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.”
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:
The Global Frontier Justice Center is a civil rights law organization dedicated to enforcing basic human rights through the legal system.
However, virtually every posting on the page is about Israel.
There is no listing on Guidestar for a 501(c)(3) nonprofit with the name “Global Frontier Justice Center.”
A front for Israeli far-right group Shurat Hadin
It would appear that the Global Frontier Justice Center is a front for Shurat Hadin a well-funded far-right Israeli lawfare group also known as the Israel Law Center.
The 2 April Global Frontier Justice Center letter demanding prosecution of Klein is signed by two people: Kenneth A. Leitner Esq., and Meir Katz.
A 16 October 2011 Jerusalem Post article identifies Kenneth A. Leitner as the “director of American affairs” of Shurat Hadin. The article reported that the group was set to launch a “hotline” for “Jewish college students who are victims of anti-Semitism on their campuses.” The article adds:
“It is time for us to go on the legal offensive,” said Leitner, who noted that the trend of campus anti-Semitism is growing. “We want Jewish students to know that there is a number to call when they are victimized by extremist groups promoting anti-Israel and anti- Semitic hate on American college campuses.”
It appears that Shurat Hadin did go on the offensive against Klein, but the California Attorney General was not buying it. It is unclear whether Kenneth Leitner is related to Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the founder of Shurat Hadin.
A call to Leitner early this morning was not returned by the publication time of this post.
Shurat Hadin: Stifling human rights work and celebrating crime
Among Shurat Hadin’s efforts to stifle the Palestinian solidarity movement was its filing of spurious legal complaints in Greece intended to stop flotilla boats from sailing to Gaza last summer.
And what about that commitment to “civil rights” and the law? Shurat Hadin sponsors an annual “Ultimate Mission to Israel” on which tourists who pay thousands of dollars can observe or participate in illegal activities and human rights abuses, such as watching Palestinians paraded through Israel’s military kangaroo courts in the occupied West Bank, or going on jaunts in occupied Syria.
The package even includes an “Inside Tour of the IAF [Israel Air Force] Unit Who Carries Out Targeted Killings” – in other words you might even become an accessory to planning extrajudicial executions in occupied territories.
None of that bothers Shurat Hadin, of course, because the group denies that there are any “occupied Palestinian territories” in the first place.
Links to the Amcha Initiative
The Global Frontier Justice Center’s 2 April letter is cc’d to a number of state and California State University administrators and to one person who is neither a state official nor university administrator: one Tammi Rossman-Benjamin.
Rossman-Benjamin is the founder of the Amcha Initiative, which as Kristin Szremski reported in April is a newly-formed group that has lobbied California university administrators to clamp down on student Palestine solidarity activists.
In February, Amcha tried and failed to convince the California State University system to refuse to sponsor lectures by historian Ilan Pappe. Amcha’s request was rejected by three presidents of CSU campuses at which Pappe was scheduled to speak.
In his April open letter, CSUN Interim President Hellenbrand said that if Amcha had its way, it would “eliminate nearly all political speech that had the slightest trace of public funding in higher education.” CSU, at least, has not been prepared to pay that price for the sake of shielding Israel from criticism and thankfully the Attorney General agrees.