Friday, January 20, 2012

CSUN: Where's the Politics in Math

Katharine Russ

RUSS REPORT - The article, CSUN Accused of Promoting Anti Semitism on Taxpayer’s Dime (CityWatch 12.15.2011) generated a flurry of response including some that could only be described as “hate” mail. Professor David Klein is a Founding member of the Academic Boycott of Israel Campaign that many contend is inappropriate for placement on a publicly funded institution’s web server.
Of particular interest was an email from a retired attorney who sent a letter to California State University- Northridge (CSUN) President Jolene Koester, now retired, protesting the use of material by Klein’s on his Home Page, under the title of “CSUN and Political Issues” and questioned its place on a publicly funded website. He asked, “Why have you done nothing to stop Professor Klein's use of the taxpayer funded CSUN computer server to espouse his slanted and outrageous hatred and absolute lies about the State of Israel after the entirety of this matter was brought to your attention?”

The response he received from CSUN directed him to a public response on their website which in pertinent part said, “We asked our Office of Equity and Diversity, which is charged with investigating allegations of discrimination and harassment, to review the website and advise whether it considered the site anti-Semitic. In the review, the office acknowledged the website ‘provides a point of view about and advocates action toward a nation.” CSUN’s response sidestepped the question asked but offered no explanation to its existing 501(c)3 standing as a non-profit educational institution. Mitchell Langbert, Associate Professor at the Department of Business and Economics at Brooklyn College, writes, “The educational exemption under section 501(c) (3) is predicated on the principle that “no substantial part” of what universities do can involve political activities, propaganda or attempting to influence legislation. The IRS has been inclined to interpret these restrictions liberally with respect to universities. However, the IRS has not allowed the educational tax exemption to white supremacist groups that voice anti-Semitic views.”

Klein is also the faculty advisor for CSUN's Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) whose members have been known to harass, intimidate and intentionally thwart the free speech of others. The Muslim Student Organization, both of which are active on CSUN campus, supports SJP students.
A December 2011 ruling from the United States District Court Northern District outlines several alleged incidents of harassment and intimidation by both SJP and the Muslim Student Association (MSA/MSU) that were dismissed as “free speech” expressions. While the incidents did not involve CSUN students directly, the ruling has given way to the potential for bad behavior on all campuses.

In March 2011, Jessica Felber alleged in a lawsuit brought against Yudoff/University of Berkeley et al, that she was physically assaulted by Husam Zakharia, a leader of Students For Justice in Palestine (SJP), who rammed a shopping cart into her, causing physical injury for which she needed medical attention. Felber was staging a counter-protest to an anti-Israel “Apartheid Week” rally conducted by the Muslim Student Association (MSA/MSU) and SJP. The counter-protest was hailed as “Israel Wants Peace Week.”

Zakharia had been involved in other incidences to incite violence and intimidate students, particularly Jewish students. Felber said this altercation was one of many incidents.
Her lawsuit contends that the University failed to adopt policies, regulations and student organization procedures to prevent threats, intimidation and harassment by the anti-Semitic/anti-Israel SJP and the Muslim Student Organization (MSA/MSU) which threaten and endanger the health and safety of University of California Jewish students.
In his dismissal of the case, Judge Richard Seeborg, said, “As an initial matter, nothing in the First Amended Complaint (FAC) shows any deprivation of plaintiffs’ “freedom of assembly” at all. Additionally, from the facts presently alleged, it is far from clear that any person interfered with plaintiffs’ free exercise of religion.”

What makes Seeborg’s ruling so incendiary, not to mention dangerous to many students, is the fact that his ruling actually lauded a vicious assault as “free speech.” Moreover, he makes it clear that schools “may” adopt speech and conduct codes but nothing obligates them to do so.

David Meir-Levi, an American-born Israeli and an expert on Middle East Affairs, says, “The University's accommodation of such hate-speech as Professor Klein exhibits on his websites is antithetical to the principles of a supportive and welcoming campus environment. While legally he may indeed be able to write whatever odious lies he wishes to promote, morally his one-sided and selectively biased statements are an affront to western sensibilities and a threat to many Jewish and other students on campus.”
California State Universities have policies in place to protect students, but turn a blind eye to those protections spouting the need to protect free speech.

The First Amendment does not protect various obscenities, defamation, breach of the peace, incitement to crime, "fighting words," and sedition. The Supreme Court has said false speech deserves little, if any, First Amendment Protection. Even the California Constitution Article 1 Sec. 2 warns that those who exercise that right must be responsible for the abuse of that right.

California Education Code Section 67380.5(c) specifically defines “hate violence" and the California Code of Regulations; Title 5, Article 2 outlines grounds upon which students can be disciplined.

“We know from bitter experience at UC Berkeley and at San Francisco State that Arab anti-Israel hate-speech on and near campus was followed by anti-Jewish incidents (at Berkeley - breaking a window at the campus Hillel House, painting swastikas on some campus walls; and at both sites verbal threats and abuse aimed at recognizably Jewish students). The obvious historical fact is that hate-speech promotes hatred, and hatred promotes hateful behaviors that may result in intimidation, harassment, and violence,” said Meir - Levi. “One must ask a simple but revealing question in the context of Professor Klein's abuse of his freedom of speech and academic freedom: how would the university's governance respond if his invective were aimed at African-American or Asian-American or Native-American minorities? Any lesser response to hate-speech aimed at Jewish minorities is discrimination.”

Neither Professor David Klein, nor CSUN responded to requests for comment.

(Katharine Russ is an investigative reporter. She is a regular contributor to CityWatch and to the North Valley Reporter. Katharine Russ can be reached at: ) –cw

Tags: Cal State University Northridge, CSUN, Mark Reed, Professor Klein, David Klein, Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, CSUN President, Jolene Koester, Anti Semitism, AMCHA Initiative, First Amendment, Federally Assisted Programs, public institution, hate speech, Israel, Boycott Israel, Palestine, Palestinians, civil rights, Katharine Russ

Footnote - For more information on David Meir-Levi, click here.

Vol 10 Issue 6
Pub: Jan. 19, 2012

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