signs says the name of the university with students passing by
San Francisco State University (File photo)

Judge dismisses S.F. State anti-Semitism suit

A federal judge has formally dismissed a lawsuit filed by a group of Jewish students and community members who claimed they were victims of systemic anti-Semitism at San Francisco State University.

U.S. District Judge William Orrick, who said at an Aug. 8 hearing that he had tentatively decided to reject all of the students’ claims, issued a written opinion this week dismissing the case.

The New York-based Lawfare Project, which supported the students in the case, said it will appeal Orrick’s ruling and is moving ahead with a similar lawsuit against SFSU filed earlier this year in California Superior Court by two of the students who filed the federal claim. A state court trial is set for March 18, 2019.

“We strongly disagree with the order and intend to pursue an appeal in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals,” a Lawfare statement said. “We always knew that the road to justice would be long, and we look forward to continuing to fight for the members of the community who have suffered — and continue to suffer — at SFSU because of their Jewish or Israeli heritage.”

The suit originally was filed in June 2017, claiming a half-century of anti-Semitism at SFSU and focusing on the campus shout-down of Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat by pro-Palestinian groups in April 2016 and San Francisco Hillel’s exclusion from the February 2017 “Know Your Rights” fair on campus.

Orrick dismissed the original version of the suit earlier this year, but allowed attorneys for the students to refile an amended claim. The judge said during the Aug. 8 hearing that the amended suit still failed to show “deliberate indifference” on the part of SFSU or significant injury to the students.

The suit sought monetary and punitive damages, admission of fault by SFSU and actions aimed at protecting Jews on campus.

But Orrick said at the August hearing that he found no evidence Jewish students were denied their First Amendment rights in the incident involving Barkat, and that there were no violations of equal-protection rights in the “Know Your Rights” event.

The suit also named Rabab Abdulhadi, an associate professor in SFSU’s College of Ethnic Studies, as a defendant along with SFSU administrators. Abdulhadi, director of SFSU’s Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas program, has been condemned by Jewish organizations for her anti-Zionist messages.

Abdulhadi is not named as a defendant in the state court case.

Rob Gloster

Rob Gloster is J.'s senior writer. He can be reached at rob@jweekly.com.