California State University Chancellor Rejects ASA’s Israeli Academic Boycott, Jewish Student Groups Supportive
by Joshua Levitt
Jewish groups were supportive on Friday after California State University Chancellor Timothy White denounced the American Studies Association’s boycott of Israeli universities. While most universities are coming out against the ASA, White’s move to condemn the boycott was substantive for the organizations working to defend the rights of Jewish students on his campuses in California.
At CSU Northridge, Jewish students in 2013 had been tormented by a math professor using the school computer to publish hate speech about Israel.
At San Francisco State, the General Union of Palestinian Students spray painted stencils with an image of Leila Khaled, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terrorist group responsible for plane hijackings, suicide bombings, and the assassination of a Jewish member of the Israeli Knesset. Another stencil produced by its student leader Mohammad Hammad said: “MY HEROES HAVE ALWAYS KILLED COLONIZERS.”
The phrase was later found in one of his chilling online Tumblr entries:
“You know what? / Israelis ARE colonizers, there is literally no way around it / And you know what else? / My heroes HAVE always killed colonizers / I literally see nothing wrong with this and my only regret is that not all colonizers were killed / HMM”
Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, of AMCHA Initiative, one of the co-sponsors of the commendation, was active in getting the school administrations to address these issues at CSU Northridge and San Francisco State, where it also recently commended school President Les Wong for speaking up after months of inaction.
Aron Hier, another co-sponsor, who is Director of Campus Outreach at the much larger Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, gave the commendation for White greater echo in the community.
In his statement against the ASA boycott, Chancellor White came out strongly on the universal losses to the higher education community. He spoke of “academic freedom and scholarly dialog,” as being important for university groups, but he side-stepped the matter of whether the ASA’s entire approach was anti-Semitic.
His statement also didn’t include mention of any of the “stereotype-buster” features unique to Israeli universities, including Technion, Israel’s MIT, where an Islamic woman named Mais Ali-Saleh who grew up in a small Arab village outside of Nazareth, in Israel’s Galilee, graduated as valedictorian in 2013.