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Lt. Gov. Kounalakis Blasts California's Handling of Campus Gaza Protests
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By David Taub, Senior Reporter
Published 2 days ago on
May 15, 2024

California Lt. Gov Eleni Kounalakis speaks to attendees at the Jewish Public Affairs Committee of California summit, Wednesday, May 15, 2024, in Sacramento. (GV Wire/David Taub)

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SACRAMENTO — California’s lieutenant governor is critical of how the UC and CSU systems are handling pro-Palestinian campus protests.

“The campuses were woefully unprepared,” Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis told the Jewish Public Affairs Committee of California on Wednesday morning.  “And even as the encampments were building and the issues were building, and we had data of (Jewish) students not just feeling unsafe, but frankly, being unsafe. (The campuses) were not equipped to quickly and swiftly move to handle the challenge in front of them.”

JPAC, with 500 attendees at its Capitol Summit this week, advocates for state legislation on behalf of Jewish issues.

The group held a reception Tuesday evening at the Grand Sheraton — blocks away from the Capitol — with more than 50 legislators attending. Although JPAC invited most of the Central Valley delegation in the Assembly and state Senate, no one attended.

JPAC will lobby more than 100 lawmakers in person at the Capitol this afternoon.

Kounalakis, a former U.S. Ambassador to Hungary before her 2018 election as lieutenant governor, announced her candidacy last year for governor to succeed termed-out Gavin Newsom. She is a Democrat and California’s first female lieutenant governor.

Kounalakis: Campus Leaders Shouldn’t Negotiate With Protesters

Leaders at the UC campuses in Berkeley and Riverside negotiated with tent-encampment protesters — a strategy that Kounalakis disagrees with.

“Each campus is handling these situations in their own way with inconsistencies and, frankly, sometimes coming up with agreements that they really don’t have the authority to come up with,” she said.

As lieutenant governor, Kounalakis sits on the governing boards of the UC, CSU and community college systems. She said things are de-escalating, partly because schools are moving into the less-intense summer session.

“The most important thing that we can be doing from the UC standpoint is clarifying where the lines are between freedom to assemble, freedom of speech, and crossing over into the territory of violations of state law, federal law, of course, but also violations of codes of conduct,” Kounalakis said.

Antisemetic Tweets by UC Davis Professor

Kounalakis mentioned antisemitic tweets of a UC Davis professor shortly after the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks in Israel. Jemma Decristo, an assistant professor of American studies, posted a message attacking “zionist journalists” with threatening emojis.

“It is still under investigation. Now, if that does not cross a line of a code of conduct, my God, what does?” Kounalakis said.

Kounalakis called for schools to clearly identify “where the lines are” to enact disciplinary measures.

She also criticized Sonoma State for agreeing to demands of pro-Palestinian protesters, including creating an advisory council with membership determined by the campus Students for Justice in Palestine, as reported by The Press Democrat.

“They do not represent the majority of Jews here. And it’s really just devastating,” Kounalakis said.

She called students chanting “from the river to the sea” outrageous.

“We have to fight back and educate our students (so they) understand the very importance morally and from a national security standpoint of the existence, celebration and empowerment of Israel in the region,” Kounalakis said.

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David Taub,
Senior Reporter
Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email

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