Stanford University's campus from above / Wikimedia Commons
Stanford University campus (Photo/Wikimedia)

Flare-up over Stanford student’s threat against Zionists

Stanford University administrators say they are addressing a student’s Facebook posts vowing to “fight Zionists on campus” amid calls by campus and outside groups to fire the Palestinian student from his position as a residential assistant or even expel him.

A day after the Knesset passed a law on July 19 declaring Israel the “nation-state of the Jewish people,” Stanford undergrad Hamzeh Daoud wrote a Facebook post reacting to the legislation.

“I’m gonna physically fight Zionists on campus next year if someone comes at me with their ‘Israel is a democracy’ bullshit,” he wrote. “And after I abolish your ass I’ll go ahead and work every day for the rest of my life to abolish your petty ass ethno-supremacist, settler-colonial state.”

Daoud amended the post less than four hours later, replacing the word “physically” with “intellectually” and saying he made the change “because I realize intellectually beating Zionists is the only way to go. Physical fighting is never an answer when trying to prove people wrong.”

Daoud, a former member of the school’s undergraduate senate who will be a junior when the fall quarter begins Sept. 24, sent an email three days later to the Stanford Jewish community mailing list in which he apologized “for the pain I made the Jewish community feel.”

“I do not apologize for my stance that continues to be against Israel, and I hope you respect this difference in political opinion from yours as much as I respect your difference in stance,” he wrote. “I never intended, and will never intend, to cause any harm to the Jewish community. I respect the Jewish community, the beauty and resilience of the Jewish religion and people, and the power that Jewish students bring to campus.”

Stanford spokesperson E.J. Miranda, the university’s senior director of media relations, said in an email that “threats of physical violence have absolutely no place in the Stanford community.”

“We are actively addressing the issues surrounding the recent Facebook post that was physically threatening to some members of our community,” he added. “Our students must feel they are able to voice their own views on campus without fear of physical retaliation, and they also must feel physically safe in our student residences.”

Hillel at Stanford issued messages condemning Daoud’s post and saying “every student, including Israeli, Jewish and Zionist, has the right to feel safe on campus. It is unacceptable for anyone to create a climate of fear at Stanford, or potentially endanger other students.

“Hillel at Stanford takes this matter very seriously and [we] have been working with university administration to ensure appropriate protocols are followed as they assess and respond to this situation.”

Some groups went further.

The Stanford College Republicans called for the university to fire Daoud from his position as a resident assistant (he reportedly is slated to serve as an RA in an on-campus dormitory during the upcoming school year), and the New York-based right-wing Zionist Organization of America sent an email to Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne saying Daoud “should be expelled immediately.”

“In addition, we strongly urge you to report his conduct to law enforcement so that they can investigate whether his actions are criminal and he should be prosecuted,” the ZOA wrote.

The Stanford Daily reported that Daoud, in an email to the newspaper, wrote that his post was a “spur-of-the-moment emotional reaction” to the law. “As a third-generation Palestinian refugee, I was appalled and took to Facebook to share my pain.” He added that he does not deserve punishment for his comments, the Daily reported.

He also wrote, according to the Daily, that the “use of the word ‘physical fighting’ was an emotional outburst in a social media platform with no tangible effects, no matter how hard SCR tries to conflate it.” In a second email to the Daily, he wrote, “I apologize if I made anyone feel unsafe. That was not the intent and will never be an intent of mine at all,” the paper reported.

According to a Facebook post by the student magazine Stanford Politics, formerly Stanford Political Journal, Daoud has been an “active leader” in Students for Justice in Palestine who grew up in Jordan and was “one of two Muslim senators” in the undergraduate senate. He also participated in a “widely seen, on-campus protest following [President Donald] Trump’s designation of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” Stanford Politics wrote in the post. He attended Amman Academy, a private, English-Arabic language school in Jordan, from kindergarten through his 12th-grade graduation, according to an tweet by the school.

Stanford spokesman Miranda said the school is “working to address the issues in a manner that advances our commitment to an inclusive community and a safe campus environment.”

“The mission of a university depends on the open exchange of ideas and the sharing of divergent viewpoints, including on controversial issues,” Miranda wrote. “At the same time, however, members of our community absolutely must be able to live, work and study at Stanford without fear for their personal safety.”

Rob Gloster

Rob Gloster z"l was J.'s senior writer from 2016-2019.