Gary Fouse adjunct teacher at UCI: Letter to Dean Chemerinsky

Letter below was copied to the OCITF and is reprinted with the authors permission

Dear Dr Chemerinsky,

My name is Gary Fouse, and I am an adjunct teacher in the UCI Extension (ESL). I have been teaching part-time at UCI for over 11 years. I am not an academic by profession, rather I am retired from federal law enforcement in the Department of Justice (DEA). I have been involved in this on-going controversy for 3 or 4 years now. I am writing because I respectfully take issue with some of the things you have said in your statement regarding the situation at UCI. I am writing as a private citizen and not as a representative of the UCI-Ext.

I became involved because, though I am not Jewish, I grew up in West Los Angeles among Jews. Later, I served in the US Army in Germany close to Nuremberg, a city with great symbolism in the Third Reich. That experience made me an amateur scholar on the history of the Third Reich. Suffice to say that I am very sensitive to the subject of anti-Semitism.

When I began attending the MSU-sponsored events a few years ago, I heard speech that greatly disturbed me. The primary focus was anti-Israel. Yet, I noted that many of the speakers also bashed America (their right under free speech, I concede), but also used language that I considered anti-Semitic as well (again, protected free speech.)

Let me focus on things that have been said on this campus by MSU-sponsored speakers.

Washington-based imam Mohammed al-Asi has called Jews “ghetto-dwellers” and said that “you can take a Jew out of the ghetto, but you can’t take the ghetto out of the Jew”. I have posted Al-Asi’s words including video clips of him speaking at UCI on my blog which may be accessed at:

Oakland-based imam Amir Abdel Malik Ali has been appearing on our campus repeatedly for years. He has glorified Palestinian suicide bombers as “martyrs” and “heroes”-not terrorists. He has repeatedly called for the violent destruction of Israel. Ali usually takes care to tack on the adjective, “Zionist” when he refers to Jews-as if that makes it alright, a fact I have personally pointed out to him. On one occasion, he referred to Rupert Murdoch as a “Zionist Jew”, and repeated it for emphasis.

“Rupert Murdoch is a straight up Zionist Jew” Put that on Fox News. Rupert Murdoch is a Zionist Jew”.

Dr Chemerinsky, I invite you to decide for yourself if that is anti-Semitism. The link is here. You can view it yourself.

Note how Ali literally spits out the words, “Zionist Jew” much as Nazis like Julius Streicher did. You know well that when you spit out the word “Jew”, no epithet is needed. In Nazi Germany, they didn’t need epithets. Simply the word “Jude” was sufficient if stated the right way. That’s how Ali does it. He knows what code language is all about.

That leads me back to your initial point about not having seen anti-Semitism on the UCI campus. Please correct me if I am mistaken, but you were also quoted as having said you saw no anti-Semitism on the UCI campus way before you came to UCI-when you were either at Duke or USC. I heard that statement (quoted) prior to your hiring. With all due respect, how could you have made such a determination at that time if you were not here? In addition, I note in your statement, you acknowledge that anti-Semitic statements have been made by MSU-sponsored speakers.

In the last 11 years, I have also had occasion to meet and speak with Jewish students. Before I come directly to that point, I would like to describe my own feelings about the UCI campus. There is a reason I have chosen to continue teaching part-time at UCI. I have always considered the campus a pleasant place to work. I have always stated that 99.9% of the students at UCI are not involved in this controversy. Most are serious students who don’t have time to engage in all the crazy protests one sees at other campuses like Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz or Columbia.

In most respects, UCI is a great place to study or to work. I have never tried to portray the campus as a place where Jews cannot safely walk around. In my conversations with Jewish students, I get varying opinions about the extent of the problem. The problem seems greatest when the MSU holds their events and feelings sometimes get out of hand. My sense is that most Jewish students (that I have spoken to) are not looking for confrontation, prefer to talk it out with Muslim students and want to see more Jewish students attend UCI in order to strengthen their voice.
On the other hand, a few months ago, a Jewish UCI professor who counsels Jewish students was meeting with a group of them and asked them how many actually felt intimidated as Jews on the UCI campus. About half raised their hands-virtually all females. I submit that is a troubling number.
In addition, the anecdotal incidents that have happened over the years are well documented. Fortunately, there have been no serious incidents of violence. Yet, there have been insults and cases of intimidation. How must Jewish students, some of whom are of Israeli origin, feel when they view the Israeli flag torn and smeared with red paint-which happens regularly? I myself have seen the caricature of Ariel Sharon on the MSU “Wall” depicting him in the same style as the Nazi newspaper Der Stuermer depicted Jews during the Third Reich-leering face, thick lips, and big hooked nose.

That, Dr Chemerinsky, is anti-Semitic.

More to the point, however, one Jewish student (now graduated) had her camera shoved in her face while filming an MSU event a few years ago. Another Jewish woman after filming an evening speech by Ali, was followed back to her car by a group of MSU males who surrounded her car while she was trying to leave. This was witnessed by a member of the community who happened to be in the area and tried to get the campus police to take action (unsuccessfully) even though she herself had her car surrounded and sat upon. Another Jewish girl was verbally accosted as she walked past what was supposed to be a silent MSU protest. Instead she was accosted by students who yelled in her face about “the crimes of Israel”. Another male student had a rock thrown at his head by a female student on campus because he wore a t-shirt that identified him as a Jew.
These incidents were either reported to campus police or school authorities. No action was taken.

