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USC Students Jeer Anti-Arab Militant Rabbi Meir Kahane

November 02, 1989|MARIA NEWMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

About 50 USC students shouted at Rabbi Meir Kahane on Wednesday when the anti-Arab militant made a brief, noontime appearance on campus to espouse his controversial plan to bring peace to the Middle East by kicking Arabs out of Israeli-held territories.

His visit to the campus near Exposition Park was to be the first official stop on a Southern California tour to raise funds for his cause.

But the tour got off to a sputtering start when USC officials, saying his appearance could incite violence, decided Tuesday to cancel Kahane's contract to speak at the university's Bovard Auditorium.

Coordinators of Kahane's speaking engagement unsuccessfully sought a temporary restraining order from a Los Angeles Superior Court judge on Tuesday.

Nevertheless, the rabbi stood outside the auditorium Wednesday to deliver his message.

He was met by a crowd of students--most of them members of Jewish student organizations--carrying signs reading "We regret racism in any form" and "Meir Kahane was not invited by anyone on this campus."

Kahane told the crowd that Southern California's Arab population will increase because "we will take them out of Israel."

Then, an Arab student in the crowd shouted: "Stop killing babies."

"Stop killing Jewish babies," Kahane retorted.

As Kahane moved away from the crowd to his waiting car, a group of students formed around him.

"A campus is a place for free ideas," Kahane told them. "I obviously come here just for the purpose of making a statement that I was here and that the courts are wrong."

But a student said: "He does not speak for Jewish students on this campus. Meir Kahane speaks for himself."

Kahane said of another shouting student, "He is not a real Jew."

The Brooklyn-born Kahane, 56, founded the Jewish Defense League in 1968 and emigrated to Israel in 1971.

He was elected to the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, but his anti-Arab political party was banned from last year's elections on the grounds that it is racist and anti-democratic.

"You were kicked out of the Knesset because you were a racist," another student shouted at him Wednesday.

Just as he ducked into his car, Kahane told the crowd that he would return.

"And we'll be here waiting for you," someone called out.

"Meir Kahane does not speak for the Jewish community in any way, shape or form," said sophomore Neil Glick, president of the USC Israeli Alliance student group. "Israel doesn't support him. Israel supports freedom for anybody and it doesn't support racism."

Rabbi Laura Geller, director of the USC Hillel Center, a Jewish student center, said Kahane's appearance could have been disruptive to efforts at the university to foster understanding of the tension in the Middle East.

"There has been dialogue on this campus between Palestinian and Jewish student groups," she said. "It's very important that someone not ruin that progress.

"The irony of this whole experience is that the one thing that Jewish students and Arab students can agree on is that Meir Kahane does not represent the views of students and faculty on this campus," she said.

Dr. James Dennis, vice president for student affairs at USC, said he could not recall another instance when the university went back on a decision to allow someone to speak at the campus.

"But we have seldom had the kind of emotional energy that surrounded the (planned) visit by Rabbi Kahane," he said. "We had reports from several on-campus groups who said they intended to demonstrate and persons off-campus told us of their desire to demonstrate and exercise civil disobedience if he did make an appearance.

"We were just not certain that we could ensure everyone's safety with the apparent emotional fervor that accompanied this event," he said.

But Dennis pointed out that any private citizen is allowed to express their views in the area of the campus close to the statue of Tommy Trojan, just outside Bovard Auditorium, which is what Kahane did.

Afterward, four students sat around a table at the student center and discussed the brief visit. They said that Kahane's proposals were not rational and would not lead to the kinds of compromises it will take to find a solution for the problems of the Middle East.

"Look at us here--three Jews and a Hindu--we are trying to achieve something of a compromise and we know it's not easy," said Suresh Rajan, a junior in international relations and political science.

"We thought up a name for him," said Christopher Robinson, a junior who is also majoring in international relations, with a specialty in peace and conflict studies. "We call him the Nazi Jew."

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