Leslie Wong, President, San Francisco State University
During Leslie Wong’s tenure as president of San Francisco State University (SFSU), which began in 2012, SFSU has earned the distinction of being singled out by Jewish students and community members with a lawsuit in U.S. district court charging that “it has systematically supported these departments and student groups as they have doggedly organized their efforts to target, threaten, and intimidate Jewish students on campus and deprive them of their civil rights and their ability to feel safe and secure as they pursue their education.”
Indeed, under Wong’s leadership, SFSU has a lengthy record of ignoring if not outright enabling campus support for terrorism and threats against Jewish speakers and students. SFSU is home to the General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS), an SJP surrogate group which takes every opportunity to make Jewish students feel unwelcome on campus. GUPS was previously led by a student who wrote dozens of social media posts praising terrorists and threatening violence against Jews and Israel. GUPS interrupted a speech by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, shouting exhortations to terrorist violence and forcing him to curtail his address. At Barkat’s speech, demonstrators shouted “Intifada,” a call for terrorism against Israel, and chanted “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” a call for the destruction of the Jewish state and the genocide of its people.
SFSU President Leslie Wong infamously gave an interview with a Jewish news organization in which he refused to categorically state that Zionists are welcome on SFSU’s campus. After receiving much negative feedback, he issued a public statement apologizing and declaring “Let me be clear: Zionists are welcome on our campus.” In response, many SFSU campus organizations and entities including Professor Rabab Abdulhadi, Director of Arab Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies (AMED) at SFSU and SFSU’s Woman and Gender Studies Department issued their own statements lambasting Wong for welcoming “racists” on campus.
On April 19, 2018, the General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS) at SFSU, an SJP surrogate group, held an event titled “The Global Resistance Against Zionism: How Israel Affects All Our Communities.” The event description called for the “right of return of millions of stateless Palestinian refugees,” which would destroy Israel as a Jewish state, and also chastised “Zionists” for celebrating Israel’s founding, declaring that “Al-Nakba marks a destructive and horrific time in history as Palestinians faced death, expulsion, and full out violence from Zionist European militias. The Zionists, however, commemorate this day through dancing and celebrations, proving their continuous dehumanization of Palestinian people and history. There is nothing to celebrate about May 15th, 1948.”
In April 2018, a video was posted on the official Facebook page for Arab Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies (AMED) at SFSU which featured a radio interview with AMED Director Professor Rabab Abdulhadi in which she equated Zionists with the KKK and other hate groups. Referring to SFSU President Wong’s statement that Zionists are welcome on campus, she said, “I’m waiting for him to say, white supremacists is welcome, KKK is welcome, David Horowitz is welcome, Richard Spenser is welcome, Neo-Nazis are welcome, homophobes are welcome, misogynists are welcome, why stop only at Zionists? Welcome them all. I mean bring the…whole club. Bring everybody who is right wing and racist, bring them to campus, why only stop at Zionists.”
On March 26, 2018, the General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS) held an “open dialogue in Malcolm X Plaza” as part of “Palestine Awareness Week.” A large sign at the protest read “Zionism is not welcome here; The support of genocide is not welcome,” and a small mock “apartheid wall” declared “To exist is to resist.” “Resistance” is a euphemism used by Hamas and their allies to describe terrorist acts against Israel.
In February 2018, SFSU President Leslie Wong sent out a campus-wide email and made a public statement apologizing for a previous interview with a Jewish news organization in which he refused to categorically state that Zionists are welcome on SFSU’s campus. “Thus, I want to sincerely apologize for the hurt feelings and anguish my words have caused. Let me be clear: Zionists are welcome on our campus,” Wong declared.
Wong’s apology was met with outrage by many individuals and even academic departments on SFSU’s campus. Professor Rabab Abdulhadi, Director of Arab Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies (AMED) at SFSU, wrote in response: “I consider the statement from … President Wong, welcoming Zionists to campus, equating Jewishness with Zionism, and giving Hillel ownership of campus Jewishness, to be a declaration of war against Arabs, Muslims, Palestinians and all those who are committed to and indivisible sense of social justice on and off campus.” She also charged on Facebook that Wong’s statement was “racist, Islamophobic and colonialist” and claimed that the administration was bowing to “donor pressures and the Israeli lobby.”
