Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts. Founded by Mark Kleiman (1951-2019)
Plague-on-both-your-houses-Dept.: UC Hastings Law School
This seems to me to be a pretty blatant attack on academic freedom.Â George Bisharat, a professor at the UC Hastings School of Law, organized a conference entitled “Litigating Palestine: Can Courts Secure Palestinian Rights?”Â It’s pretty much what you’d expect: lots of speakers decrying Israel, advocating BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) against Israel, and detailing how to sue Israel in a variety of fora.Â Nothing to waste your time on, but pretty standard fare.
But then the San Francisco Jewish Community Relations Committee kicked up a fuss by protesting, not outside the conference, but the Hastings’ Board of Directors, who are appointed by California’s Governor.Â They demanded that the school remove its official sponsorship of the conference and that the board forbid the Dean from giving a welcoming speech.Â And that’s exactly what the Board did.
Look: a full-time member of the Hastings faculty, with nearly-unanimous approval of that faculty, decided to put on the conference.Â That’s the way these things are supposed to be done. Â Then a politically-appointed board tells the Dean that he can’t speak there, and removes the school’s name from it (the article doesn’t say anything about funding).Â That’s not the way these things are supposed to be done.Â A faculty needs to make the relevant intellectual decisions for a school.Â It’s not clear to me what sorts of rights the Dean has in terms of convening the conference, but this is really a bad sign.Â Politically-appointed boards are supposed to provide general direction, raise money, and make overall policy decisions.Â They aren’t supposed to be telling faculty what is good or not good to say (although of course individual boardmembers can express their opinions in their personal capacity).Â A number of UCLA Law School faculty are circulating a letter of support for the determinations of the Hastings faculty, and I was happy to sign it.
That said, Professor Bisharat hasn’t helped his cause much with statements like this.Â One of the Jewish Community Relations Committee’s complaints was that everyone at the conference was anti-Israel and that no one speaking offered the pro-Israeli perspective, which is essentially true.Â Bisharat’s response?
If you had a conference on Holocaust reparation cases, you wouldn’t include Holocaust deniers.
Well, that’s just lovely: comparing supporters of Israel to Holocaust deniers, and thereby suggesting that Israel’s policies regarding the Palestinians are like what the Nazis did to the Jews.Â It certainly gives creedence to the JCRC’s claim that the conference has little intellectual or moral merit.
I’ve met Bisharat before: he’s not a bomb thrower, and for the most part is a prettyÂ careful lawyer and serious scholar.Â But as his CV andÂ writings make clear, he has devoted large portions of his career to undermining Israel.Â He is a firm believer in the “one-state solution” for Israel and Palestine, and he is smart enough to know that such a “solution” essentially means the exile of hundreds of thousands of Jews and death of hundreds of thousands more.Â He’s certainly entitled toÂ advocate forÂ that.Â But no one should be fooled about the meaning and nature of the conference, or even briefly entertain the notion that it will advance Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Author: Jonathan Zasloff
Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees.
Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses.
Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.
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