Leila Khaled’s claim to fame is having participated in a hijacking on behalf of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) in 1969, and—after using plastic surgery to disguise her identity—attempting a second one two years later. Still an active member of the PFLP leadership, Khaled is also a hero to the supposedly nonviolent movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction the Jewish state (BDS), as well as a popular speaker. Later this month, she is scheduled to lead an online seminar on “gender, justice, and resistance” at San Francisco State University. Jonathan Marks comments:
Khaled has indicated any number of times [that] she is in favor of violence against Israel. . . . It’s almost as if BDS isn’t dedicated to nonviolence, except as an adjunct to violence.
The real story here, [however], is less the event itself . . . than the mainstreaming of this kind of thing in the academy. . . . Last year, the Women’s Resource Center at San Diego State University was compelled to apologize for using images of Khaled in one of its newsletters. That the center apologized tells us that Khaled isn’t, after all, quite mainstream. But that she made her way into that most bureaucratic of productions, a newsletter put out by an academic administrative unit, also tells us that the cocktail of violence, anti-Americanism, and anti-Semitism Khaled represents causes no one to bat an eyelash until someone points a finger.
Perhaps because no one much cares about them, small programs like [San Francisco State’s center for Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies] can afford to hug a terrorist on Zoom. But what can be said of more mainstream elements within our colleges and universities that wink at or reward this kind of behavior? Nothing flattering.