The Women and Gender Studies Department at SFSU released a statement condemning Wong’s apology. It read in part: “On February 23rd, President Wong of San Francisco State University sent an email to the entire campus community... The Women and Gender Studies Department is deeply concerned about the motivation, tenor, and potential effects of this statement… Wong’s statement fails to express concern or support for Palestinian, Arab, and Middle Eastern students and their allies that are harmed by Zionism… In sum, the Department of Women and Gender Studies unequivocally rejects the equation of Zionism with Judaism, and stands by all of our SFSU students and their right to a university committed to intellectual inquiry and social justice.”
GUPS declared in a Facebook post that “Wong does not have the right to speak on behalf of an entire community while welcoming racist and colonial ideology on a college campus that is meant to educate students. Zionism is not welcome at SFSU or in any space where justice, freedom, and liberation are our goals. We stand united on the front lines of achieving liberation and justice in and for Palestine, academic freedom, and a campus free of hate, Zionism, and White supremacy.”
A combined statement released by the Black Student Union, African Studies Association, Black Residents United in Housing, and Black Business Student Association stated, “To support Palestine is to combat tyranny, totalitarianism, racism, xenophobia, terrorism, colonialism, and state sanctioned violence….Leslie Wong has welcomed terrorism to our campus and has remained an ally to Zionist groups long before releasing a statement that boldly stated that Zionists are welcome on our campus…”
Chalkings in the main campus quad in response to Wong’s apology stated “Zionists Not Welcome” and “Zionism = Racism.”
In June 2017, Jewish students at SFSU together with members of the local community filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against SFSU and the trustees of California State University charging that SFSU has fostered a hostile environment for Jewish students on campus who are “often afraid to wear Stars of David or yarmulkes on campus, and regularly text their friends to describe potential safety issues.” The lawsuit was prompted in part by an incident in April 2016 when a speech by the mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, was disrupted by anti-Israel protestors who chanted “Intifada” (a call for violence and terrorism against Israel) and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” (a statement urging the genocide of Israel’s Jews). During this incident, university administrators told campus police to “stand down” and allowed the protest to continue.
The suit filed against the University claims, “SFSU has not merely fostered and embraced anti-Jewish hostility — it has systematically supported these departments and student groups as they have doggedly organized their efforts to target, threaten, and intimidate Jewish students on campus and deprive them of their civil rights and their ability to feel safe and secure as they pursue their education.” The suit also specifically names SFSU professor Rabab Abdulhadi, the director of SFSU’s Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diaspora Initiative (AMED) and the faculty advisor for SFSU’s Hamas-supporting GUPS chapter, who has a long history of supporting terrorists and their allies.
In April 2017, GUPS held a commemoration of the “Nakba,” a term used by Hamas and its allies to describe the creation of Israel as a “catastrophe.” Signs and advertisements for the event stated “Never Forget, Never Forgive,” and called for the Palestinian’s “Right of Return” which would mean the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state, one of Hamas’s chief aims.
In March 2017, GUPS again brought the anti-Israel hatefest “Israeli Apartheid Week” to campus. This year’s festivities featured a mock checkpoint and a “political discussion and film screening” at which a large banner was featured stating the Hamas libel that “Zionism is racism.”
SFSU GUPS held a March 2017 event on “Israeli Policies in Relation to the Trump Era” at which they attempted to smear both the Trump administration and the Jewish state. The event description claimed “Since the settler colonial project of Israel was established as a state in 1948, the Israel government has used ‘security’ as a pretext to further oppressive and racist policies and practices against the Palestinians. This include[s]… building an Apartheid Wall…a racist ID system… and torture, resulting in the policing, and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.” Israel’s “apartheid wall” is actually a security fence that has saved thousands of Jewish lives by preventing Palestinian terrorists from entering.
