A sign in front of Zoom headquarters in San Jose during a protest demanding that the company not host an upcoming event featuring Leila Khaled. (Photo/Facebook-Shield of David)
A sign in front of Zoom headquarters in San Jose during a protest demanding that the company not host an upcoming event featuring Leila Khaled. (Photo/Facebook-Shield of David)

Zoom will not host S.F. State event featuring Leila Khaled

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Zoom announced late Tuesday afternoon that San Francisco State University will not be allowed to use its videoconferencing platform to host an event Wednesday featuring Palestinian hijacker Leila Khaled because her participation in the virtual event violates company policy.

“Zoom is committed to supporting the open exchange of ideas and conversations, subject to certain limitations contained in our Terms of Service, including those related to user compliance with applicable U.S. export control, sanctions, and anti-terrorism laws,” the company’s statement read.

“In light of the speaker’s reported affiliation or membership in a U.S. designated foreign terrorist organization, and SFSU’s inability to confirm otherwise, we determined the meeting is in violation of Zoom’s Terms of Service and told SFSU they may not use Zoom for this particular event.”

The development is a major victory for Israel advocates and activists combating antisemitism, who held an in-person protest the day of the announcement outside of Zoom’s headquarters in San Jose to urge the company not to host the event.

Khaled, who hijacked two planes in 1969 and 1970 as a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, was scheduled to speak via Zoom to students and the public on Sept. 23 as part of a conversation called “Whose Narratives? Gender, Justice and Resistance,” organized by the university’s Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies program.

The PFLP is designated a terrorist organization by the State Department and the European Union, among others.

“[A]ll communications platforms have been put on notice: block terrorism and cancel anti-Semitism, or you will be canceled,” read a statement from the Lawfare Project, a New York-based legal fund that helped organize the protest. “Today, we see the power of minority communities standing together.”

The main organizer, End Jew Hatred, which describes itself as “a grassroots movement centering on Jewish liberation,” brought together a number of national Jewish groups for support, including the Lawfare Project, San Diego-based antisemitism educational nonprofit Shield of David and the network of pro-Israel youth groups Club Z.

It is unclear whether organizers of the Khaled event are looking for another virtual host for Wednesday’s talk. The event is still listed on AMED’s website, and registration is open. Attempts by J. to reach professor Rabab Abdulhadi, senior scholar at AMED and the event’s main organizer, were unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, a “Vigil for Victims of Terror” scheduled for 6 p.m. directly following the Khaled event, will go forward as planned as a counterpoint to the AMED roundtable conversation.

S.F. Hillel executive director Rachel Nilson Ralston, whose organization is the main sponsor of the vigil, in cooperation with the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation, Jewish Community Relations Council, Anti-Defamation League and Israeli Consulate in San Francisco, confirmed this in an email to J.

Asked whether the vigil is going forward because she believes organizers of the Khaled event will find another hosting platform, Ralston responded: “I can’t speak to what the professors will do. Our students feel it’s important to gather to affirm our values and vision for our campus.”

Gabriel Greschler

Gabriel Greschler was a staff writer at J. from 2019 to 2021.