Updated: 2:28 p.m., Sept. 23, 2020
After livestreaming for about 23 minutes on YouTube, today’s roundtable conversation from San Francisco State University featuring Palestinian hijacker Leila Khaled suddenly went dark.
“This video has been removed for violating YouTube’s Terms of Service,” a message reads on the page. The livestream had at least 900 viewers when it was shut down. It abruptly ended when an old video of Khaled was being shown where she defended her former activities.
“People have the right to fight those who occupy their land by any means possible, including weapons,” Khaled said in the video right before the feed stopped.
Titled “Whose Narratives? Gender, Justice and Resistance,” the virtual discussion was organized by SF State’s Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies department, and was to include a talk by Khaled, moderated by AMED associate professor Rabab Abdulhadi, as well as a post-talk conversation with Khaled and several other activists.
Zoom announced on Sept. 22 that Khaled’s participation in the event would violate company policy and that it would not allow its platform to be used as a host. It disabled its registration link, and the Facebook link where people could sign up to attend became inactive this morning, leaving organizers scrambling to find a new platform.
Event organizers also reached out to S.F. State for help in finding a new webinar host and said in social media posts that the university was working with them.
In a letter to Jennifer Summit, provost and vice president for academic affairs, they wrote: “SFSU and CSU are obligated to defend us against the vilification and smearing by an Israel lobby that is troubled by and seeks to silence Palestinian narratives and scholarship, teaching and advocacy for justice in/for Palestine.”
Neither YouTube, Facebook, S.F. State nor AMED immediately responded to a request for comment.
Abdulhadi said in status updates on her personal Facebook page that Zoom had removed the event link, and later reported that YouTube had pulled the plug midconversation.
“Facebook has taken down the AMED event page and disappeared the Leila Khaled webinar,” she wrote.
The original event page showed several hundred people planning to attend the talk, and over 2,000 people “interested.”
On its Facebook page yesterday after the Zoom cancellation was announced, AMED posted that it would be hosting the event over Facebook Live in what, at the time, appeared to be the department’s choice for an alternative hosting platform.
The post called for supporters to “post a 30-second video in any language of yourself supporting” the event. A Change.org petition expressing support for the event and “academic freedom on Palestine” had more than 1,800 signatures and counting as of Wednesday morning.
“Leila Khaled is a powerful, inspiring figure,” the petition read, calling the proposed event a “historic conversation [on] resistance, resilience, and gender.”
As a counterpoint to the Khaled event, San Francisco Hillel will be hosting a “Vigil for Victims of Terror” at 6 p.m. along with the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Community Relations Council and other local organizations. According to S.F. Hillel’s executive director Rachel Nilson Ralston, SFSU president Lynn Mahoney and state Sen. Scott Wiener will be speaking. A prerecorded video of Uri Bar-Lev, the El Al pilot on board Khaled’s hijacked plane in 1970, will be featured in a prerecorded video, along with poems by SFSU students.
Commenting on Zoom’s decision, Ralston said, “The San Francisco Hillel community is relieved that Zoom, who provides such a vital tool to our students, will not allow their platform to amplify hatred or promote a known terrorist. We are grateful for the outpouring of concern and support. As always, we’re focused on supporting our students as they move forward with our ongoing efforts to improve San Francisco State University’s campus climate.”
“Zoom made the commendable decision not to give hate a platform,” said JCRC Middle East project director Karen Stiller. Hosting this event would have been a serious ethical violation. We encourage everyone to join Captain Uri Bar-Lev, the pilot who thwarted Leila Khaled’s hijacking in 1970, at tonight’s vigil where he will stand alongside San Francisco State University President Lynn Mahoney and, most importantly, the SFSU students still on the front line of this evolving situation.”