SFSU Prof Abdulhadi Wins Middle East Studies Award

by Aaron Bandler
January 11, 2023
Read the original post in the Jewish Journal.

San Francisco State University (SFSU) Professor Rabab Abdulhadi was a co-recipient of the Middle East Studies Association’s (MESA) 2022 Jere L. Bacharach Service Award on December 2.

MESA’s website lauded Abdulhadi’s for “her deep commitment to Palestinian Studies, in relation to not only gender, sexuality, feminist, and queer studies, but also others.” The Canary Mission watchdog noted in a January 8 press release that Abdulhadi had attempted to hold a webinar featuring former Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) member Leila Khaled in 2020 on Zoom that was ultimately deplatformed. 

Canary Mission also noted in a January 9 Twitter thread that Abdulhadi once said that SFSU welcoming Zionists to campus was a “declaration of war against Arabs, Muslims and Palestinians.” “The award says as much about @MESA_1966 as it does about @AbdulhadiRabab,” Canary Mission tweeted.

Judea Pearl, Chancellor Professor of Computer Science at UCLA, National Academy of Sciences member and Daniel Pearl Foundation President, criticized MESA for giving the award to Abdulhadi. “In giving this award to mega-Zionophobe Rabab Abdulhadi, MESA again defines itself as an arm of Palestinian propaganda machine, with anti-coexistence, eliminationist and  potentially genocidal agenda,” he told the Journal. “On May 14, 2019, Abdulhadi lectured at the UCLA department of Anthropology and made slanderous remarks against Israel, Jews and Zionists. As of today, she has not apologized to the literally thousands of students and faculty at UCLA who are devout Zionists, champions of human rights and social justice, whom she labeled ‘white supremacists.’”

Pearl continued: “In March of 2022, when MESA voted (4:1) to impose boycott on academic institutions in Israel, it lost many of its members and affiliated universities. On that week I wrote to UCLA Chancellor, Eugene Block, urging him to rescind UCLA membership in MESA. I’ve found it utterly unacceptable for a public university to support a politicized organization that criminalized its own academic mission, especially the missions of its Centers for Jewish and Israel Studies. This award that MESA has just bestowed upon Abdulhadi jolts me to write to him again.”

Jewish groups also criticized MESA over the award.

“Following MESA’s endorsement of BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] it is no surprise that at their recent conference they decided to recognise and honor Rabab Abdulhadi, a well-known pro-BDS advocate notorious for spreading antisemitism and glorifying terrorism,” Asaf Romirowsky, who heads Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) and the Association for the Study of the Middle East and North Africa (ASMEA) as an alternative to MESA, said in a statement to the Journal. “MESA’s endorsement of BDS once again highlights the disconnect between the reality of the Middle East versus the skewed one filled with propaganda which dominates the academy propagated by Abdulhadi and her colleagues. Boycotting Israel encapsulates everything wrong with academia, namely its close-minded censoriousness, aloof cruelty and eagerness to play politics. It also goes without saying that MESA and its members boycotting Israel will do nothing for the Palestinians, except empower their leaders’ rejectionism further into the 21st century.” 

AMCHA Initiative Director Tammi Rossman-Benjamin similarly said in a statement to the Journal, “The fact that MESA would give someone like Abdulhadi an award is appalling, but not surprising. When an organization like MESA, whose very mission includes the production and transmission of knowledge about Israel and its relationship to other countries in the region, votes to impose an academic boycott of Israel whose goal is the exact opposite––shutting down the production and transmission of accurate knowledge about Israel––that organization has lost any claim to scholarly credibility. MESA, like Abdulhadi, has become completed corrupted by its antisemitic obsession with the Jewish state.”

StandWithUs CEO and Co-Founder Roz Rothstein also said in a statement to the Journal, “This award is unsurprising, coming soon after MESA joined a campaign of hate that aims to end Israel’s existence and shut down cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians. Multiple universities have cut ties with the organization, and more should follow suit now in order to protect their academic integrity.”

By contrast, pro-Palestinian groups congratulated Abdulhadi on the “well deserved” award, heralding her “unyielding fight for Palestinian rights.”

Abdulhadi and MESA did not respond to the Journal’s requests for comment.

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