As a result of the above, rightfully or wrongfully, UCI has acquired a national reputation for these types of incidents. It may be free speech, but the fact is that many Jewish prospective students have opted not to attend UCI. That has nothing to do with any statements made by ZOA.
As a retired law enforcement officer, I am aware of what is or is not free speech. I have never argued that the above-referenced speakers or any others be shut down, arrested, disrupted or prevented from speaking. I have sat and listened to many of these speeches and then attempted to engage the speakers in debate during the Q&A. I feel that is the way to deal with it. Let me give you a couple of examples.

Last January, I attended a “seminar” at UCI entitled “Whither the Levant”, (not MSU-sponsored) which was nothing more than a day-long bashing of Israel-with no opposing point of view offered. That’s fine. However, during the Q&A, I sent up a question to the panel which was given to Norman Finklestein to answer. The question went something like this:

“During the fighting in Gaza, we witnessed many pro-Palestinian demonstrations in places like Ft Lauderdale, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Toronto, in which some demonstrators shouted things like, “Long live Hitler”. “Jews back to the ovens”, “Hitler didn’t finish the job”, etc. I asked the panelists if such statements did not harm their cause. Finklestein, as he always does, treated the question with contempt and finished with a comment that people who ask questions like that should “pull their heads out of their navels”. The room of some 500 erupted in applause. (Most of the crowd were probably community members.)

On May 21, when George Galloway came to UCI, I posed that same question to him from the microphone. Halfway through my question, he broke in and called me a liar as a room full of about 800 again erupted in cheers. (All the incidents I described to him are on YouTube.) I was asking a respectful question-a question that should have been treated with respect by all. I took the derisive reaction of the audience as being anti-Jewish. (This incident is also documented on YouTube.)

As to the complaint filed a few years ago by ZOA on behalf of UCIJewish students, I was not involved in that issue. It is my understanding though that there was much more to the failure of that complaint than that the charges were determined to be unfounded, as you state. Some of the allegations were dismissed because the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the Department of Education determined that they weren’t filed in a timely manner, a conclusion that I understand the ZOA has challenged on appeal. Most of the allegations were dismissed because OCR decided that they didn’t fall under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. It is my understanding though that it would be inaccurate to say that the complaint was dismissed because the charges were determined to be unfounded, as you state.

In addition, I would refer you to the addendum section of the report issued by the Orange County Independent Task Force on Anti-Semitism in 2008 relative to the above complaint process. In this addendum, the OCITF quotes several examples of incidents from the OCR report which had been reported by Jewish students including, but not limited to, the destruction of a Holocaust memorial display in the Spring of 2003, the harassment of a Sephardic Jew in February 2004 with statements like, “slaughter the Jews”, “dirty Jew” and “take off that pin (which had the US and Israeli flags and the statement, ‘United We Stand’) or we’ll beat your ass”, a Jewish girl having her Israeli flag on her dorm door defaced with a swastika in May of 2006, and a Jewish student of Russian descent being subjected to harassing and threatening statements from fall 2000 to spring 2002 including, “go back to Russia”, “burn in Hell” and that he was an F-ing Jew”.

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As you may or may not know, I have publicly criticized the university for not adequately responding to complaints from Jewish students and not sufficiently responding to what I consider hate speech on the UCI campus. To their credit, they seem to have respected my freedom of speech (since I am still teaching here). I understand that the university’s position is that this is a matter of free speech. I (and others) have asked why the university could not issue a statement to the effect that statements made by a particular speaker are hateful and that the university condemns them. I also understand that the position of the administration is that they cannot get involved in rebutting statements every time something disagreeable is said on campus. I respectfully disagree. We are not talking about a debate on the economy or government health care. We are talking about hate speech directed toward a specific group. It must be confronted and rebutted.

As to your reference to the Jewish Federation of Orange County, I am pleased to see that after years of denial, that organization has now recognized the problem at UCI and is demanding some kind of action after the disruption of Ambassador Oren’s speech.

I well understand the passion that the MSU has when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Reasonable people can disagree on this issue, and the MSU has every right to express their support of the Palestinian side. It seems to me that here in America, that can be done in a civilized and mutually-respectful manner. I maintain, however, that this conflict is no justification for a resurgence in anti-Semitism, which is exactly what I see happening, especially in Europe, but also here in America. The MSU denies they are anti-Jewish-just anti-Israel. That may be, but I feel they do a disservice to their cause when they bring in speakers like Al-Asi and Malik Ali to speak for them.

I would like to take the liberty of providing you a link to the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency’s working definition of anti-Semitism. I feel that at least some of the definition’s points are applicable to UCI.

Click to access pub

As a Jewish person, you well know, we have a lesson in history as to what this all can lead to. I maintain that there is indeed a problem on this campus, the extent of which we may disagree on. It is not just UCI. This issue is flaring up on campuses all over North America. I know the American people won’t stand for it if they are made aware. I see that as my duty. I too have a right to express my views, and I will continue to do that even if it eventually costs me my part-time job at UCI.

Finally, Dr Chemerinsky, If there is no problem at UCI, why has the school hired a “crisis expert” to address this issue? I submit that UCI is indeed facing a crisis. I take no pleasure in seeing the harm to the reputation of this institution and its students because of this situation. What happened February 8 is not even the culmination of the events of the past several years because, bad as it was, it was not a tragedy. Nobody was hurt. I have said for years now that one day, a tragedy could come to UCI and everybody would be asking, “how could this happen here?” I myself would not be asking that question. However, if it is truly your position that there is not the slightest indication of anti-Semitism on the UCI campus, with all due respect, Sir, I believe you are in error.

Gary Fouse

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