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Jerusalem mayor cancels visit to SFSU, accuses college of suppressing Jewish voice

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San Francisco State University President Leslie Wong speaks during a news conference on May 9, 2016. (Yesica Prado/Special to S.F. Examiner)

The mayor of Jerusalem canceled a scheduled visit to San Francisco State University Thursday before firing off a scathing critique of the college for its planning of the event.

Mayor Nir Barkat planned to visit the campus exactly a year to the day after students with the General Union of Palestine Students group interrupted his on-campus speech to Jewish students with San Francisco Hillel.

“Dozens of anti-Israel protesters disrupted my public lecture through intimidation and provocation, vulgarities and incitement that bordered on the anti-Semitic,” Barkat said in a statement Wednesday.

Barkat was scheduled to appear Thursday, but decided not to because the event was not adequately publicized and limited to ticketed guests, he said.

“By failing to provide the necessary public forum and properly publicize my lecture, the University has contributed to the continuing marginalization and demonization of the Jewish state,” Barkat said.

“If I were a representative of any other country, no institution of higher learning would have allowed my speech to be drowned out by protesters inciting violence and then bring me back to campus in a limited, secluded way,” he added.

But SFSU President Leslie Wong said the administration was given too little notice to prepare for the latest event.

“Our plan was not perfect, but it was the best we could do given the time available to prepare and our need to prioritize the wellbeing of all our guests,” Wong said in an email to the campus community Wednesday.

Wong said he asked for three weeks’ notice before Barkat returned to SFSU, but the mayor’s staff gave him just days. The staff notified Wong on March 29, he said.

“Given the short notice of his visit, we quickly put together a plan that prioritized the safety of the mayor and our community while facilitating respectful dialogue,” Wong said before acknowledging faults in the plan.

An independent investigation into the April 6, 2016, event found that SFSU failed to properly handle the protest, and Wong later apologized.

The latest speech was scheduled to take place at the Seven Hills Conference Center. More than 100 people planned to attend the event, according to Wong.

Barkat said the handling of the protest last year, and then hosting the speech this year as a ticketed event, shows that the university has a “double standard.”

“The University has demonstrated that they will protect the rights of anti-Israel students to drown out diverse voices through violent incitement, while they will not protect the rights of the students to engage in open, robust dialogue,” Barkat said.

It’s unclear whether the event will be rescheduled.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated from its original version.

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