A Palestinian hijacker is scheduled to speak at a virtual roundtable discussion organised by San Francisco State University.
Leila Khaled was part of a team that hijacked TWA Flight 840 on its way from Rome to Tel Aviv in August 1969. A year later she participated in the attempted hijacking of an El Al flight from Amsterdam to New York City as part of the Dawson’s Field hijackings, a series of simultaneous hijackings carried out by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Khaled was arrested in London, where the pilot diverted the plane, and later released in exchange for hostages from another hijacking. She lives in Amman, Jordan.
Khaled, 76, will speak as part of a Sept. 23 event organised by the university’s Department of Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies on “Teaching Palestine.” Her discussion is titled “Whose Narratives? Gender, Justice, & Resistance: A conversation with Leila Khaled.” She is billed as a Palestinian feminist, militant and leader.
Jewish groups in San Francisco, as well as national Jewish organisation, have slammed the university’s decision to give Khaled a platform.
“An invitation to a public figure to speak to a class should not be construed as an endorsement of point of view,” said a statement from the university sent to J. The Jewish News of Northern California and other media outlets. “Higher education and the college experience are an opportunity to hear divergent ideas, viewpoints and accounts of life experiences.”
The statement, which the Forward reported came from the office of the university’s president, Lynn Mahoney, also said, “We recognise that the exercise of free speech and academic freedom can result in discomfort or pain for others.”
Khaled reportedly still has ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which is classified as a terrorist organisation in the United States, as well as Canada, Israel and the European Union, The Jerusalem Post reported.
Among the groups that have criticised the university are the Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee, San Francisco Hillel and the local Jewish Community Relations Council.