June 16, 2023
Jana Abulaban

(LOS ANGELES, CA – 6/16/2023) – The Los Angeles office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA) today strongly condemned El Camino College’s statement and actions unjustly targeting recent graduate Jana Abulaban for speaking out against the Israeli government’s apartheid policies, ethnic cleansing, and other human rights abuses against the Palestinian people. 

At her El Camino College commencement ceremony in Torrance, Calif., on June 9, Abulaban, who is of Palestinian descent, spoke in support of the Palestinian people and criticized Israel’s countless human rights abuses. On June 14, the college released a statement attempting to distance itself from her speech. 

SEE: Graduation speaker at California college invokes ‘oppressive apartheid state of Israel’

 In a statement, CAIR-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush said:

“The administration’s attempt to conflate Jana Abulaban’s legitimate criticism of Israeli human rights violations with antisemitism is both dishonest and misleading. It is immoral for an institution of higher learning to misrepresent her position and join the bandwagon of unfair attacks against her. Abulaban’s comments in support of the Palestinian people’s right to freedom and her criticism of the Israeli government’s documented human rights abuses are not expressions of bigotry, but rather a courageous call for justice and equality. 

“We strongly condemn El Camino College’s retaliatory actions against Abulaban. It has come to light that the recent graduate was removed from the college hiring committee as a direct consequence of her speech, with El Camino College going so far as preventing her from attending the latest meeting. We demand that El Camino College formally and unequivocally reject such retaliatory measures and hold its administration accountable for their wrongful actions. It is crucial that academic institutions prioritize the protection of free speech and refrain from punishing students for expressing their opinions. 

“In addition, we demand that El Camino College honor Abulaban’s scheduled presentation at the upcoming board of trustees meeting. The administration’s decision to postpone her presentation under the pretext of safety concerns is not only baseless but also a thinly veiled attempt to silence and intimidate her, as well as any other student or instructor who dares to exercise their right to free speech when criticizing Israeli human rights violations. It is the responsibility of the school to ensure the safety and protection of all its students, especially in the face of threats from bigoted individuals.  

“Time and time again, we see how any mention of the plight of the Palestinian people, or any discourse that humanizes Palestinians living under a brutal Israeli occupation for over seven decades, is met with false accusations of antisemitism.

“Discussing the Israeli government’s inhumane treatment of Palestinians, from illegal settlements in the West Bank to killing Palestinian civilians like Shireen Abu Akleh, two-year-old Mohammad Tamimi, and an 80-year-old man, to the years-long blockade of the Gaza Strip, does not constitute hate. Conflating legitimate criticism of Israel’s brutality against Palestinians with antisemitism has long been the main tool of anti-Palestinian voices in the U.S. to stifle any such criticism and undermines the important fight against real antisemitism.

“We stand in solidarity with Abulaban and condemn El Camino College’s mischaracterization of her speech. It is imperative that educational institutions uphold the principles of free speech and academic freedom, and refrain from engaging in actions that suppress voices advocating for justice. 

“We call upon El Camino College to rectify its misguided actions and provide a platform for open dialogue and understanding, rather than stifling dissenting voices. We also urge the administration to protect the rights of all students to express their opinions without fear of retaliation or intimidation.”


 In April, CAIR welcomed a congressional letter led by Representative Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), joined by 12 members of Congress, urging President Biden to better ensure the human rights of Palestinians and guarantee that U.S. military funding to the extreme right-wing apartheid Israeli government does not support human rights violations.

CAIR has previously called on the Biden administration to stand up to the new Israeli government composed of openly racist and genocidal far-right politicians.

Last year, CAIR welcomed an investigation by a UN commission of inquiry into the Israeli government’s system of apartheid against Palestinians. That apartheid system is condemned by international human rights and religious organizations.

Amnesty International: Civilian deaths and extensive destruction in latest Gaza offensive highlight human toll of apartheid

Israel/OPT: HRC52 oral statement: Time to recognize that Israel is committing apartheid

In an open letter, five former European ministers labeled Israel’s policies against Palestinians as “the crime of apartheid.”Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Presbyterian Church USA have labeled Israel an apartheid state. The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing also recognized that Israel is committing apartheid against Palestinians.

 A group of Israeli law professors says changes introduced by the current far-right Israeli government “validate the claim that Israel practices apartheid.”

CAIR-LA is committed to defending the rights of individuals to express their Constitutionally protected opinions freely and without reprisal. CAIR-LA’s attorneys have sent a letter to El Camino College asking for accountability and protection for Abulaban and will continue to monitor this situation closely. 

CAIR-LA is Southern California’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, protect civil rights, promote justice and empower American Muslims. 

– END –  CONTACT: CAIR-LA Digital Communications Manager Enjy El-Kadi, (714) 851 4851 or eelkadi@cair.com