by Katharine Russ | CityWatchLA.com | December 15, 2011
Photo from: http://www.csun.edu/~vcmth00m/
Controversy over a California State University- Northridge (CSUN) website hosted by Mathematics professor, David Klein (Pictured) has raised the ire of some Los Angeles tax payers and caught the attention of the AMCHA Initiative, an organization that “protects Jewish Students.”
Rabbi Ahud Sela reached out to Congressional Candidate Mark Reed because several Officials, including Assemblymen, Congressmen, the Governor and the Mayor failed to respond to dozens of letters written by community members and organizations expressing grave concerns for the safety of Jewish students on campus.
Reed said he was outraged that CSUN would defend such behavior and appalled that Government Officials condone these actions at taxpayer expense.
Klein, a Founding member of the Academic Boycott of Israel Campaign, wrote and posted a letter on the CSUN server to CSU Chancellor Charles Reed signed by several CSU Faculty, Staff, and Administrators. The letter strongly urged Chancellor Reed not to reinstate the CSU Israel Study Abroad Program to what he calls “apartheid” Israel.
Klein’s website on the server of the CSUN Mathematics Department, also spouts such claims as, “The result of Israeli state policies has been a 60 year program of ethnic cleansing, including expulsion of the Palestinian population, military occupation, and mass murder” and “Israel avoids peace because peace interferes with territorial expansion and ethnic cleaning."
Several pictures of dead and bleeding babies were posted to the CSUN site by Klein to support his agenda and his claim of Israel’s alleged atrocities.
A November 22 letter co-authored by Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, Lecturer, University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC) and Co-founder the AMCHA Initiative, advised CSUN President, Dr. Jolene Koester that, “Professor Klein’s “Boycott Israel” page contains a litany of false and inflammatory statements and photographs intended to incite hatred and promote political activism against the Jewish State.
“We believe it is important for the CSU leadership to know that members of the Jewish community are outraged that a publicly funded university is hosting an anti Semitic website.”
Jack Kessler, Cal Alumnus- Class of 1968, was just one of those deeply offended by Klein’s site and said, “There is a vast difference between private speech and speech appearing on a website paid for with mandatory taxes. It is the same difference between a crucifix on the wall of a church and one on the wall of city hall. It is as false and misleading to claim freedom of speech in the former case, as it would be to claim freedom of religion in the latter.
“Professor Klein is free to spout whatever racist calumnies he likes, but not on a server operated by the state.”
Koester’s reply to Benjamin did not address AMCHA’s concerns and excused Klein’s hateful content.
According to Benjamin, after an exchange of written arguments between Benjamin and Koester, Koester callously replied, “Too bad.”
The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects statements expressing hatred of an ethnic, racial or religious nature including the mention of individuals and the distress those statements can cause.
But as some have pointed out, - The Public Health and Welfare SUBCHAPTER V (42 U.S.C §§ 2000d - 2000d-7 TITLE 42 ) notes that FEDERALLY ASSISTED PROGRAMS must halt funding of any institution of public education that allows such “hate.” Those public institutions can be subject to federally sanctioned lawsuits and indictment as well.
And the California Education Code (Section 89005.5) provides that the name "California State University, and the names of all of the CSU campuses, nicknames and abbreviations belong to the State of California and that it is inappropriate to use the CSU name without the written permission of the institution for any purpose, including: Advertising any meeting or activity that has the purpose of supporting or opposing any political or religious activity. Every person violating this section is guilty of a misdemeanor.”
Education Code also provides for the safety of all students.
In addition, it would appear that CSUN has also violated some of its own established policies in its disregard to Klein’s use of a publicly funded website.
Klein’s website completely defies the Mission Statement of the California State University by failing to “promote an understanding and appreciation of the people’s cultures and diversity of the world.”
Nor does his website “provide and sustain an environment conducive to sharing, extending, and critically examining knowledge and values, and to furthering the search for wisdom.”
In her June 2009 complaint to the San Francisco Office for Civil Rights (OCR)- U.S. Department of Education (link), Benjamin alleges “a long-standing and pervasive pattern of discrimination against Jewish students” that continues on UCSC campuses today.
Benjamin complained, “The harassing and intimidating environment for Jewish students has been worsened by the fact that NO other racial or national origin group on campus has been subjected by faculty or administrators to such hostile and demonizing criticism.”
Benjamin noted one student’s letter that said, “I am what you would call "pro-Israel", but this does not make me ‘anti-Palestinian.’ These dualistic terms only perpetuate the conflict. I support the existence of Israel, but I also have utmost sympathy for the Palestinian struggle, and I am critical of Israel's actions that disturb the lives of Palestinian civilians.
“That said, where is the discussion about Hamas? Why does the blame go directly to Israel without any disdain for Hamas? Or for the various other terrorist groups that invest in violence and hatred rather than the welfare of the Palestinians?
“I am so perplexed and distressed when intelligent academics fail to recognize Israel's legitimate right to exist as a Jewish state in the Middle East. This anti-Zionism is tossed around without any compassion to the Jewish people. As a Jew, Israel is central to my identity--to my culture, to my religion, to my ethnicity. To claim so misguidedly that Israel is illegitimate, and furthermore, should be revoked--is so hurtful and so offensive beyond words.”
The Office of Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education is now investigating Benjamin’s complaint, the first of its kind.
Leila Beckwith, Professor Emeritus in Pediatrics at University of California Los Angeles, founded the AMCHA Initiative along with Benjamin. In an August 28, 2005 LA Times article, Beckwith wrote, “From 1934 to 2003, UC regulations defined academic freedom this way: The function of the university is to seek and transmit knowledge and to train students in the processes whereby truth is to be made known.
“To convert, or make converts, is alien and hostile to this dispassionate duty. Where it becomes necessary, in performing this function of a university, to consider political, social or sectarian movements, they are dissected and examined, not taught, and the conclusion left, with no tipping of the scales, to the logic of the facts.
“Though the school rewrote that description, then-President Richard Atkinson also began the process of gutting its academic freedom rules, and, by 2003, the university had eliminated the statements quoted above from its regulations and removed any obligation for professors and instructors to aspire to maintain political neutrality in their courses or even inform students that other viewpoints exist.”
CSUN is not alone in its support and approval of Klein. Several California State Universities support the demonization of Israel, encourage anti Semitic rhetoric and often refuse to present speakers who bring a positive perspective to Israel.
Benjamin mentioned in her complaint to OCR, “We contacted the heads of ten academic units and Colleges, explained our desire to bring balance to campus discussions about Israel and the Middle East, and invited them, in the name of academic integrity and the pursuit of a diversity of ideas, to join in sponsoring these speakers. Not one academic unit or College agreed to do so.”
Randy Reynaldo, Koester’s Executive Assistant, wrote that CSU legal counsel found no violations on Klein’s website. And emphasized, “We encourage our professors—as well as students and all members of the campus community—to express their points of view, even when many others may disagree with them or even find them offensive.”
In its 2010 Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, The Anti Defamation League (ADL) cites California with the highest number of Anti Semitic incidents across the nation and notes: “Jews continue to be the most frequently targeted religious group, now accounting for 84% of religious-based hate crimes.”
Dr. Jolene Koester did not respond 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: Katharine.firstname.lastname@example.org ) –cw