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The New Arab Staff

Zoom blocks Leila Khaled webinar after protests

The Palestinian activist is known for her involvement in prominent plane hijackings [Getty]

Date of publication: 23 September, 2020

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The video conferencing company cited US anti-terrorism laws in cancelling the university event featuring Palestinian activist Leila Khaled.
Leading software company Zoom has cancelled a US university webinar featuring prominent Palestinian activist Leila Khaled after protests by pro-Israel groups.

The video conferencing giant said it would not be able to host the San Francisco State University (SFSU) event with Khaled due to US anti-terrorism laws.

Khaled, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) known for taking part in airplane hijackings, had been set to address an event hosted by the university's Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies programme on Wednesday.

The PFLP is designated a foreign terrorist organised by Washington.

"Zoom is committed to supporting the open exchange of ideas and conversations, subject to certain limitations contained in our Terms of Service, including those related to user compliance with applicable US export control, sanctions, and anti-terrorism laws," Zoom said in a statement on Tuesday.

"In light of the speaker's reported affiliation or membership in a US designated foreign terrorist organisation, and SFSU's inability to confirm otherwise, we determined the meeting is in violation of Zoom's Terms of Service and told SFSU they may not use Zoom for this particular event."

It is unclear whether the webinar will go ahead using an alternative platform.

Zoom's refusal to host the event was hailed by the Israeli consulate in San Francisco and Israel's minister of strategic affairs, Orit Farkash-Hacohen.

"Glad to see @Zoom_us preventing PFLP terrorist Leila Khaled from abusing its platform to spread her bigotry and calls for Jewish State's destruction at a @SFSU event today," the minister said on Twitter.

A number of indivuals and organisations had called for the event's cancellation. Among them were Israeli law firm Shurat HaDin and Rodney Khazzam, a passenger on a flight hijacked by Khaled in 1970.

Opponents also held a protest outside of Zoom's headquarters in San Joe, California, on Tuesday.

Supporters of the Palestinian cause have hit back at Zoom, however, claiming the company's refusal to host the webinar is evidence of declining freedom of speech.

"It's a shame that @zoom_us caved into the bad faith demands made by right-wing groups who falsely claim to represent the Jewish community. This is why we all need to continue to loudly and proudly fight for Palestinian freedom and Jewish safety together," said IfNotNow, an American Jewish organisation that opposes Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Zoom has previously garnered criticism for its security and privacy policies, as well as its links to China.

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