By Aaron Arnstein
We’ve seen plenty of well-known individuals speak to college students over Zoom during the past six months: actors, sports stars, political figures and musical artists, to name a few.
Add Palestinian terrorist Leila Khaled to the list.
That’s right, San Francisco State University (SFSU) hosted Khaled, a member of the EU, US, and Israel-recognized terrorist group Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), on September 23. The event, titled “Whose Narratives? Gender, Justice, & Resistance: A conversation with Leila Khaled,” focused on educating students on Palestine, labeling her as a Palestinian feminist, militant and leader.
Khaled orchestrated the PFLP hijacking of TWA Flight 840 en route to Tel Aviv, Israel in 1969, successfully steering the plane off course. Although no one was injured, the hijacking was an extremely traumatic experience for all passengers on board. Less than a year later, armed with two hand grenades, Khaled attempted to hijack El Al Flight 219 traveling from the Netherlands to New York City, but was quickly apprehended by Israeli sky marshals. She has since been barred from entry into the US.
Following the hijacking attempts, Khaled was glorified by PFLP supporters across the world, establishing the terrorist, now 76, as somewhat of a folk hero in the resistance movement; a photo of her wearing a kaffiyeh and holding an AK-47 has been widely reproduced. Khaled continues to spew anti-Semitic and anti-Israel hatred through speaking appearances at academic institutions and political conferences.
It is utterly incomprehensible why prominent academic institutions have continued to give anti-Semites and anti-Israel advocates a platform to not only educate students of the so-called “truth about Israel,” but to advocate for the extermination of the Jewish people.
According to the Times of Israel, Khaled delivered a September 2017 speech in front of the European Parliament comparing Zionists to Nazis, saying, “You can’t compare the actions of the Nazis to the actions of the Zionists in Gaza,” while adding “The Nazis were judged in Nuremberg but not a single one of the Zionists has yet been brought to justice.” Even more appalling was the fact that lawmakers would allow a woman of this caliber to speak in front of educated politicians.
Judaic Studies teacher Roni Silverberg, who resides in San Francisco, is one of many outraged members of the local Jewish community following SFSU’s invitation to Khaled. “The fact that any organization would allow an acknowledged terrorist to make a presentation, is unconscionable,” Silverberg said. She went to describe Khaled’s past comments as “pure, unadulterated hate talk.”
Furthermore, Khaled never expressed remorse for her hijacking attempts, going as far as justifying and even humorzing her terroristic acts. According to the American Jewish Committee Transatlantic Institute, during Khaled’s September 2017 remarks, she said, “At this point my life I said, how are we going to oppose this [the Israeli-Palestinian conflict]? Well, let’s just hijack a plane, I’ll be very frank.” She received a standing ovation for her remarks.
While some argue the PFLP is exercising their First Amendment rights by presenting a platform for Khaled to speak, and it would be unconstitutional for SFSU to not host her, we must understand the difference between anti-Israel viewpoints and advocating for the death of innocent Israelis. I am all for a healthy debate of differing opinions on the conflict, but I will not participate in a discussion that blurs the lines between the truth and baseless claims.
By welcoming Khaled and similar personalities to speak at colleges, academic institutions bring serious conflict onto campuses across the country. Last year, Columbia University invited Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, whose anti-Semitic remarks have been well-documented, to speak. At the speaking event, Mohamed went on to question the Holocaust and call Jews “hooked-nosed” and that they “rule the world by proxy,” according to The Jerusalem Post. Not only did Mohamad’s statements reflect poorly on one of the nation’s finest academic institutions, it also created concern amongst the local Jewish community.
If scholarly institutions continue to invite high-profile names within the anti-Israel community, it will seem as if this is an acceptable gesture. In this day and age, we need more fact-checking and less negativity.
Not the other way around.