* Anti-Israel activist who speaks on many college campuses
* Advocates the dismantling of Israel as a sovereign state
Mohammed Abed is presently a professor of philosophy at California State University-Los Angeles. He previously taught philosophy at the University of Wisconsin, where he earned a doctorate in that field.
In the early to mid-2000s, Abed, claiming to be an “exile from the city of Jaffa,” was a member of Al-Awda and emerged as a prominent figure in anti-Israel activism. He served as a workshop leader at the Palestine Solidarity Movement’s national conferences in 2003 and 2004. At the ’04 event, Abed helped facilitate a seminar with Al-Awda co-founder Mazin Qumsiyeh, who told those in attendance that “Zionism is a disease” and that “Nazi-Zionist collaboration” had helped bring about the Holocaust.
In the early 2000s, Abed and fellow graduate student Nasser Abufarha established the Alternative Palestinian Agenda, a plan that sought to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict by creating a bi-national state governed jointly by Israelis and Palestinians. This proposal called for the right-of-return of all Palestinian refugees, and for reconfiguring the map of Israel into a series of small, disconnected plots of land. Abed has long advocated the dismantling of Israel as a sovereign state. His plan, if enacted, would render Jews a permanent minority in the bicameral government that he envisions.
In 2006, while studying for his Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Wisconsin (UW), Abed wrote a dissertation which amounted to a defense of Palestinian terrorism. He said, for instance, that: “suicide bombing can be made sense of as a form of cooperatively perpetrated political terrorism directed at collective targets”; “the distinction between collective terrorism and modern warfare [by nations with powerful military forces] is far from clear”; “[t]here are strong reasons for thinking that many acts of modern warfare would be more accurately described and categorized as instances of collective terrorism”; and suicide bombing is a “psychologically altruistic” activity that is not “any worse than non-suicidal forms of collective terrorism.” He even went so far as to pose the question: “Does [suicide bombing] have some feature that could be considered morally laudable?”
During his years as a graduate student at UW, Abed led a movement calling for the school to divest its assets from companies that conducted any amount of business with Israel. In a 2005 speech to UW’s Teaching Assistants’ Association, Abed, who was then an organizer with the university’s Socially Responsible Investment Campaign, stated: “By supplying the Israeli army with weapons and other equipment … the companies we have identified in the resolution are complicit in war crimes and serious breaches of international humanitarian law. They also stand in violation of domestic laws prohibiting the sale of arms or the provision of security assistance to states which engage in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights. Material support for Israeli practices also infringes [on] UW-System’s own ethical investment policies. Destructive Israeli policy is applied exclusively to Palestinians in virtue of their ethnic identity.”
In 2007 Abed wrote an article titled “In Defense of Academic Boycotts” for Dissent magazine, wherein he argued in favor of a boycott against Israeli colleges and universities. Further, he lamented “the gravity of the harm done to Palestinian civilians living under Israeli control in the West Bank and Gaza, where Israel still controls Gaza’s borders, coastline, and airspace and can intervene militarily at will, thus effectively occupying it.”
Abed has continued to promote campus divestment initiatives against Israel ever since. He is a proud endorser of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel, and in 2010 he signed a petition exhorting an investment firm to divest from the “many companies that profit from Israel’s occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.” Among the targeted corporations were Caterpillar, Veolia, Northrop Grumman, Elbit, and Motorola. “Some of these companies provide weapons and covert surveillance supplies that maintain the occupation by force,” said the petition. “Others take or exploit Palestinian resources, including scarce water and even the land itself. All are profiting from Israel’s violations of international law and international human rights standards.”
In March 2009, Abed was the featured speaker at a public teach-in condemning Operation Cast Lead, an Israeli military action designed to thwart Hamas‘s relentless bombardment of Israeli civilian areas with deadly rockets launched from the Gaza Strip.
In a June 2010 article titled “Israel’s Many Excuses for The Inexcusable Attack on the Gaza Aid Flotilla,” Abed defended the Free Gaza Movement‘s then-recent six-ship flotilla wherein a large number of armed Islamic terrorists aboard one of the vessels, the Mavi Marmara, engaged in a violent and deadly confrontation with Israeli commandos who were trying to enforce a requirement mandating that the vessel permit an inspection of its cargo before docking in Gaza. “The Israelis had no right to attack [the Mavi Marmara],” wrote Abed. “Doing so was a naked act of aggression.” Abed concluded his piece by affirming that the “activists on board the Gaza flotilla … should be praised.”
In an April 2011 conference organized by the University of Southern California’s Peace and Conflict Studies Program, Abed claimed that the 160,000 Arabs who in 1948 had accepted Israel’s offer of citizenship in its newly formed state were nothing more than a comparative few who had “managed to escape ethnic cleansing.” Asserting also that a state which “is guilty of such crimes” against the Palestinians clearly had no interest in negotiating for peace, he exhorted “international civil society” to join the Boycott, Divestment, & Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. Indeed, Abed was once a member of BDS’s Organizing Committee.
In Abed’s pro-divestment speeches and writings, he makes no mention of the ongoing terrorist war that the Palestinians have waged against Israel, or of the crimes and failures of the Palestinian Authority. Instead he contends that Israelis have attacked Palestinian Arabs not in response to anything the latter have ever done, but because they (the Israelis) are racists who despise anyone who is “not Jewish, not of the ‘correct’ ethno-religious background to warrant treatment as human beings with dignity and basic rights.”
Moreover, Abed claims that: “the plight of the Palestinian refugees lies at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”; Israel’s construction of new homes “in existing West Bank apartheid colonies” is a reflection of its “project of racially exclusive settlement”; Palestinian poverty is a consequence of “economic strangulation” imposed by Israel; and the Israeli military has committed a multitude of “war crimes and human rights abuses.”
At an October 2015 UC Riverside conference titled “Palestine, Israel, and the Assault on Academic Freedom,” Abed accused Israel of committing “genocide” against the Palestinian people. As CanaryMission.org points out: “Abed has also written a number of articles promoting BDS and accusing Israel of practicing ‘state terrorism against Palestinian civilians,’ ‘apartheid‘, and ‘ethnic cleansing‘.”
In addition to his work as a university professor and an anti-Israel activist, Abed was a founding member and programming chairman of the Society for Arab, Persian, and Islamic Philosophy. He also has served as a reviewer for the Journal of Genocide Studies; is a member of the American Philosophical Association and the American Association of University Professors; and has frequently been a guest speaker at college-campus events organized by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).
Further Reading: “Mohammed Abed” (CanaryMission.org).