Dear Professor Fred Astren, Why Does San Francisco State University Support Violence Against Jews?


Look, I do not like it any better than you do.

San Francisco State University is among the most anti-Semitic and racist universities in the United States.

I can affirm this first-hand because I was there as a graduate student toward the end of the 1990s in the Department of History.

I studied American History and, therefore, spent considerable time reading about the enslavement of African peoples over centuries upon the American continents.

Of course, no one ever really taught us about a mere thirteen centuries of Jewish persecution under Arab-Muslim imperial rule, even in classes having to do with Middle Eastern history, because that was simply not on the political agenda, and still is not.

If you want to get that material you must read independently.

American departments of history will make a nod toward such material, but generally de-emphasize.  It has to be understood that for very good reasons American liberal academia tends to be highly critical of the west and, for not very good reasons, gives the history of Arab-Muslim imperialism a pass.

Thus I recommend:

Martin Gilbert, In Ishmael’s House: A History of Jews in Muslim Lands, Yale University Press, 2010.

Andrew G. Bostom, The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims, Prometheus Books, 2008.

Efraim Karsh, Palestine Betrayed, Yale University Press, 2010.

Efraim Karsh, Islamic Imperialism: A History, Yale University Press, 2007.

Edwin Black, The Farhud: Roots of the Arab-Nazi Alliance in the Holocaust, Dialog Press, 2010.

It is a place to start, anyway.

American academia supports ethnic diversity throughout the university systems and American life, more generally, as it should.  Given American history, this is natural, necessary, and just… in theory.

In practice, however, it does not always work out as intended, not when it ends up implicitly calling for violence against the tiny Jewish minority.

The fact of the matter is that American university campuses – with SFSU taking something of a leadership role – are becoming more and more hostile to the Jewish people and thus toward Jewish students and Jewish youths.  This is mainly true in the humanities (not the sciences, obviously) in which notions of “social justice” and “human rights” are now ironically used as a club against the the Jewish State of Israel and Jewish students on American university campuses.

malcomIn 2002 there was an under-publicized attack against Jewish students at San Francisco State University not long after I made my departure.

Professor Fred Astren, now head of the Middle Eastern Studies Program, and a professor of mine for two classes in Jewish history, literally put his body in front of an angry mob of Arab and “progressive” students who were confronting a small number of Jewish students at the Malcolm X Plaza on that campus.

I did not witness that event, having departed the year before, although it is probably the most famous attack against Jews in San Francisco State University history.

Dr. Astren is something of a hero among those of us who care about such things.

Sadly, however, it does not change the fact that his department also finances professor Rabab Abdulhadi, who spreads hatred toward the Jewish people under the faux-banner of “social justice” and “universal human rights.”

The very last thing in this world that professor Abdulhadi cares about is “universal human rights.”

How else to explain that she recently went on a solidarity tour throughout Israel, and environs, meeting with plane hijackers and those who seek the slaughter of the Jewish people?

San Francisco State has got major problems and, as a Jew and an alum, I very much resent the fact that the university administration, and President Wong, are standing behind the terrorist professor Rabab Abdulhadi.

She was the adviser to the General Union of Palestine Students who, just last year, called directly for the murder of “colonizers,” by which they meant Jews in Israel, and who the university gave $7,000 of taxpayer money to meet with racist plane hijacker, Leila Khaled, not for academic purposes, but, according to Tammi Benjamin, of the AMCHA Institute, for purposes of political outreach.

Professor Fred Astren is the Department Chair for Jewish Studies at San Francisco State University, as well as a member of the faculty of Middle East and Islamic Studies.

He can be reached at or at 415-338-3152.

He was a professor of mine and, I would say, an exceedingly genial, intelligent, knowledgeable, and caring person.

I would recommend that you guys direct your questions concerning the anti-Jewish hatred being spread at his campus to him.

If he will not address it, after all, then who will?

About the Author
Mike Lumish is a PhD in American history from the Pennsylvania State University and has taught at PSU, San Francisco State University, and the City College of San Francisco. He regularly publishes on the Arab-Israel conflict at the Times of Israel and at his own blog, Israel Thrives ( He has in recent years given conference papers on American cultural and intellectual history at The International Society for the History of Behavioral and Social Sciences in Dublin, Ireland, as well as at the Western Historical Association in Phoenix, Arizona and the American Cultural Association in New Orleans, Louisiana. Lumish is also the founding editor of the scholarly on-line discussion forum H-1960s. He can be contacted at