Leslie Wong has openly and publicly welcomed Zionists onto our campus and has threatened to shut down GUPS and expel Palestinian student activists,” the Students for Quality Education’s statement said.

Academic Senate Chairperson Nancy Gerber said the Senate is revising the policy on religious holiday observances to exclude political holidays like Israeli Independence Day in the future.

Gerber also said the Academic Senate will debate whether to have a list at all.

“Another solution is to determine what are the holidays that the vast majority of our students celebrate to give faculty a heads up when arranging their schedules to try to avoid conflict,” she said.

The standing committee will meet next week to discuss further options and propose changes to Academic Senate policies.

Alexei Folger, an SF State alumna and meeting attendee, is an active member of the Jewish Force for Peace. The organization’s Bay Area chapter, according to Folger, partners with the Palestine Solidarity Network and said they actively support Abdulhadi in her political and legal disputes.

Folger was shocked to hear of a secular holiday labeled as a Jewish religious holiday. She said she grew up celebrating Passover and Hanukkah but never Israeli Independence Day.

A main objective of the Jewish Voice for Peace, according to Folger, is decoupling Israel from Judaism and Jewish individuals. She said calling critics of Israel anti-Semitic is not only wrong, but dangerous to Jewish people.

“If you can’t identify what is actually anti-Semitism from what supporters of Israel want you to think is anti-Semitism it’s bad for everybody,” Folger said.

She said this misidentification ignores real anti-Semitism, which has resulted in the death of Jews in the United States, and delegitimizes Palestinian claims for basic human rights.

At the meeting, Summit admitted that her office made a mistake in not vetting the list.

“I’m glad to have been able to correct it,” Summit said. “And most of all I’m glad the Senate, through shared governance, is going to address it to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Summit emphasized that the list was from Wellesley College and did not reflect a conscious decisions by her office.  

Abdulhadi criticized the lack of a public apology from the administration and the length of time it took Summit to respond to an email Abdulhadi sent last week about the issue.

“She didn’t do anything for a week,” Abdulhadi said.

Grace Shimizu, a community member and longtime supporter of the SF State Ethnic Studies Department, was also at the meeting but did not get the opportunity to speak due to time constraints.

After the meeting, Shimizu said she was confused as to why the list wasn’t checked by anyone, especially since SF State has a plethora Arab

“It seems like it might be something more than an oversight or a technical error,” she said. “Maybe it reflects something more institutional.”

Shimizu also said this oversight add to the ways in which the legal system is used to bully professors and student groups who advocate for justice in Palestine and criticize Israel and Zionism at SF State.

She is referring to the dismissal with prejudice by Judge William Orrick III of the Mandel v. Board of Trustees case. This case pitted former SF State Hillel member, Jacob Mandel, and four other Jewish students against 10 administrators and one professor, Abdulhadi.

The Lawfare Project, a non-profit legal think tank and litigation fund representing Hillel, claimed the Jewish students were discriminated against in class and on campus because of their religious and political views.

Abdulhadi said she anticipates more backlash against her for speaking out against the administration inclusion of Israeli Independence Day on the religious holiday list.

“We’re all going to be watching,” Abdulhadi said. “We expect them to do the right thing.”

Corrections: The original print and online version of this story inaccurately stated that Summit apologized in an email about including Israeli Independence Day in the observance list of religious holidays. Summit sent a memo to department directors and chairpersons that apologized for not including Muslim holidays like Ramadan and Eid Al-Fitr. The article also inaccurately refers to Jewish Voice for Peace as the Jewish Force for Peace.

In a previous version, the Lawfare Project was incorrectly described as ‘a conservative pro-Isreal law firm’.  The Lawfare Project is neither conservative nor a law firm.  They are a non-profit legal think tank and litigation fund.  (Corrected on March 19, 2019.)

The Xpress regrets these errors.

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    Larry A. SingletonFeb 25, 2019 at 1:10 pm

    Letter to San Francisco State University 2-24-19


    Groups demand Academic Senate removes political holiday from list of religious observances by Carly Wipf.

    “Human Decency” “Common Sense”

    This is Jew Hatred pure and simple.