GUPS deliberately and maliciously excluded SFSU Hillel from a February 2017 campus fair on the topic of human rights which they helped to organize by changing the registration dates after they had been announced to the public and then claiming the fair was at capacity when in reality many empty tables remained.
In September 2016, GUPS held a campus event to commemorate “one of the hundreds of massacres committed on the Palestinian people: Sabra and Shatila.” A Facebook post about the event claimed that “we hold the United States and Israel for the continue repressions among our communities from police killing black and brown men and women to the Assad regime slaughtering Syrians. If we were to commemorate every massacre in Palestinian history, having an event every single day of the year would still not be enough.” Large signs displayed at the event falsely accused Israel of “settler colonialism” and “ethnic cleansing.” The Sabra and Shatila massacres were carried out by the Lebanese Christian Phalange party as a retaliation for the murder of the president of Lebanon, Bashir Gemayel, by Palestinian terrorists.
In April 2016, SFSU hosted a tour created by National SJP called “Right 2 Education,” featuring two speakers from Birzeit University in Palestine. Birzeit is well known for hosting Hamas rallies and Hamas recently beat out rival party Fatah in student elections there. During the event, the student speakers defended terrorism claiming that acts such as knife attacks on unarmed civilians were merely efforts to “bring attention” to the alleged plight of Palestinians. The speakers praised the genocidal BDS campaign against Israel, and attempted to delegitimize the Israeli state by falsely claiming that Jews “fabricate our history to make it look like they have a right to exist in our country” and that “Israel was built to be a racist state.”
The SFSU General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS) disrupted an April 2016 speech by the Mayor of Jerusalem, NirBarkat, by shouting exhortations to terrorist violence and succeeded in curtailing his address. SFSU students involved in the protest entered the auditorium carrying Palestinian flags and wearing checkered kaffiyehs which are associated with anti-Israel terrorism. The demonstrators then proceeded to shout “Intifada,” and chanted “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” a slogan falsely claiming that Israel is Palestine (Israel is bounded by the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea) and should be destroyed.
When SFSU President Wong called for an investigation into the protestors who shut down Barkat’s speech, GUPS responded by calling Wong’s request an “attack on pro-Palestine protestors” that “criminalize[s] anti-racist speech on campus.”
In Februry 2016, GUPS at SFSU held a rally in solidarity with Mohammed Al-Qeeq, a Palestinian journalist who was arrested and detained by Israel. According to the Associated Press, “Israel’s Shin Bet security service says al-Qeeq is involved in terrorism activities linked to the militant Hamas movement.”
In October 2015, GUPS at SFSU promoted a community protest on its Facebook page supporting terrorism and the Hamas goal of destroying Israel. GUPS’s endorsement stated in part: “The General Union of Palestine Students – GUPS-SFSU supports the uprisings in Palestine! We Stand with our Brothers and Sisters in the streets, and we will find victory! … End to the Zionist State! End to the killings of our Men, Women and Children in cold blood! End to the colonist empire! We will not be silenced!”
In September 2015, GUPS at SFSU held a protest and die-in called “From Sabra to Syria: My Homeland is not a Suitcase.” One student lay on the ground holding a mock Israeli flag with “Stop Settler Colonialism” scrawled across it, an echo of the Hamas claim that the Jews have “colonized” Palestine, a blatant historical falsehood, since the land on which Israel was created belonged to the Turks (who are neither Arabs nor Palestinians) for 400 years previously.
GUPS at SFSU held an event in May 2015 to commemorate the “Nakba,” an Arabic word meaning “catastrophe” that Hamas and its supporters use to describe the creation of Israel. A poster for the event stated “67 years later al-nakba continues. Join GUPS in honoring Palestinian resilience.”
In April 2015, GUPS at SFSU held “Israeli Apartheid Week” on campus. The poster for the event stated, “Together we rise against colonialism,” repeating Hamas’s propaganda lie that the (non-existent) Arab nation of “Palestine” was colonized by Jews. The event included the display of a mock “apartheid wall” painted with anti-Israel propaganda.
