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Outrage as Taxpayer Dollars Helping American Ex-Cons Meet with Palestinian Radicals

January 29th 2017

Hamas head

Should taxpayer dollars be used to fund meetings between American terrorists and Palestinian radicals? San Francisco State University, a public university notorious for sympathy to violent radicals, apparently thinks so. Last year, it sent Americans who served time in prison for crimes ranging from bombing the United States Senate to conspiracy to murder to meet with fellow former "political prisoners" at An-Najah University in the West Bank.

Described by Hamas as a "greenhouse for martyrs," and by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy as a hub for the "terrorist recruitment, indoctrination and radicalization of students," An-Najah entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with SFSU in December 2014. The "Freedom Behind Bars Workshop," organized by Memorandum of Understanding architect and SFSU professor Rabab Abdulhadi, is the first known event facilitated by the memorandum.


Participants in the "Prisoner, Labor, and Academic Delegation" to An-Najah that culminated in the workshop included four self-described American "political prisoners" who met with self-described Palestinian "political prisoners" for the purpose of sharing "presentations about the marginalized histories of colonial repression, racism, and resistance in Palestine and the U.S."

To describe these four as "political prisoners," akin to former Soviet Union refusenik Natan Sharansky or protesters imprisoned in Iran's "Green Revolution," is both inaccurate and insulting. They are common criminals or radicals who employed violence and terrorism to effect political change in the U.S. rather than engaging in the democratic process. That they would make common cause with Palestinian radicals who prefer terrorism to negotiation makes perfect sense.

Case in point: Delegation member Laura Whitehorn is a longtime communist radical, who, along with six members of a Weather Underground-initiated organization, was convicted of bombing the U.S. Senate, three military installations in the Washington D.C. area, and four sites in New York City, including the Israeli Aircraft Industries building, between 1983 and 1985. Whitehorn's goal, according to the indictment, was "to influence, change and protest policies and practices of the United States Government concerning various international and domestic matters through the use of violent and illegal means." She was sentenced to 20 years in prison and served 14 years before being paroled in 1999.

Another delegation member, Claude Daniel Marks, was on the FBI's Ten Most-Wanted list for his role in a conspiracy to free Oscar Lopez, the Chicago leader of the Puerto Rican separatist group Fuerzas Armadas de Liberacion Nacional from the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth. The plot involved blowing up the maximum-security prison, landing a helicopter in the confusion, and freeing Lopez. Marks surrendered to the FBI in 1994 after nearly a decade living under an assumed identity. Under a plea bargain, he plead guilty to charges stemming from the aborted escape attempt and was sentenced to prison.

Once linked to the Weather Underground and other domestic terrorist groups, Marks signed a 2008 statement of "solidarity" with former Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers.

An-Najah delegation member Manuel La Fontaine was convicted of the attempted murder of Silvano Campos in a Daly City, Calif., gang dispute. Seventeen-year-old William Tejada, who identified La Fontaine as the shooter, was later tortured and murdered by the Daly City Locos Gang for talking to the police about the shooting.

Meanwhile, former Black Panther Party member and delegation participant Henry (Hank) Jones was indicted in 2007 for the 1971 murder of police officer John V. Young at a San Francisco police station. He was released after a court rendered a decision stating the methods used to obtain information leading to his indictment were illegal.

In keeping with the unsavory backgrounds of these so-called "political prisoners," the delegation presented workshop participants with a pamphlet adorned with a drawing of a Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terrorist named Rasmea Odeh, formerly a U.S. citizen. It contained "messages of solidarity" from "current U.S.-held political prisoners," including convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal, who also phoned in from prison in Pennsylvania.

Given the moral vacuity of the proceedings, it's appropriate that the workshop would be convened by Abdulhadi, who openly calls for a "Third Intifada" and met with the infamous PFLP hijacker Leila Khaled in the West Bank while working to establish the Memorandum of Understanding. Moreover, terrorist hotbed An-Najah provides the perfect setting.

In a time when the radicalization of U.S. citizens has led to terrorist attacks, such as in San Bernardino and Orlando, connecting Americans with a history of violence and radicalism with a university that doubles as a haven for terrorism is a recipe for disaster.

Even worse, this is happening thank to a public university that receives funds from both the state and federal governments. Taxpayers should not foot the bill for universities that want to connect violent American radicals to their counterparts in the Middle East. The Memorandum of Understanding must end.

Cinnamon Stillwell is the west coast representative for Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum. Cliff Smith is the Washington Project Director for the Middle East Forum.

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