The national president of the Zionist Organization of America has demanded U.C. Berkeley’s chancellor take action following an on-campus incident last month in which a pro-Palestinian protestor allegedly assaulted a Jewish student. In a 2,500-word letter dated Oct. 30, ZOA’s Morton Klein asked U.C. Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks to investigate the alleged assault, which took place during a “Day of Action” rally co-organized by Students for Justice in Palestine.
According to Klein’s letter, an SJP member grabbed a sign from and then shoved an unidentified pro-Israel student. Klein asked Dirks to condemn SJP and investigate the group to determine whether it “violated university rules and policies,” such as the university’s campus code of conduct, which prohibits physical abuse.
In a letter dated Nov. 5, Dirks responded in length to Klein.
“I can assure you that we have been and will continue to be unrelenting in our efforts to ensure that every student on this campus feels safe, respected and welcome regardless of their origins, beliefs, or perspectives,” Dirks wrote.
“I am therefore particularly disturbed by your description of an incident where the use of physical force is being alleged. I can confirm that our Office of Student Conduct has received a complaint consistent with the incident your letter describes,” he continued. “I can also assure you that we take this matter very seriously. We will pursue investigation according to our standard procedures and if the allegations are substantiated we will take appropriate action. While it is not possible to deter or prevent every single potentially illegal or impermissible act on campus, when we have evidence of bias-motivated violations of law or policy, we respond decisively.”
Johanna Wilder, the Northern California associate director for the pro-Israel agency StandWithUs, attended the rally with a group of several dozen pro-Israel counterdemonstrators from such groups as Bears for Israel and Tikvah. Wilder said she heard chants such as “Long live the intifada” and “Netanyahu, what do you say/how many babies did you kill today?” But she did not witness the alleged assault referred to in Klein’s letter.
Asserting that chanting support for the intifada is the same as chanting “We support murder and violence against Jews,” the letter urged Dirks to respond immediately to “SJP’s hateful, anti-Semitic and violence-inciting conduct before the situation escalates further.”