Yesterday, San Francisco State University’s Arab and Muslim studies program had planned an online “conversation” with Leila Khaled, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine who participated in two hijackings in 1969 and 1970. In the second, she carried a grenade which she apparently intended to use on the passengers. The day before the talk, the videoconferencing platform Zoom announced that it would not host the event, citing the possible violations of U.S. anti-terror sanctions involved. Facebook then made a similar decision, so the organizers streamed the event on YouTube, which ended the broadcast after 20 minutes—before Khaled had a chance to speak.
Despite this reassuring result, the disturbing truth remains that university faculty saw fit to invite a terrorist to a seminar, and that administrators dismissed objections. Jeff Jacoby comments:
[Khaled] has spent the years since [the hijacking] avidly promoting “armed struggle,” spreading anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, and encouraging BDS, the campaign to attack Israel through boycotts, disinvestment, and sanctions. . . . Hijacker, would-be killer, hater of Jews: this is the “feminist icon” and “huge inspiration” for whom San Francisco State [wished to provide a platform]. Its advertisement for the event features an illustration based on a famous photograph of Khaled as a twenty-one-year-old, smiling broadly and brandishing an AK-47.
As a matter of academic freedom and the First Amendment, the university has every right to glorify a terrorist. [But] Would [the school’s president, who defended the talk], like to see her university host a “conversation” with Dylann Roof, the white supremacist terrorist who gunned down nine black worshippers in a South Carolina church?
Khaled’s appearance at San Francisco State doesn’t illustrate a courageous commitment by the school to air the unpopular views of terrorists and haters. It illustrates the admiration to be found on the hard left for one specific kind of terrorist and hater: the kind who targets Jews and demonizes Israel. Khaled is being celebrated for her violent career, not reluctantly tolerated out of deference to First Amendment principles.