Jewish groups have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the University of California Berkeley and its law school for allowing antisemitism to flourish on campus.
The lawsuit, filed by the Louis C. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law and Jewish Americans for Fairness in Education, comes after an outbreak of antisemitism — including violence — at Berkeley and other campuses. Last month, a first-year student was assaulted on campus when he carried an Israeli flag at a demonstration. The university has yet to take action in that incident.
Two UC Berkeley students assault a Jewish student during Monday’s pro Palestinian rally.
Rally goers were heard chanting- “we don’t want no 2 state, we want 48” – referring to a time when Israel did not exist. pic.twitter.com/hWH1O3myKX
— StopAntisemitism (@StopAntisemites) October 20, 2023
It says that Berkeley allows student groups to exclude “Zionist” speakers who support the existence of the State of Israel, which is effectively a ban on speakers who share the Jewish faith, a violation of civil rights.
“To be clear, anti-Zionism is altogether different from criticism of the State of Israel or opposition to the policies of the Israeli government—matters on which robust debate is encouraged,” the lawsuit says. But it adds: “By erasing or denying the Jewish people’’s ancestral connection to one another and to the land of Israel and by rejecting the very right of the State of Israel to exist, anti-Zionism denies to the Jewish people alone a fundamental human right to self-determination allowed to all other peoples of the world.”
Under an executive order signed by President Donald Trump in 2019, Jewish students on campus enjoy the same civil rights protections as other minority groups, and defines antisemitism to include extreme criticism of Israel or denial of its right to exist.
The lawsuit notes that several student groups require all students to support the “boycott, divestment, sanctions” (BDS) movement, which seeks to destroy Israel. Other activities — such as providing pro bono legal services to the poor, which has nothing to do with the Middle East — require students to take “Palestine 101” indoctrination courses.
Under these policies, Jewish students, faculty, and guest speakers must deny a central part of their cultural, ancestral heritage and a fundamental tenet of their faith in order to be eligible for the same opportunities Berkeley accords to others. The Exclusionary Bylaw’’s wholesale ban on ““Zionists”” is unrelated to the viewpoint a speaker might express as the guest of a student organization. Rather, it is a ban on Jewish persons—and especially those whose support for the Jewish State reflects an integral component of their Jewish ancestral, religious, ethnic, national and/or racial identity. Such discrimination is particularly acute for those Jews who must deny or disavow an integral part of their Jewish identity to be accepted by these Groups.
The lawsuit notes that UC Berkeley School of Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky has himself noted that these policies exclude 90 percent of Jewish students, and that anti-Zionism is antisemism. (Chemerinsky opposes the lawsuit, saying that its portrayal of campus life is “stunningly inaccurate” and that he supports the First Amendment right of groups to exclude speakers.)
The complaint goes on to note that these student groups are violating Berkeley’s own policies. The result:
By abdicating responsibility and failing to act as required by UC rules and U.S. law, the University has enabled the normalization of anti-Jewish hatred on campus. Jewish students feel compelled to hide their identities. Legal experts and professors are left to wonder whether they are barred from speaking to law student groups based on the fact that they are Jews.
In the wake of October 7, 2023, the deadliest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust, Jewish students at UC Berkeley have been the targets of harassment and physical violence. A Jewish student draped in an Israeli flag was attacked by two protestors who struck him in the head with a metal water bottle. Jews on campus have been receiving hate e-mails calling for their gassing and murder. And Jewish students have reported being afraid to go to class, which would require them to pass through the pro-Hamas rallies taking place in Berkeley’’s main thoroughfares.
The San Francisco Chronicle added:
UC President Michael Drake announced last week that the university was establishing an office to combat discrimination and would provide training against both antisemitism and Islamophobia.
But Steven Solomon, a UC Berkeley law professor and a plaintiff in the suit, said Jewish students at the school are not being protected.
“The students are cowed, they’re fearful, harassed. Some of them are not attending class,” Solomon told the Chronicle Tuesday. “They’re dehumanized in ways that would not be tolerated for any other group on campus.”
Left-wing institutions, including the Biden administration, often join “Islamophobia” with antisemitism, as if the two are related, or mirror images. Jews are targeted far more often than any other religious group, and have faced an explosion of hate in recent months. The impulse to mention Islamophobia appears calculated to assuage fears by anti-Israel groups, which include most major Muslim organizations in the United States, that Jewish victimhood will not result in additional sympathy for Israel.
Conservative and libertarian speakers on a variety of topics have often been met with violence at Berkeley. Ann Coulter, Peter Thiel, Milo Yiannopoulos, and others have faced violence or the threat of violence, forcing them to cancel or interrupt speeches, mocking Berkeley’s professed commitment to freedom of speech. (The university defended Bill Maher’s right to speak in 2014.)
Another civil rights complaint filed in November 2022 also the Berkeley group’s policies antisemitic. Pro-Palestinian lawyers claimed that student groups had a “legal and moral right” to boycott Zionist speakers, according to the Chronicle.
Separately, hundreds of academics throughout the University of California system signed a letter opposing administration plans to teach a “viewpoint-neutral” curriculum of Middle East history that would simply focus on the facts instead of political agendas.