Saleem Shehadeh graduated from the University of California at Davis in 2015, with degrees in Political Science and Middle East & South Asian Studies. During his undergraduate years, he was heavily involved in the Boycott, Divestment, & Sanctions (BDS) movement, a Hamas-inspired initiative that aims to use various forms of public protest, economic pressure, and court rulings to advance the Hamas agenda of permanently destroying Israel as a Jewish nation-state. In support of that objective, Shehadeh served as the organizing chair of divestment on the UC Davis campus; he was also a member of the local chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), a pro-Hamas organization. In addition, Shehadeh was a senator with the Associated Students of UC Davis (ASUCD), the university's student government. And he worked as an intern for Dr. Suad Joseph, a Professor of Anthropology and Gender, Sexuality, & Women's Studies.
In April 2014, Shehadeh was the lead author of an ASUCD divestment resolution that called upon the University to “undertake practices of corporate social responsibility” by divesting whatever financial holdings it possessed in “corporations that aid in the Israeli occupation of Palestine and illegal settlements in Palestinian territories, violating both international humanitarian law and international human rights.” Specifically, the resolution targeted three companies: (a) Caterpillar, which, according to Shehadeh, “provides the Israeli army with bulldozers used to demolish Palestinian property”; (b) G4S PLC, “a security company [that] provides equipment, personnel, surveillance and maintenance services that contribute to human rights violations against the Palestinian people”; and (c) Veolia Environnement, which “has subsidiaries that hold permits to transfer waste from Israel into occupied Palestinian territories.”
When an evenly divided student senate failed to approve Shehadeh's divestment resolution, Shehadeh co-authored an opinion piece in The California Aggie, UC Davis's official campus newspaper. The article lamented that the ASUCD had given “a stamp of approval” to “the University of California’s decision to invest in … companies that profit from the demolition of Palestinian-civilian structures, the ongoing Israeli settlement and colonization of Palestinian land, the detention and torture of Palestinian political prisoners, and the construction of the apartheid wall that runs through occupied Palestinian territory.” “The outcome of this vote,” added Shehadeh and his fellow authors, “implicitly suggests that ASUCD cares more about the feelings of pro-Israeli students than it cares about the feelings of Palestinian students” who “stand in solidarity with the oppressed,” and more than it cares about “the application of human rights or corporate accountability.” “Furthermore,” said Shehadeh et al, “the message understood by this vote is that the tears of the anti-divestment community are worth more than Palestinian blood.”
In January 2015, Shehadeh co-authored a second divestment resolution; this one passed in the student senate by a margin of 8-2-2. However, both the chancellor and the president of UC Davis promptly issued statements indicating that pro-divestment resolutions did not reflect the position of UC Davis or the University of California system. Then, in February 2015, a six-person panel of the University's Court of Associated Students ruled in favor of one Jonathan Mitchell, who had filed a case with the court charging that ASUCD had failed to abide by the requirements of its own constitution in passing the January resolution. As the Times of Israel reports: “The court ruling found that any legislation passed by the senate, even those on politically related issues, 'can and must be primarily concerning student welfare'” – a threshold which the ASUCD divestment resolution failed to meet.
In May 2015, a local chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) – of which Shehadeh was a member – responded by proposing yet another resolution, this time emphasizing that “enabling Israel’s occupation of Palestine compromises the integrity of students’ education.” ASUCD passed the resolution by a margin of 10-0-2.
Following his years at UC Davis, Shehadeh pursued graduate studies at San Francisco State University. There, he served as a teaching assistant for Rabab Abdulhadi, an associate professor of Ethnic Studies and Race & Resistance Studies. Specifically, Shehadeh helped Abdulhadi teach a course titled “Voices in Exile: Arab and Muslim Americans & Civil Liberties in Race and Resistance.” He also helped the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas (AMED) Studies program organize public lectures and events that, by Shehadeh's telling, “promote anti-colonial, anti-racist, and social justice oriented frameworks within communities at home and abroad.”
In the 2015-16 academic year, Shehadeh was awarded an Edward Said Scholarship, named in honor of the late Palestinian-American literary theorist who had once served as a member of the Palestinian National Council, and who had viewed Israel as an illegitimate, colonialist state. Upon receiving this scholarship, Shehadeh lauded Said's “brilliant legacy” and noted that his own (Shehadeh's) work at SFSU focused heavily on “studying Palestinian identity consciousness.”
In July 2017 Shehadeh wrote an article titled “Struggling for Justice at San Francisco State University,” published by Mondoweiss.net, a pro-terrorist website that routinely depicts Israel as an “apartheid” state which is guilty of “genocide,” “ethnic cleansing,” “war crimes,” and “crimes against humanity.” In that piece, Shehadeh charged that “students, staff, and faculty at San Francisco State University are under investigation by the university on trumped up charges of anti-Semitism brought forth by San Francisco Hillel”; that “this is the latest in a long history of accusations made against Palestinians and Palestinian advocates at SFSU by the pro-Israel organization”; and that “pro-Israel groups have time and again sought criminal and punitive charges for political and scholarly expressions critical of Israel on college campuses constituting assaults on civil liberties and anti-colonial struggles.” “One of the more famous cases,” said Shehadeh, “includes the Irvine 11 in which the Orange County District Attorney’s Office charged students who protested a speech by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren on [the] UC Irvine campus with two misdemeanors.” In that incident, eleven Muslim Student Union members had repeatedly disrupted Oren's speech by standing and shouting derogatory slogans. For details about the incident and its aftermath, click here.