Speaking Palestine at San Francisco State?

By Saliem Shehadeh
Submitted to Session P6583 (Whose Narratives? Whose Classrooms? Teaching Palestine and Gender; Sexual Justice in the Age of (Corporatized) Pandemic, 2021 Annual Meeting
LCD Projector with Audio Patch or Speakers;
On September 23, 2020, the Zoom Company took the unprecedented move to cancel a virtual classroom featuring Palestinian feminist icon Leila Khaled after a major effort by Zionist organizations demanded its censorship. ACT.IL (Online Community for Israel), a social networking application for supporters of Israel which boasts a relationship with Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs, activated its membership to send over 19,000 complaints to Zoom and other internet companies. Holding an exclusive video-conferencing contract with the California State University system, one of among the largest 4-year public university systems in the world, Zoom, along with Google Meets, holds an effective monopoly over online classroom software. The COVID-19 pandemic has massively shifted collective spaces to a digital realm, including at SFSU and the CSU system where all classes were online. It is a shift that has been years in the making, and one that I argue is here to stay. On the morning of September 23, all efforts to maneuver the technological landscape were thwarted when both Facebook and YouTube joined Zoom and blocked the livestreaming of the classroom. At the same time, while the university Provost and President claimed to uphold the academic freedom of the two professors who hosted the open classroom, Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi and Dr. Tomomi Kinukawa, on the grounds of academic “neutrality”, the university administrators did not provide any viable technological alternatives to the online classroom. Concurrently, Google, which owns YouTube, is under investigation by the U.S. Congress on anti-competitive monopoly tactics regarding its distribution of the Meets software to compete with Zoom. This paper will examine the structural forces that cut across the technology industry, the university, and anti-colonial and feminist movements that converged in this case study.