Donald Trump is not the only textbook legal bully this season. David Horowitz– a driver of anti-Muslim and anti-Black hate – threatened to sue UCLA senior Robert Gardner in response to an op-ed calling the Horowitz Freedom Center “hateful.” Robert wrote his op-ed after Horowitz plastered the campus with posters describing Robert, and other students and faculty, as promoters of terrorism and “Jew Hatred.”
In the past five weeks, Horowitz plastered 11 campuses with similar posters, and administrators at all 11 schools condemned the tactic, calling it “misinformation,” “inflammatory,” and “bullying and intimidation in its truest form.”
In response to posters at UCLA last month, Robert published an article to educate the UCLA community about his support for Palestinian equality, and expose the backlash he has experienced at the hands of Israel advocacy organizations that disapprove of his activism.
Horowitz has now escalated his threats against Robert:
“You falsely describe David Horowitz as a racist,” wrote Horowitz’s attorney, Paul A. Hoffman, in a letter to Robert on October 17. “You should have checked the facts more carefully before printing your Op-Ed.” The letter calls Robert’s article “defamatory” and threatens that, “Further publication or republication [of your Op-Ed] will also demonstrate your malicious intent and will support the imposition of punitive damages against you personally.”
Horowitz sent a similar threat letter last spring to UCLA’s Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, Jerry Kang, after Kang denounced the Horowitz poster campaign as “thuggish intimidation” and “demagoguery.” As retribution, Horowitz also featured Kang himself on one of the posters plastered on UCLA’s campus last month.
Robert, an African American student majoring in political science, is active with Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at UCLA. In his op-ed prompting the legal threat, “SJP unfazed by hate posters, will continue to educate students,” Robert wrote:
“[T]he Southern Poverty Law Center has documented the [David Horowitz] Freedom Center as an anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-black hate organization. …
For Palestinian students and allies like myself, the experience [of being targeted for our activism] has been all too surreal. Because of my activism for Palestinian human rights, I have been placed on an online blacklist – an anonymous website ran by students and “concerned citizens” – that is trying to prevent me from being employed, and that blacklist provides the Freedom Center with the information needed to launch its hateful campaign of intimidation. Ever since my name was listed on the posters, I have been followed, bullied and harassed on social media. Like other students, this has caused me to worry for my safety. This experience has also caused me a great deal of psychological trauma, and I worry about my well-being. …
Robert is a first generation college student, originally from South Los Angeles, and a transfer to UCLA from community college. He commutes over an hour by bus each day to the UCLA campus. His commitment to equality for Palestinians is rooted in his experience as a black youth facing police violence and structural inequalities.
Robert explained, “I’ve got a thick skin. Against all odds, I made it to UCLA, and I’m not backing off my demands for justice and equality for all people – Black, Palestinian, all of us. But I’ll be honest – it’s scary to see my name plastered on campus and labeled as a terrorist. I lost sleep the week the posters hit, I missed class, I missed important reading and as a result, I couldn’t answer questions on a midterm. And now he’s going to sue me because I answered back?”
Palestine Legal attorney Liz Jackson underscored that the legal threat is baseless. “Students and journalists should continue to freely express and publish their opinions on Horowitz’s actions. The U.S. Constitution and California law protect Robert Gardner’s right to criticize Horowitz’s use of anti-Arab, anti-Muslim stereotypes,” explained Jackson.
Horowitz has repeatedly boasted about promoting his belief that supporters of Palestinian rights are terrorists as a strategy to intimidate SJP, similar to the way Trump has boasted about his misogynist views. “We have the same message for Horowitz that the New York Times sent to Trump after he threatened to sue the newspaper for reporting on Trump’s treatment of women,” said Jackson. “David Horowitz, if you believe that Robert Gardner has no right to share his views about your public anti-Muslim and anti-Black hate mongering, we would be delighted to see a court inform you otherwise.”
Although the Horowitz Center is widely perceived as an extremist hate group, its strategy bolsters the broader efforts of pro-Israel advocacy organizations, Israeli officials, and U.S. government officials to suppress support for Palestinian rights by branding it antisemitic and pro-terrorist.
Read Horowitz’s legal threat letter to Robert Gardner here.