A Facebook post by Hamzeh Daoud ’20, in which he threatened to “physically fight” Zionist students, has sparked debate over not only Israeli-Palestinian relations, but also over the limits of students’ speech and the potential consequences of an online threat.
In his original post, Daoud wrote, “I’m gonna physically fight Zionists on campus next year if someone comes at me with their ‘Israel is a democracy’ bullshit. And after I abolish your ass I’ll go ahead and work every day for the rest of my life to abolish your petty ass ethno-supremacist, settler-colonial state.” In the same post, Daoud shared a link leading to a opinions piece on an Israeli news website that states “Jewish Nation-state Law Makes Discrimination in Israel Constitutional.”
Daoud edited the post at 2:21 p.m. Friday, nearly four hours after originally posting it. He changed the word “physically” to “intellectually,” and added, “I edited this post because I realize intellectually beating zionists is the only way to go. Physical fighting is never an answer to when trying to prove people wrong.”
On Saturday, the Stanford College Republicans (SCR) suggested that the University fire Daoud, who is a member of Stanford Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), from his RA position due to his post physically threatening Zionist students at Stanford. Although Daoud edited his original post, which was made at 10:40 a.m. Friday, SCR posted a screenshot of the original to its Facebook page.
“SCR is disgusted by a threat of violence issued by Hamzeh Daoud, a rising junior at Stanford University, toward pro-Israel students,” the organization wrote. “Threatening to assault other students who hold a different point of view is anathema to a free society and any kind of education, let alone the operation of the premier research university in the world.”
Daoud, who will be a Residential Assistant in Norcliffe in the fall and who previously served on the Undergraduate Senate, wrote in an email to The Daily that his post was a “spur-of-the-moment emotional reaction” to the law.
“[The law] effectively made [Israel] an apartheid state and deemed Palestinian citizens of Israel second-class citizens,” Daoud wrote. “As a third-generation Palestinian refugee, I was appalled and took to Facebook to share my pain.”
In his email to The Daily, Daoud argued that he does not deserve punishment for his comments. He further noted that he edited the post out of his own will because he “recognized the threat that people might feel from physical fighting.”
Furthermore, Daoud wrote that he would leave both posts up, noting “use of the word ‘physical fighting’ was an emotional outburst in a social media platform with no tangible effects, no matter how hard SCR tries to conflate it.” On Sunday, in a second email to The Daily, Daoud apologized for the rhetoric of the original post.
“I apologize if I made anyone feel unsafe,” Daoud wrote. “That was not the intent and will never be an intent of mine at all.”
Daoud sent a longer apology email to the Stanford Jewish community mailing list on Monday. He noted that he was not apologetic for his stance on Israel but rather for any pain his original post may have caused within the Jewish community.
“I never intended, and will never intend, to cause any harm to the Jewish community,” Daoud wrote. “I respect the Jewish community, the beauty and resilience of the Jewish religion and people, and the power that Jewish students bring to campus.”
SCR suggested that the University “terminate Daoud’s position as a Residential Assistant in the Norcliffe dormitory immediately” due to his potential danger to other students, particularly incoming freshman. In addition to condemning Daoud’s post, SCR condemned SJP in general.
“While we are disturbed by Hamzeh Daoud’s statements, we find it unsurprising that a member of SJP, an organization with financial ties to terrorist affiliates, would issue a call to violence against pro-Israel students,” SCR wrote.
Daoud noted that his views do not reflect those of SJP as an organization. In a comment on the SCR post, SJP President Jordi Arnau ’20 defended Daoud, accusing SCR of deliberately ignoring Daoud’s edited post.
Other students were quick to fire back against SCR’s criticisms of Daoud, especially given that the organization focused only on the first iteration of the post and not on the edited version.
Jewish Students Association Board member Courtney Cooperman ’20, who writes for The Daily, defended Daoud in a comment on the SCR post.
“Pro-Israel students don’t need you picking on and calling out other members of the Stanford community,” Cooperman wrote. “Please message me if you’d like some ideas for productively advancing the campus conversation on Israel in a way that does not involve slandering my friends.”
“Hamzeh promptly saw the error in his actions and language and edited it,” wrote Majd Maref Arafat ’19. “You have intentionally neglected his edits which serve to recognize his mistake and denounce violence. Especially as students whose primary goal is to learn, we should not pretend that self-reflection and growth are impossible or irrelevant.”
Chris Cashion, another commenter on the thread, raised concerns about Daoud’s position as a Residential Assistant, given his animosity toward a particular group in the post.
“I believe anyone, especially one holding a position of campus authority like Mr. Daoud should be called out when they make physical threats,” he wrote. “If I were a Jewish parent and knew my child was in the dorm under Mr. Daoud’s responsibility I would have a hard time trusting that his extreme bias would not undermine his judgment.”
University spokesperson E.J. Miranda wrote in an email to The Daily that Stanford personnel are conscious of the post, and that Student Affairs staff are “following up” on the matter.
“Stanford is committed to free expression of ideas and a culture of inclusion where all members of the university community can feel safe,” Miranda added.
On Tuesday, Jewish Voice for Peace at Stanford initiated an email campaign to defend Daoud from potential punishment by the University. The Jewish organization has asked students to email various University administrators to convince them that Daoud is not a threat to Jewish students. The email campaign also includes claims that SCR “intentionally misinterpreted [Daoud’s] post” and “triggered a right-wing and alt-right backlash against Daoud.”
“This intentional misinterpretation comes as no surprise, as the Stanford College Republicans have demonstrated on multiple occasions that they support racists and Islamophobes and have previously run smear campaigns against professors and students who express strong support for the Left,” the organization wrote.
While on the 19th Undergraduate Senate, Daoud coauthored a bill that would have given the Senate the power to financially penalize student groups for inviting guest speakers whose past actions are perceived by the Senate to be in violation of the Fundamental Standard. However, Senate seats turned over before the senators could vote on the matter.
Daoud wrote to The Daily that he does not believe he should lose his RA position or be punished in any other manner for his comments. He requested that people consider his views in the second statement instead of the first.
“Having consequences [for] a Muslim, third-generation Palestinian refugee [who] has been constantly called a terrorist by multiple members of SCR, guests of SCR on campus and other students, is rather shameful,” Daoud wrote.
This article has been updated to reflect that Courtney Cooperman did not intend to defend SJP, but rather only Daoud. This article has also been updated to include an apology from Daoud to anyone who felt threatened by his original post as well as another apology sent by Daoud to the Stanford Jewish community mailing list.
This article has been updated to include information on an email campaign initiated by Jewish Voice for Peace at Stanford in an attempt to protect Daoud from University punishment for his Facebook post.
An earlier version of this post incorrectly described a bill that Daoud coauthored in the 19th Undergraduate Senate. The bill would have given the Senate power to financially penalize student groups for inviting guest speakers whose past actions, not views, are perceived by the Senate to be in violation of the Fundamental Standard. The Daily regrets this error.