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Anthropology guest lecturer accused by students of encouraging anti-Semitism

During a lecture in the Fowler Museum, Rabab Abdulhadi, an Arab and Muslim ethnicities studies professor at San Francisco State University, and students argued about the contents of Abdulhadi’s lecture. Abdulhadi said Zionism is linked to white supremacy. (Tanmay Shankar/Daily Bruin)

By Marilyn Chavez-Martinez

May 16, 2019 12:50 am

Students said they think a guest lecturer for an anthropology class promoted anti-Semitic ideas Tuesday.

Rabab Abdulhadi, an Arab and Muslim ethnicities studies professor at San Francisco State University, delivered a guest lecture to roughly 100 students in Anthropology M144P: “Constructing Race,” which focuses on race and racism and is taught by Kyeyoung Park, an associate professor of anthropology and Asian American studies at UCLA.

Prior to the lecture, students said they were told attendance was mandatory and that the lecture would cover topics of Islamophobia.

Abdulhadi said during the lecture she supports Jewish people who oppose the state of Israel. She also said she thinks the state of Israel has committed colonialist actions that are related to white supremacy.

During the lecture, some students snapped their fingers in support of Abdulhadi’s comments. Other students said they think the lecture veered into anti-Semitism.

Abdulhadi did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Shayna Lavi, a third-year anthropology student, told Abdulhadi during the lecture that she found Abdulhadi’s equating of Zionism with white supremacy offensive as a Jewish and Zionist student. Zionism is a movement advocating for the establishment of the Jewish state Israel in Palestine.

Abdulhadi said during the lecture she respected Lavi’s feelings and continued delivering the lecture. She added she did not claim to speak for all sides on the subject.

“I am coming here to speak about a particular topic, the way I see it as a scholar and a scholar-activist and a public intellectual engaged in things every single day,” Abdulhadi said.

Abdulhadi said while she respected the students’ views, she was invited as a guest lecturer to the class to give her perspective and her comments. She said she would continue lecturing because students should respect all perspectives and her comments should challenge their ideas.

“You cannot interrupt me now, I will tell you why,” Abdulhadi said. “Because today is my lecture. I am respecting you. … It’s alright if you are uncomfortable.”

Viktorya Saroyan, a third-year sociology student, said she did not think Abdulhadi responded well to criticism from students.

Ashari Whitt, a third-year African American studies and gender studies student, said in an email statement she attended the lecture and spoke to Abdulhadi during the Q&A portion. Whitt said she thinks criticisms against a foreign government should not target individuals or religious groups.

Whitt said she thinks Park failed to adequately mediate the discussion between the students and the guest lecturer.

Lavi said Park did not intervene when she saw her crying and has not addressed the lecture with the class after the event.

“(Park) hasn’t contacted me, it’s been over 24 hours, there’s been no apology sent out, nothing reprimanding the speaker,” Lavi said.

Park declined to comment.

After the lecture, Saroyan and Lavi both sent reports of the lecture to Jerry Kang, the vice chancellor of equity, diversity and inclusion. In the letters, both Saroyan and Lavi refer to the lecture discourse as hate speech.

Lavi said she would like Park to bring in a Jewish educator to speak about anti-Semitism. Saroyan said she plans to file a formal complaint with the Discrimination Prevention Office.

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Marilyn Chavez-Martinez | Outreach director
Chavez-Martinez is the 2019-2020 Assistant News editor for the Campus Politics beat. She was previously a reporter for the beat. Chavez-Martinez is also a second-year English major.
Chavez-Martinez is the 2019-2020 Assistant News editor for the Campus Politics beat. She was previously a reporter for the beat. Chavez-Martinez is also a second-year English major.
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