In First, Legal Action Filed Against UC Berkeley over ‘Zionist Ban’

Students walk on the University of California, Berkeley campus in Berkeley, Calif., on Aug
AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

A groundbreaking legal complaint has been filed with the federal government against Berkeley Law School over the adoption of a bylaw by several student groups barring speakers that support “Zionism, the apartheid state of Israel, and the occupation of Palestine.”

The complaint, filed by attorneys Arsen Ostrovsky and Gabriel Groisman, called on the U.S. Department of Education Office of Human Rights to review the “profound and deep-seated antisemitic discrimination” against Jewish students, faculty and staff at UC Berkeley Law School, which they claimed was a violation of the Civil Rights Act which bars recipients of federal funding from discriminating on the basis of “race, color, and national origin.”

“UC Berkeley is not only the ideological center of progressiveness in higher education, but in recent years, has become a hotbed of antisemitism and Jew hatred, where Jewish students are now being forced to either renounce or deny such an integral part of their identity, as Zionism,” Ostrovsky told Breitbart News.

“No other group of persons is being forced into such an untenable position,” he added.

Nine student groups adopted a bylaw, which was initiated by UC Berkeley’s Law Students for Justice in Palestine at the end of August, claiming that excluding pro-Israel speakers is fundamental to “the safety and welfare of Palestinian students on campus.”

Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, himself a self-styled “progressive Zionist,” denounced the bylaw, explaining it would mean that he himself and 90% of Jewish students would be banned from speaking. In October, Chemerinsky signed a statement by the law faculty in conjunction with the Academic Engagement Network that reaffirmed “the principle of free and open speech” to include pro-Zionist speakers.

Still, Ostrovsky and Groisman took Chemerinsky to task for refraining from taking any other “meaningful steps” in response to the discrimination.

The two noted Chemerinsky declaration that “only a handful of student groups” adopted the bylaw, saying it was “unfathomable that a similar statement would ever be made that ‘only a handful’ of student groups banned speakers of any other ethnic, religious or racial group. Yet such blatant discrimination directly targeted against Jews is being excused, justified and mainstreamed.”

“The groups that have implemented this discriminatory policy attempt to hide their discrimination against the Jewish community by excluding “Zionists,” the two lawyers said. “This thin veil is completely transparent as Zionism is an integral, indispensable and core element of the Jewish identity.”

“There can be no equivocation: anti-Zionism is antisemitism,” they said.

File/UC Berkeley law school dean Erwin Chemerinsky at his home in Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday, January 19, 2021. (Carlos Avila Gonzalez/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

They went on to explain: “Zionism refers to the Jewish people’s right to self-determination and liberation in their ancestral homeland, the Land of Israel, which has for millennia formed an integral part of Jewish identity. A rejection of those who identify as Zionists, which is a vast, overwhelming majority of Jews, is therefore no different to excluding anyone else on the basis of their faith, shared ancestry or national origin.”

The complaint also called on the federal government to compel Berkeley to adopt the widely endorsed International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working
definition of antisemitism and require the University to create a training program to “educate about antisemitism, its history and modern manifestations, in order to foster an environment on campus that is open, inclusive and free of antisemitism.”


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