Does appointing an advocate of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel to chair a committee aimed at combating anti-Semitism in the California State University system make sense? That's exactly what happened in the case of Manzar Foroohar, a well-known anti-Israel activist who teaches modern Middle Eastern and Latin American history at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. The Iranian immigrant was placed in charge of an Academic Senate 2012/2013 CSU committee charged with implementing the "Governor's Task Force on Tolerance and Anti-Semitism Training," an effort that originated in 2010 under former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Foroohar does indeed have extensive experience in training students and faculty members—in how to delegitimize and demonize the state of Israel, an activity that hardly promotes an environment of "tolerance" for pro-Israel CSU students.
When asked about Foroohar's appointment, Diana Guerin, chairwoman of the Academic Senate CSU (ASCSU) who oversees committee selections and appointments, offered the standard bureaucratic response, making sure to include politically correct praise for the professor's "divergent" point of view:
The Executive Committee of the Academic Senate makes appointments each year based on senator interest in serving on the various committees. With over forty senators eligible to serve and approximately fifty committees to staff, this is a very involved process. We note that sometimes committees do their best work when there are divergent points of view that lead to careful consideration and thorough discussion of issues. Senator Foroohar has been elected by her peers at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo multiple terms and has served the Academic Senate of the CSU with distinction.
After further questioning, the chairwoman explained that at a 2010 meeting with the Governor's task force at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, "Concern arose about the potential blurring of the lines between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, which are two separate issues [emphasis added]" and that, "It was important for faculty to have a voice on this type of training for our students." This sheds light on the ASCSU's true agenda: using the committee to promote the idea that campus anti-Zionism has nothing to do with anti-Semitism. Foroohar's appointment to "train" faculty effectively ends any meaningful attempt by the Governor's task force to battle campus anti-Semitism.
Among Foroohar's anti-Israel activities:
• She is on the Organizing Committee of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI ) and in 2010, signed a petition to have an Israeli scholar ejected from an academic conference in Los Angeles. She is also on the Coordinating Committee of the Israel Divestment Campaign.
• She is one of the signatories to a 2012 open letter to the California State Assembly objecting to House Resolution 35, which condemned anti-Semitism on California campuses, alleging that it threatened academic freedom by conflating "criticism of Israel or its policies with anti-Semitism."
• In 2009, she authored a resolution that was adopted by the 23,000-strong California Faculty Association that condemned Israel for its 2006 military incursion into Gaza and white-washed the terrorist organization Hamas.
• She signed a 2011 open letter to CSU Chancellor Charles Reed demanding an end to the CSU Israel [Study] Abroad program.
• From 2007-2010 she worked to organize the Students for Justice and Peace in the Middle East-sponsored "Wall of Separation" displays on her campus.
• In 2003 she oversaw a lecture series offered in conjunction with one of her courses that featured only anti-Israel speakers.
• Student comments at Polyratings.com include the following: "I am a Jewish student, and I felt extremely uncomfortable during her discussions about the Middle East, as she presented all of the course material in ways that seemed to attack Israel"; "This class is just pandering to Palestinian propaganda"; "She is also rabidly anti-Israel"; and "God forbid if you are Jewish or Israeli because she has it in for you."
Viewing Foroohar's dubious résumé against the U.S. State Department's working definition of anti-Semitism—which includes demonizing, delegitimizing, and applying double standards to Israel—it's clear that her appointment to lead a committee charged with promoting tolerance and opposing anti-Semitism is unacceptable. Concerned faculty members have expressed their opposition to the CSU administration privately, but thus far have been met with stonewalling, claims of ignorance, or attempts to downplay the situation by maintaining that the position is merely symbolic. Whatever the truth, Foroohar's appointment is a stark reminder that pro-Israel CSU students facing discrimination are on their own.
Lee Kaplan is an investigative journalist and columnist who writes for Isracampus.org.il, Israel National News, and the Northeast Intelligence Network. He is a Fellow at the American Center for Democracy and the founder of DAFKA.org and StoptheISM.com. He wrote this article for Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.