City Attorney Carmen A. Trutanich
800 City Hall East
200 N. Main Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Dear Mr. Trutanich,

We, the California Scholars for Academic Freedom,** write to state our opposition to the request you received from the Global Frontier Justice Center to prosecute Professor David Klein for his website-based speech about issues pertaining to the Palestine-Israel conflict.  The Global Frontier Justice Center is asking you to abrogate the right to freedom of speech and the rights of professors to academic freedom in the name of their partisan political stance that attempts to repress any speech in the United States that criticizes Israeli policies. 

Their two previous attempts to silence Professor Klein have been categorically rejected, both by California State University, Northbridge’s then interim President Harry Hellenbrand, and by California Attorney General Kamala Harris.  In his public letter of April 2012, President Hellenbrand 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.”  Attorney General Kamala Harris similarly concluded that the evidence does not support a finding of misuse of state resources. 

In January, a federal judge in San Francisco threw out a similar 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.

The Global Frontier Justice Center is part of a larger campaign to repress free speech about the Palestine-Israel conflict.  This campaign conflates criticisms of Israel with anti-Semitism.  Public universities have a special responsibility to protect academic freedom and freedom of speech.  Academic freedom includes the freedom of professors to conduct and disseminate scholarly research, to design courses and teach students in the areas of their expertise, and to enjoy First Amendment protections for extramural speech. (The latter is a right enjoyed by everyone within the jurisdiction of the U.S. constitution, but is the third leg of the principles of academic freedom because professors should not be professionally penalized for non-academic speech that they engage in beyond the academy.)

Academic freedom is not absolute or unrestrained; its “enjoyment” is determined based on standards of scholarly excellence and achievement (e.g., acquiring a PhD or other type of graduate degree, getting a job as an academic at a university, publishing academic works in reputable scholarly venues, being promoted on the basis of periodic review processes in which the merits of an individual’s publications and teaching are judged by peers, and so on). Institutions of higher learning are the sites where academic freedom is enjoyed and thus they bear a responsibility for its protection.

The Global Frontier Justice Center is the U.S. representative of the Israel Law Center, which recently successfully lobbied for a law in Israel that criminalizes any speech discussing boycott, divestment or sanctions against Israel or settlements in the occupied territories.  Any public discussion of these activities will result in punishment.  The U.S.-based Jewish Daily Forward, the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee have all criticized this law for its abrogation of democratic rights to freedom of speech. 

It is imperative that you not allow the Israel Law Center to extend its suppression of free speech to the state of California and, by extension, to the United States.

The Global Frontier Justice Center uses harassment to attempt to silence debate in the United States. This harassment of Professor David Klein is one of many such harassment activities by individuals in the U.S. who claim to represent the state of Israel.

We urge you to affirm that the City of Los Angeles stands by the California Constitution and the U.S. Constitution, and categorically reject the request you received from the Global Justice Frontier Center.


California Scholars for Academic Freedom

Contact Persons:

Lisa Rofel
Department of Anthropology
Professor, University of California, Santa Cruz

Manzar Foroohar
History Department
California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly), San Luis Obispo

David Delgado Shorter
Associate Professor and Vice Chair
University of California, Los Angeles
(310) 206-6699

Gary Fields
Associate Professor
Department of Communication
University of California, San Diego

Clinical Professor
Department of Psychiatry, and
Global Health Sciences
University of California, San Francisco
School of Medicine
415 921 8096 (T)

Howard Winant
Department of Sociology
University of California, Santa Barbara

Professor Mahmood Ibrahim
History Graduate Coordinator and Adviser
Cal Poly Pomona

**CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM is a four-year-old group of more than 134 academics who teach in over 20 California institutions of higher education. The group formed as a response to a rash of violations of academic freedom that were arising from both the post-9/11/2001 climate of civil rights violations and to the increasing attacks on progressive educators by neo-conservatives. Many attacks were aimed at scholars of Arab, Muslim or Middle Eastern descent or at scholars researching and teaching about the Middle East, Arab and Muslim communities. Our goal of protecting California Scholars and students based mainly in institutions of higher education has grown broader in scope. We recognize that violations of academic freedom anywhere are threats to academic freedom everywhere.

Cc: Dianne Harrison , President, California State University, Northridge
      Harold Hellenbrand, Provost, California State University, Northridge