    Totally absent from our schools, colleges and universities as the ideological Jew hating soul mates of the Nazis have taken over our “education” systems. From Campus Watch:

    Not content with San Francisco State University admitting that it made a “clerical error” in categorizing Israeli Independence Day as an observed religious holiday, Prof. Rabab Abdulhadi and her cohorts issued a statement calling it a “solemn day of mourning” and condemning SFSU President Leslie Wong for having “publicly welcomed Zionists onto our campus.” The statement was presented at an Academic Senate meeting, along with a list of demands

    “…for having publicly welcomed Zionists onto our campus.”

    “Zionist” Code for “the Jews”.

    This is the New Fascism and Islamo-fascism that has infested every level of our society. From these social justice mobs destroying lives and careers to this heinous “Islamophobia” campaign.

    I spend hours in the morning…..Reading.

    Those who buy into this transparently filthy “anti-Zionism” are those useful idiots who are too stupid and too lazy to study the issues-and HISTORY-and Read! Culturally and historically illiterate.

    I often say that we’ve gone from the Greatest Generation to this generation of (moral) degenerates where Jew hatred today is actually fashionable.

    I’m grateful beyond words to have grown up surrounded by this Greatest Generation even as a long-haired hippie who had a Greatest Generation gra’mom who passed on her love of books, reading and history on to me.

    Today’s youths are practically brain-dead when it comes to any kind of history. Because they’re basically Lazy Thinkers. “Social” retards. Or rather Social Justice Retards who are part of this massive Social Justice Lynch mob who have infested every aspect of life including and especially the Internet where whole careers have been destroyed by these bottom feeding “diversity” and “multicultural” scum.

    I liken these SJW’s to these Audio Terrorist thugs. You know. Those people with these “boomer cars” with the LOUD car stereos. Who have destroyed the quality of life and traditional peace and quiet of whole neighborhoods and communities. They “drive by” your home or office. Pull up next to you at stop lights. This is akin to a full blown physical assault on your senses. You feel like your brain is going to explode.

    I hear these scum drive by my home. The windows rattle and loose objects vibrate and you can still FEEL this NOISE even though they’re a full half block away!

    This is the New Rude.

    When I read this: “In an email shared with the Xpress before the meeting, interim Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Jennifer Summit apologized to department chairpersons and directors for including Israeli Independence Day on the list.”

    I actually uttered “JESUS F**KING KEE-RISTE!!!”

    “Jennifer Summit apologized to department chairpersons and directors for including Israeli Independence Day on the list.”

    Are you F—king Kidding Me?!?!

    I shouldn’t be surprised in the slightest. Maybe it’s that, again, I grew up surrounded by the Greatest Generation and their stories of liberating Nazi concentration camps. Of the pictures from magazines and documentaries and even movies.

    I was continuing in my reading of the essay Race and Faith: The Deafening Silence by Trevor Phillips.

    In this essay written by a “progressive liberal” he highlights the problems related to “integration” and “assimilation” and those of “racism” and “Islamophobia” and even “microaggression”.

    I just ended my reading of a chapter of the book An Imaginary Racism: Islamophobia and Guilt by Pascal Bruckner at the part where he talks about the fact that Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism can be slandered and portrayed in the most despicable ways yet you can’t say a single word about Islam lest you be hauled into court for “hate speech” or murdered outright. Where “Islam and Islam alone, of all the great religions, is supposed to be spared disapproval and mockery”.

    He also talks about the fact that Christians are being slaughtered, ethnically cleansed and raped in Muslim lands on a scale not seen since the Armenian Genocide yet “the word ‘Christianophobia’ is not used and never will be”.

    I’m sixty years old. I got over being a racist fairly early. I won’t go into that except to say that reading books helped me greatly but more was the fact that racism made no sense. As in Common Sense.

    These punks talk about “racism” and I can clearly see that they have no idea what they’re talking about. What’s almost a crime is the influence these know-nothing scum, these social justice mobs have on our culture and society at large.

    As Trevor Phillips says in his essay, a whole new conversation needs to happen.

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Groups demand Academic Senate removes political holiday from list of religious observances