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UC Berkeley student law groups rally behind anti-Semitic cause, prohibit 'Zionist' speakers

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Photo by David Madison/Getty Images

Student groups at UC Berkeley School of Law have recently amended their bylaws to "sanction" and prohibit speakers supportive of Israel or Zionism. The Jewish Journal reports that this would amount to a ban on 90% of Jewish students speaking, as well as Berkeley Law's progressive Zionist dean, Erwin Chemerinsky.

According to the group promoting this segregation, "Free speech and the exchange of ideas cannot be romanticized ... The action of affinity groups ... choosing not to platform Zionists, who are either active or complicit in causing harm to Palestinians, from being platformed in their spaces is absolutely a tenable action."

The nine groups supportive of the amendments include the Queer Caucus, the Berkeley Law Muslim Student Association, the Middle Eastern and North African Law Students Association, Women of Berkeley Law, and the "Womxn of Color Collective."'

Anti-Semitism's promotion on campus

In a August 21 Instagram post, Berkeley Law Students for Justice in Palestine (BLSJP) thanked these groups and others for "refusing to be complicit in Israeli apartheid by adopting a pro-BDS bylaw."

Each group that embraced the so-called pro-BDS bylaw is henceforth "committed to providing a supportive community space for all indigenous peoples globally, including movements for Palestinian liberation."

These groups have bound themselves to boycott, sanction, and divest funds "from institutions, organizations, companies, and any entity that participated in or is directly/indirectly complicit in the occupation of the Palestinian territories and/or supports the actions of the apartheid state of Israel."

Explicit in this commitment is the promise not to "invite speakers that have expressed and continued to hold views or host/sponsor/promote events in support of Zionism, the apartheid state of Israel, and the occupation of Palestine."

Despite requiring these student groups to prohibit speakers who have an affinity for or link to Israel, the BLSJP emphasized its commitment to "equality and inclusion."

The law students now barring most Jews from speaking also agreed to participate in a "Palestine 101" training seminar. The seminar, which last took place on September 21, details "the goals of the Palestinian liberation movement, and ways the broader Berkeley Law community can be involved."

The group putting on the seminar has elsewhere claimed that Israel "was established — just like the United States — through the genocide and displacement of indigenous people."

The response

In an August 27 statement, the Jewish Students Association at the school expressed concern over "the impact this by-law is having on our Jewish community ... This by-law alienates many Jewish students from certain groups on campus."

The group suggested that students "can advocate for Palestinians and criticize Israeli policies without denying Israel the right to exist or attacking the identity of other students. To say otherwise is antithetical to the dialogue around which our educational community is built."

Noting that many Jewish students' "identities are intertwined with the existence of Israel as an ancestral homeland," this bylaw amounts to denigration and exclusion.

The dean of the law school, Erwin Chemerinsky, was reportedly prompted to comment when members of Women of Berkeley Law came to him, expressing great uneasiness. He said that it is "the First Amendment right of students to express their views on any issues," although it "is troubling to broadly exclude a particular viewpoint from being expressed."

Kenneth Marcus, a Berkeley Law alumnus and chairman of the Louis D. Brendeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, wrote on September 28 that the students "should be ashamed of themselves ... [a]s should grownups who stand quietly by or mutter meekly about free speech as university spaces go as the Nazis' infamous call, judenfrei. Jewish-free."

Marcus previously said that, unlike previous "wrongheaded political nonsense," this latest student initiative "is different, because it's not just a political stunt. It is tinged with antisemitism and anti-Israel national origin discrimination."

The trend

The University of California is not the only academic hotbed for anti-Semitism in the nation.

A recent watchdog group's report regarding anti-Semitism on U.S. college and university campuses gave Columbia University, New York University, Swathmore College, CUNY's Brooklyn College, and the University of Southern California failing grades. Berkeley also received an F-rating. These ratings were conferred on the basis of protection, "allyship," identity, and policy measures.

The problem is not limited to students or student groups, although it has been suggested that anti-Semitism will graduate with them. The New York Post reported that this year's commencement speaker at the taxpayer-funded CUNY's Brooklyn College was Nerdeen Mohsen Kiswani, an advocate for "Intifada revolution" and the complete eradication of Israel.

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