n January 29th, I and other activists for Jewish students addressed the California State University (CSU) Board of Trustees, to urge that the conduct of David Klein, a math professor at CSU Northridge (CSUN), be investigated. Klein has been using the CSUN website to promote the boycott of Israel and to demonize Israel with anti-Semitic falsehoods. For example, Klein has been promoting the lie that “Israel is the most racist state in the world,” and that Israel has engaged in “mass murder” and “a 60 year program of ethnic cleansing.” He has posted inflammatory photos of mutilated dead babies, unfairly implying that they were brutally murdered by Israeli soldiers. He has falsely painted Israel as the evil oppressor and the Palestinian Arabs as their innocent victims.
Since 2011, the ZOA has been calling on CSU to condemn Klein’s actions and remove his anti-Semitic materials from the CSUN website, because his conduct violates CSUN’s own policies. CSU has taken no action. At the meeting of the Board of Trustees, I and other activists advocated that action finally be taken, and that the California Attorney General should investigate Klein’s activities for violations of state and federal law.
Because the allotted time to make public statements at the Board of Trustees meeting was extremely limited, I focused my remarks on explaining to the Board that under U.S. government standards, anti-Israel sentiment can cross the line into anti-Semitism, and on showing that Klein’s anti-Israel postings crossed that line.
Surprisingly, the Israel supporters at the Board of Trustees meeting were outnumbered by members of Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace, two radical anti-Israel organizations. These two groups came out to condemn the Board of Trustees for rejecting the American Studies Association’s vote to endorse the boycott of Israeli academic institutions. They also came to defend the actions of Professor Klein. Their statements were well coordinated and inundated with hypocrisy. On the one hand they claimed to stand for academic freedom and for David Klein’s right under the First Amendment to promote anti-Semitism on the CSUN website. But on the other hand, these anti-Israel groups failed to appreciate that supporting a boycott of Israel and Israeli academic institutions is a direct attack on academic freedom, because it interferes with the crucial ability of scholars and academics to work with fellow scholars and academics in Israel.
Israel supporters need to be vigilant and persistently lobby their elected officials and community leaders to defend the truth. Otherwise, we run the risk of allowing anti-Israel falsehoods to have the last word.