After the University of California Berkeley took heat for an off-campus housing co-operative reportedly banning white guests from common spaces, the pervasiveness of woke exclusionary practices is now said to include outright antisemitism with nearly 10 percent of college organizations adapting their constitutions to include a bylaw leading “down a very ugly road.”
In a call to leftist allies on campus, the Berkeley Law Students for Justice in Palestine (LSJP) had posted on their Instagram page at the end of August a proposed bylaw in favor of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement and to date, at least nine organizations have embraced an effort to block Jews and pro-Israel speakers from campus.
As set forth, the language of the bylaw included: “The [insert organization name] is committed to providing a supportive community space for all indigenous peoples globally, including movements for Palestinian liberation. In the rejection of colonialism, imperialism, and other types of oppression, [insert organization name] is dedicated to wholly boycotting, sanctioning, and divesting 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.”
Hitting key woke talking points like “anti-racism” and “anti-settler colonialism,” the list of groups known to have adopted the rule included the Berkeley Law Muslim Student Association, Middle Eastern and North African Law Students Association, Queer Caucus, Asian Pacific American Law Students Association, Womxn of Color Collective, Community Defense Project, Law Students of African Descent and Women of Berkeley Law.
In response to the acceptance of the bylaw, UC Berkeley law school dean Erwin Chemerinsky, himself Jewish, offered a watery statement on the “troubling” nature of the stance without taking action to stop the university organizations from proceeding.
“It is troubling to broadly exclude a particular viewpoint from being expressed. Indeed, taken literally, this would mean that I could not be invited to speak because I support the existence of Israel, though I condemn many of its policies,” he wrote in an email to the leaders of all of Berkeley Law’s student groups, according to the Jewish News of Northern California.
He added that the BDS movement, “poses a direct and serious threat to the academic freedom of our students and faculty, as well as the unfettered exchange of ideas and perspectives on our campus, including debate and discourse regarding conflicts in the Middle East.”
Zionist Organization of America President Morton A. Klein reacted to the dean’s statement by calling out the apparent acceptance of LSJP’s premise: “When he noted his support for Israel’s existence, he felt the need to qualify it, by adding that he condemned many of Israel’s policies–as if that is even remotely relevant to whether Jewish and pro-Israel voices and views have the right to be expressed at Berkeley law.”
Similarly, Berkeley law alum Kenneth L. Marcus, head of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law decried the move from LSJP as he viewed it as “taking a step down a very ugly road.”
“Berkeley Law wouldn’t be Berkeley Law if students didn’t engage in a certain amount of wrongheaded political nonsense,” Marcus acknowledged to the Jewish News of Northern California before adding, “This is different, because it’s not just a political stunt. It is tinged with antisemitism and anti-Israel national origin discrimination.”
The University had similarly taken a weak stance, albeit within reason, when an off-campus housing co-op not run by the school had reportedly banned white from common spaces because “Many POC members moved [into the space] to avoid white violence and presence…”
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Jewish organizations like the Jewish Students Association at Berkeley Law decried the move for its extremism while leaving room for diverse opinions stating, “Students can advocate for Palestinians and criticize Israeli policies without denying Israel the right to exist or attacking the identity of other students,” and further offering, “We are troubled that this bylaw creates an environment in which only one viewpoint is acceptable.”
The broader Jewish Students Association at UC Berkeley also spoke out, “When an affinity group adopts this by-law or conditions speaking privileges on denouncing Israel, many Jewish people are put in a position all too familiar: deny or denigrate a part of their identity or be excluded from community groups.”
Chemerinsky only made matters worse on behalf of the university as he blasted the media rather than the stance of the LSJP groups, pointing out, “it is important to recognize that law student groups have free speech rights, including to express messages that I and others might find offensive.”
“There is a false narrative that often underlies stories about college campuses,” he concluded, “including Berkeley’s, that there is significant anti-Semitism and that they are not hospitable for Jews. That is nonsense.”
There are reportedly just over 100 student organizations at UC Berkeley and at least nine have adopted the bylaw to prohibit the free speech of Jews at their events.
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