Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Ongoing Saga of San Francisco State and Mohammad Hammad

Michael L.

Shortly after Tammi Rossman-Benjamin of the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the AMCHA Initiative, pointed out a call for murder at the November 7 Edward Said mural event in San Francisco State University (SFSU) she was denounced.

The president of GUPS, Mohammad Hammad, wrote the following on their official Facebook page as a petition to SFSU president Les Wong soon after the incident and almost one month before the larger media, including me, took notice:
We are appalled at this blatant attack against the integrity and principled position that GUPS has maintained throughout its history. We are horrified by the baseless attack and allegations of anti-Semitism that have been leveled against GUPS and the Cesar Chavez Student Center, the organizers of the 6th annual anniversary of the Palestinian Cultural Mural honoring the late professor Edward Said.” - Mohammad Hammad.

It is hard to fathom the degree of hypocrisy that it takes for a man who speaks of "integrity" and "principled positions," yet who also calls for the decapitated head of a Jewish woman to be brought to him on a plate.

The degree of cognitive dissonance, or what George Orwell called "doublethink," is quite simply astounding.

Mohammad Hammad is, until confirmed otherwise, the president of the General Union of Palestine Students at San Francisco State University.  Just how his allies will defend him is rather hard to imagine given the fact that he called quite specifically for murder at least twice in public forums.

Not only did he suggest that all friends of the Israeli military should be killed - which would include, of course, the vast majority of Jews, not to mention how many tens of millions of Americans and Australians and Canadians? - but that he personally wants a specific female Israeli soldier to be murdered and voiced that desire on a social media page.

And that may be his crucial mistake... if people from various ethnic groups are held to the same standards of human decency, that is.

It is one thing for a young, angry Muslim male from Ramallah, receiving higher education at San Francisco State University, with the benefit of US taxpayer cash, to call for murder toward Jewish Israelis, but it is another thing entirely for that same individual, as a student organizational leader, to call for the specific murder of a young Israeli Jewish woman who is guilty of nothing more than protecting a fellow soldier from an apparent attack.

I just do not see how either SFSU or the state of California should be paying for such a thing.

I was very much hoping to move away from this story by now, because it gives me no pleasure.  I have a personal connection to San Francisco State University and I found my time there, through the late 1990s and the early part early part of the 2000s, intellectually engaging and personally satisfying.

{I even met my wife there.}

But, you must admit, there is a problem.

And the problem is not the likelihood of racial violence on that campus.  The real problem is with the ongoing attempt by Arab and Muslim organizations throughout the world to demonize the Jewish State of Israel and, thus implicitly, the Jewish people, more generally.

That is the real problem and it is not a new problem.

What seriously compounds that problem is the institutional unwillingness throughout the western academe and media to hold Arabs or Muslims accountable for their words or behavior out of some bigoted and wrong-headed sense that they cannot be held responsible for themselves.  This is to say that the west is so "racist" towards Arabs and Muslims that they refuse to hold them to any standards of general human decency.

This is, of course, entirely demeaning toward the great Arab-Muslim population in the Middle-East who neither scream for the blood of the Jews, nor who promote political Islam, and who want nothing so much as to raise their children in peace... or so one hopes.

It is, in fact, an exceedingly imperial attitude that smacks of "white man's burden."

Mohammad Hammad wrote the quote above as part of GUPS' larger response to those "My heroes have always killed colonizers" signs displayed at the Edward Said mural event:
GUPS has historically stood for justice in/for Palestine and has linked our struggle with that of all people’s struggles for self-determination, justice and peace.
This quote, to my mind, gets to the saddest thing about this little tempest.  The statement above is a lie.

GUPS does not stand with all people's struggles for self-determination, justice and peace, precisely because it leaves the Jewish people out of that equation, entirely.

The very people that the Arab nation should be apologizing to for 13 centuries of general ill-treatment and abuse under Muslim imperial rule is the very people that they continue to harass and demonize until this current moment.  Mr. Hammad is just one small example of the spread of that demonization and the toxic mushrooms that it can grow anywhere in the world.

What matters to very many of us, at this point, however, is how SFSU chooses to respond.  Thus far, the university is playing cards close to the chest and I certainly agree that the office of the president should be allowed sufficient time to do the due diligence and go through their procedures.

Nonetheless, the school owes it to its students and its alumni to be forthcoming about the forms of those procedures and their outcomes.

My main concern is that the university will stonewall this and that we cannot allow.


  1. Didn't you read Mohammad Hammad's personal statement, Mike? Calling for the "decapitated head of a Jewish woman to be brought to him on a plate."
    is just his way of expressing his sense of humor. And we are over reacting to his calls for murder and violence, since he is against murder and violence. We should just ignore his private calls for murder and violence , because his public statement is the only one that matters.

    I feel so much better now after his explanation

    1. I think that the main thing to focus on, at this point, is president Wong and how his office reacts.

      I find Hammad's personal statement interesting because it represents another example of how when we call out violent racism toward ourselves we are castigated as perpetrators against an innocent Arab minority.

      It's fascinating, actually.

      He wrote:

      I do not now, nor have I ever, had any intention of committing violence against anybody.

      And, yet, he also wrote:

      I seriously can not 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.

      But the fact of the matter is that he said what he said and rather than doing a little soul-searching on the matter he will turn it on us and - as a betting man - I think that he will succeed.

      That is, my suspicion at this point is that president Wong's office believes that it has more urgent matters to concern itself with and if it stalls even for a week, or so, this whole thing will blow over.

      And, if this turns out to be the case, it means that SFSU is entirely unfriendly territory for the Jewish people and perhaps we should alert them to this possibility.

      We shall see.

    2. Really, btw, what this is all about is the normalizing of violent hatred toward Jews.

      That is, in fact, what Mr. Hammad is doing, whether he recognizes it or not, and I suspect that he does not.

      The fact that he feels free to even defend what he wrote tells us that the administration has put little, or no, pressure upon him.

      Nor has the SFPD.