JOINT PRESS RELEASE
Behnam (Ben) Gharagozli
Law Offices of Ben Gharagozli
Attorney for Professor Rabab Abdulhadi
Law Office of Mark Allen Kleiman
Attorney for Professor Rabab Abdulhadi
August 21, 2017, San Francisco, CA – On Monday, San Francisco State University (SFSU) Professor, Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi, asked the court to dismiss a frivolous lawsuit that targets her academic freedom and threatens campus advocacy for Palestinian rights more broadly. The suit, brought by the Lawfare Project along with mega-firm Winston & Strawn LLP, aims to suppress and punish campus debate about Palestinian rights. (Read the Motion to Dismiss and the Motion to Strike filed Monday. The university also filed a Motion to Dismiss and Motion to Strike Monday.)
Dr. Abdulhadi explained, “Israel’s apologists have long targeted my research and teaching on Palestine, to no avail. This Lawfare suit is the latest desperate attempt to abuse the law to shut down the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies program at SFSU, which I founded and direct. This fits with SFSU’s history and legacy as a social justice campus. This too will fail, because, as an educator, I have the right to seek truth and justice, and to study Palestine.”
The suit was filed against SFSU in June 2017, naming as defendants the California State University Board of Trustees, multiple administrators and a single professor: Dr. Abdulhadi. The complaint alleges that the university tolerated a hostile climate of antisemitism, in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, because students, faculty and staff have long expressed vigorous support for Palestinian rights on campus. The suit rests on the nefarious blanket equation of criticism of Israeli policy with anti-Jewish animus, attempting to impose an erroneous definition of antisemitism that has been rejected by even its own author as unconstitutional if used to limit speech on college campuses.
Mark Kleiman, attorney for Dr. Abdulhadi, said, “This is a frivolous lawsuit, fomented by a politically motivated group that announced its intention to inflict ‘massive punishments’on students and professors who would criticize Israeli policies. The law should not be misused for bullying and intimidation. We’re confident it will be thrown out of court because it has no basis in fact, no basis in law, and only ensnares Dr. Abdulhadi to intimidate her, drain her resources and distract her from her scholarly endeavors.”
In its own words, the Lawfare Project defines “lawfare” as “the use of the law as a weapon of war…[and] filing frivolous lawsuits and misusing legal processes to intimidate and frustrate opponents.”
Behnam (Ben) Gharagozli, another attorney for Dr. Abdulhadi said, “The law is clear: The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects scholarship and advocacy, regardless of how some pro-Israel groups feel about advocacy for Palestinian freedom. The Lawfare Project’s own definition of ‘lawfare’ is revealingly incriminating.”
Advocates say the Lawfare suit is part of a broader pattern of suppression against Palestinian human rights activism, particularly on campuses, which includes administrative disciplinary actions, harassment, firings, baseless legal complaints, and false accusations of terrorism and antisemitism. Palestine Legal responded to 650 such incidents of suppression from 2014 to 2016.
Palestine Legal director Dima Khalidi said, “The Lawfare Project’s attempt to define Dr. Abdulhadi’s and SFSU students’ advocacy for Palestinian rights as antisemitic is a central tactic of dozens of Israel advocacy groups attempting to shut down the growing U.S. movement for freedom, justice and equality for Palestinians. It must be rejected for its clear intent to curb critical inquiry on one of the most enduring human rights issues of our time in order to maintain the status quo in favor of Israel’s decades-long subjugation of Palestinians.”