The University of Berkeley is the center of controversy after nine student groups published policies for speakers they will invite on campus that would exclude anyone with pro-Israel views.
Critics say that because the vast majority of Jewish students on campus are pro-Israel, this essentially creates “Jewish-free zones” on campus.
The policy is based on one written by the Berkeley Law Students for Justice in Palestine and excludes “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.”
The groups issuing the new rule include the Women of Berkeley Law, Asian Pacific American Law Students Association, Middle Eastern and North African Law Students Association, Law Students of African Descent, and the Queer Caucus.
The dean of Berkeley Law, Erwin Chemerinsky, himself a progressive Zionist, noted that the policy would exclude not only himself but roughly 90% of the Jewish students at the university.
“I believe a university should be a place where all views can be expressed. What this does is shut down free speech,” Chemerinsky told the JNS.
“This by-law alienates many Jewish students from certain groups on campus,” the Jewish Students Association at Berkeley Law said in a statement, explaining they were “saddened by the situation” and “concerned by the antisemitic impact the bylaw may have on the Berkeley Law community.”
The rule was also condemned by the Anti-Defamation League Central Pacific, which said it was both discriminatory and prevented productive discussion.
“The actions of Berkeley Law Students for Justice in Palestine are not only antisemitic at their core but also hinder any sensible or legitimate discussions on campus about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” the group’s regional director, Teresa Drenick, said.
However, Berkeley Law Students for Justice in Palestine doubled-down in a response to the widespread criticism, explaining it was not a matter of discrimination but “apartheid.”
“Apartheid is a crime against humanity and as student leaders at Berkeley Law we believe that we have an obligation to act,” the group said in a statement, according to CBN News. “The state of Israel is an apartheid state.”
“Supporting Palestinian liberation does not mean opposition to Jewish people or the Jewish religion; in fact, Jewish liberation and Palestinian liberation are intertwined, and we are committed to each other’s safety,” the statement also said.
However, as attorney Kenneth Marcus argued in an op-ed on the situation for The Jewish Journal, “By adopting anti-Jewish bylaw provisions, these groups are restricting their successors from cooperating with pro-Israel speakers and groups.”
“In this way, the exclusionary bylaws operate like racially restrictive covenants, precluding minority participation into perpetuity,” he noted.
“Universities should not have to be legally compelled to do what is obviously right,” Marcus wrote. “Anti-Zionist policies would still be monstrously immoral, even if they were not also unlawful. The students should be ashamed of themselves. As should grownups who stand quietly by or mutter meekly about free speech as university spaces go as the Nazis’ infamous call, judenfrei. Jewish-free.”
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