In the Fall of 2014, SFSU Professor Rabab Abdulhadi, faculty advisor to GUPS, who had previously taken a university-sponsored trip to the Middle East where she met with terrorists Leila Khaled and Sheikh Raed Salah, posted on her Facebook page, “Today San Francisco State University’s All University Committee on International Programs unanimously voted to recommend that SF State formally collaborate with An-Najah National University in Nablus, Palestine. This is the first time that SFSU will collaborate with any university in a Palestinian, Arab or Muslim community.” The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has writtenof An-Najah University, “Today the student council of An-Najah is known for its advocacy of anti-Israel violence and its recruitment of Palestinian college students into terrorist groups. The council, almost completely controlled by factions loyal to Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah, glorifies suicide bombings and propagandizes for jihad against Israel. Hamas has described An-Najah as a ‘greenhouse for martyrs.’”
In November 2014, GUPS at SFSU held the 7th Annual Edward Said Mural Celebration. Among the event’s speakers was UC Berkeley professor and Hamas agent, Hatem Bazian, former leader of GUPS, and co-founder of Students for Justice in Palestine. Bazian, during a speech at an anti-war rally in San Francisco in 2004, called for an “Intifada” in America: “Well, we’ve been watching [an] Intifada in Palestine, we’ve been watching an uprising in Iraq [against the United States], and the question is what are we doing? How come we don't have an Intifada in this country? Because it seem[s] to me, that we are comfortable in where we are, watching CNN, ABC, NBC, Fox, and all these mainstream ... giving us a window to the world while the world is being managed from Washington, from New York, from every other place in here in San Francisco: Chevron, Bechtel, Carlyle Group, Halliburton; every one of those lying, cheating, stealing, deceiving individuals are in our country and we’re sitting here and watching the world pass by, people being bombed, and it’s about time that we have an Intifada in this country that changes fundamentally the political dynamics in here. And we know ... they’re gonna say some Palestinian [is] being too radical. Well, you haven’t seen radicalism yet!”
In February 2014, SFSU General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS) President Mohammad G. Hammad was exposed as having written a number of threatening social media posts describing his wish to attack students, teachers and Israeli soldiers and to ally himself with anti-Israel terrorists including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Hammad’s posts include: A photo of himself holding a large knife with the caption: “I seriously cannot get over how much I love this blade. It is the sharpest thing I own and cuts through everything like butter and just holding it makes me want to stab an Israeli soldier…” “I think about killing a lot. And some of you are usually the targets of my daydreams J.” “You know what? Israelis ARE colonizers, there is literally no way around it. And you know what else? My heroes have always killed colonizers. I literally see nothing wrong with this. And my only regret is that not all colonizers were killed.”
In response to a poster that asked “how can I help actively support Palestine,” Hammad responded “Buy a keffieyh. Learn to tie it around your head…get in touch with some PFLP militants or arms dealers in the West Bank. Learn IDF patrol routes…BOOM.” “Let’s play a game. Objective: Kill U.S. Soldiers. Goal: world peace.” “The number of times I have legitimately considered flying back to the Middle East and joining the armed wing of the PFLP or something is surprisingly high.” “I think about the time I tried to be - moderate - and advocate for non-violence and honestly I just want to go back in time and slit my own throat/and then the throats of all my enemies before they grow up into the shits they are today.” “Oh/And tomorrow is [hopefully] the day that I find out if I will be the President of the General Union of Palestine at my school/...Hopefully I'll be able to radicalize half of our population and bring them back with me as fighters.”
After Jewish groups and the media exposed his postings, Hammad eventually left campus and was placed under investigation by the Joint Terrorism Task Force and the FBI.
During a December 2013 “emergency rally” held by GUPS at SFSU, the phrase “My Heroes Have Always Killed Colonizers” was written with chalk on the concrete stage at Malcolm X Plaza. The same phrase, referring to the Hamas assertion that Jews have colonized Arab Palestine and must be exterminated, was also written on a sign at a display table during the “Edward Said Mural Celebration.” Said was a Columbia professor who was a member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s Palestinian National Council until 1991 when he resigned because he thought the terrorist Yasser Arafat’s policies were too moderate towards Israel.