San Francisco State University's scheduled program Friday with PFLP terrorist Leila Khaled is in doubt, as the online registration for the Zoom-hosted event has been taken down.
Zoom has not responded to requests for comment Tuesday and Wednesday. A spokesperson told the Investigative Project on Terrorism last week that the online video conferencing service was "reviewing the facts of this event to determine if it is consistent with our Terms of Service and Community Standards and will decide on an appropriate course of action after that review."
The program, "Whose Narratives? Gender, Justice and Resistance," carried the exact same title, and was organized by the same people whose talk with Khaled – an unrepentant two-time hijacker and member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – was canceled by Zoom last September.
Zoom has canceled this program, too, the Lawfare Project said Wednesday. The organization said it repeated arguments that Zoom could be helping provide material support to a designated terrorist group by allowing Khaled to speak on its platform.
Last week, Eventbrite and Facebook took down posts promoting the event.
Zoom's decision is sure to spark new controversy, coming a week after Zoom announced a new policy carving out an academic freedom exemption to its service terms.
Zoom would only investigate alleged violations of its service and community standards policies involving higher education "that come from the meeting's host or the account's owners or administrators," the policy said, "unless ... Zoom determines that there is legal or regulatory risk to Zoom if it does not act" or if the content is not relevant to the school's mission.
As we noted last week, Zoom's community standards page promises to block meetings that celebrate "any violent act that may inspire others to replicate it." It also says there "is no place for terrorist or violent extremist groups on Zoom, or for those who affiliate with them or promote their activities."
In a talk given a week after her San Francisco State program was canceled last September, Khaled advocated for "armed resistance" – violence – against Israelis.
"We have used all means of struggle, and we are still determined to continue using all means of struggle, including armed struggle," she said. "Whoever would tell us that this is not your right, I will tell them, 'go back to history. Go back to history and go back to the United Nations charter.' The international community recognize that people under oppression have the right to resist."
San Francisco State Associate Professor Rabab Abdulhadi is one of the key organizers of these programs. She participated in a program Wednesday decrying restrictions in debates about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It was sponsored by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which was part of a Muslim Brotherhood-run Hamas-support network.
Abdulhadi spoke about last fall's Zoom cancellation, but did not appear aware that Friday's program is off, too.
"So it is not about actually who speaks and where they speak," she said. "It's about silencing the very idea of producing knowledge about Palestine and connecting it to the indivisibility of justice ... We will not be silenced and we will continue to produce models for justice."
If the program were merely that, an academic discussion about Palestine, it is unlikely Zoom would think twice. It is the insistence that PFLP terrorists, especially those who continue to advocate violence, that keeps putting Abdulahdi and her colleagues outside Zoom's service terms.
Leila Khaled hasn't given up on her violent ideas. Those trying to amplify those views aren't likely to stop, either.
Steven Emerson is Executive Director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism (www.investigativeproject.org), the author of eight books on national security and terrorism, the producer of two documentaries, and the author of hundreds of articles in national and international publications.
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