(February 14, 2020 / JNS) A student government committee at the University of California, Berkeley, rejected a resolution earlier this week condemning a display by a pro-Palestinian student group.
The Associated Students of the University of California Senate’s (ASUC) University and External Affairs Committee defeated student Milton Zerman’s resolution, titled “Condemning Bears for Palestine for Their Display in Eshleman Hall Glorifying Violent Terrorists,” on Monday by a vote of 4-1.
“Clearly, Berkeley is not united against hate,” said Nathan Bentolila, a senior, during the meeting, reported the student newspaper The Daily Californian. “I honestly have very little to say, the Jewish community is beyond disappointed.”
According to the outlet, speaking out against the resolution, Pavin Johnson, a junior, said during the meeting, “I am very disturbed not just with this racist bill being considered, but I am also disturbed with the egregious acts of violence enacted by campus Zionists—attacks against not just the Palestinian students, but other students from marginalized communities.”
In December, the student group Bears for Palestine put on a display in the student union featuring convicted Palestinian terrorists Rasmieh Odeh, Fatima Bernawi and Leila Khaled.
Last week, the student government committee erupted into chaos by pro-Palestinian students, causing the vote to be delayed.
“Jewish students were repeatedly harassed, heckled and threatened with physical threats of violence. … Jewish students should never feel threatened and should NEVER fear for their safety while on campus,” posted Tikvah: Students for Israel, a pro-Israel group on campus, on Facebook.
“Despite multiple threats of violence, the ASUC administrator and moderator refused to get involved. One BFP member stepped into a student’s face and said ‘I’m going to kick your ass,’ while another Jewish student was chased out of the room by BFP members,” continued the post. “We, as a community, decided that enough was enough and that we were not going to sit idly by as our members were threatened and harassed, so we walked out.”
“Yesterday wasn’t just a harassment of Palestinian students. Every marginalized group on this campus was threatened, and ASUC chose to adjourn the meeting before each of those threats was accounted for,” posted Bears for Palestine on Facebook. “Anxiety is running high among all the Palestinian students and allies on campus, but we know yesterday was a win for us.”
Educate moderators and administration members
Pro-Israel groups rebuked Bears for Palestine.
The university’s chancellor, Carol Christ, said last week she is not “interested” in blaming pro-Palestinian students for the chaos.
In a letter this week to Christ obtained by JNS, Brooke Goldstein, the executive director and founder of the Lawfare Project, expressed alarm about the chaos and the apparent lack of action by school authorities in response.
Goldstein took issue with Christ, saying that “Jewish students have a right to feel dismay and concern after seeing a poster they perceive as honoring those who killed, or attempted to kill, unarmed Jewish civilians.”
“We strongly caution the Berkeley administration not to differentiate between classic and Israel-related anti-Semitism, or to excuse or dismiss any developing incidents as simply motivated by ‘politics.’ Harassment is harassment, and it should be addressed promptly and vigorously, regardless of the motivation of the perpetrator or the identity of the victim.”
“While likely not your intent, this statement is wildly insensitive, and it trivializes the devastating impact that the Jewish and Israeli members of the Berkeley community felt upon seeing terrorist murderers lionized in a display in a public venue on the campus,” she wrote. “We cannot help but wonder if you would have chosen the same words to describe the emotions of the African-American community if there were photos of KKK members in a public display on campus commemorating them and their activities.”
Goldstein said that Christ’s “statement did not resonate with the Jewish community on your campus, nor did it do anything to subside their fears of threats and physical violence.”
She also called on the chancellor to investigate the chaotic meeting; issue rules and procedures to prevent something like that from happening again; and educate moderators and administration members at ASUC meetings to about how “anti-Semitism can be manifested.”
AMCHA Initiative co-founder and director Tammi Rossman-Benjamin told JNS, “The reality here is that the First Amendment protects this type of expression, and as a longtime faculty member at the University of California, I think protecting the freedom of expression of all students is critical.”
“However, what can’t be denied is that displays such as this one, as well as the routine campus BDS resolutions and anti-Zionist events, are deliberately designed to inject hate and dangerous divisiveness onto campus, and almost always result in the harassment of Jewish and pro-Israel students,” she continued. “The university must be prepared to promptly, fairly and firmly address any harassment that ensues.”
“And we strongly caution the Berkeley administration not to differentiate between classic and Israel-related anti-Semitism, or to excuse or dismiss any developing incidents as simply motivated by ‘politics,’ ” she said. “Harassment is harassment, and it should be addressed promptly and vigorously, regardless of the motivation of the perpetrator or the identity of the victim.”
StandWithUs co-founder and CEO Roz Rothstein told JNS, “It is time for the administration to step up, put politics aside, and do the right thing. There should be no controversy about issuing an unequivocal condemnation of a campus display that glorifies terrorism.”
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