By Ali Abunimah | The Electronic Intifada | 14/06/2012 |
The Attorney General of California has rejected a request by a Zionist group to prosecute a professor at California State University, Northridge (CSUN) for “misuse of state resources” because he uses university servers to host a website on which he campaigns for the boycott of Israel.
As The Electronic Intifada reported in January, CSUN mathematics professor David Klein has been under intense fire from Zionist groups for organizing in opposition to the California State University system’s resumption of a study abroad program in Israel. In April, the Global Frontier Justice Center asked the California Attorney General to investigate and prosecute Klein.
Klein told me today that he was pleased and surprised by the decision of the Attorney General not to prosecute him, which he learned of by letter.
“I saw the letter in my mailbox and I thought uh-oh here we go, but then I opened it and heaved a sigh of relief,” Klein said, “I hope that it is a source of encouragement to other faculty members to do similar things, to go ahead and take a public stand against apartheid in Israel and ethnic cleansing, and all the injustices there.”
The attacks on Klein prompted USACBI, the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, of which he is an organizer, to launch a petition in his support.
Call to prosecute Klein for expressing his views
In April, the Global Frontier Justice Center sent a letter to the California Attorney General, alleging “the prolonged and continuous violation of a state statute” by Klein “and the complicity of his employer” for using his university webpage to express his opinions.
The letter went on to list Klein’s thought crimes, including, “(1) expressing hostility toward the State of Israel; (2) painting the Palestinian people as victims only–not aggressors; (3) encouraging people to boycott Israeli goods, Israeli scholarship and academics, and Israeli sports,” and encouraging other forms of divestment and boycott activities.
Attorney General finds claims against Klein baseless
In a 17 May letter to the Global Frontier Justice Center’s lawyers, a copy of which Klein posted on his website, the Attorney General’s office rejected the claims:
Thank you for your letter to Attorney General Harris concerning the alleged misuse of state resources by Professor David M. Klein. The Department of Justice is committed to upholding and enforcing state laws, and we take allegations like these very seriously.
We have carefully reviewed the letter and materials you sent to this office on April 2, 2012, in which you request we prosecute an alleged misuse of the name and resources of the California State University, Northridge by Dr. Klein. Because we conclude upon review that the evidence provided does not support a finding of misuse of such name and resources, we find no basis for any action on our part.
Latest setback to “lawfare” efforts
“I’m not sure that their efforts are over but I think this is a defeat for them that they’ve been unable to enlist any legal authority to take action against me,” Klein said of Global Frontier Justice Center.
Klein praised the strong support he has received from university administrators, especially CSUN Interim President Harry Hellenbrand who has publicly stood by Klein’s right to free speech.
In April, Hellenbrand distributed a public letter on campus titled “J’Accuse: The New Anti-Anti-Semitism” in which he dismissed accusations of “anti-Semitism” against Klein as “partisan and sectarian” and noted that, “invoking the apparatus of the state to proscribe broad categories of speech in hubs of innovation and disruption like public universities will have the paradoxical effect of chilling public exchange while heating up zealotry.”
The failed effort to bring state censorship down on Klein represents the latest setback for Zionist groups attempting to use “lawfare” – legal harassment – to silence and intimidate the Palestine solidarity movement.
In February, a judge in Olmypia, Washington threw out an Israel-backed lawsuit intended to force the Olympia Food Co-op to abandon its boycott of Israeli goods.
And in January, a federal judge in San Francisco threw out a lawsuit by members of a Zionist student organization alleging that administrators at the University of California Berkeley had allowed an “anti-Semitic climate” to develop due to the activities of Students for Justice in Palestine and the Muslim Student Organization.
Who is the Global Frontier Justice Center?
The Global Frontier Justice Center has also threatened to sue the University of New Mexico over a protest by students at a speech by StandWithUs propagandist Nonie Darwish at which the protesting students were physically attacked.
But the organization appears to be have little real-world existence. It has a Twitter account, which only tweeted twice, on 2 April, in relation to David Klein:
CSUN Professor’s Use of Public Resources to Bash the Jewish State Could Subject Him to Thousands in Fines twitdoc.com/XF5 @terrychea
2 Apr 12