The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) condemns an antisemitic, anti-Israel bylaw promoted by Berkeley Law Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and adopted by nine student groups at the University of California’s Berkeley Law. In addition to supporting boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) efforts against Israel, the bylaw provides that groups will not invite speakers who “have expressed and continued to hold views . . . in support of Zionism, the apartheid state of Israel, and the occupation of Palestine” – allegedly “in the interest of protecting the safety and welfare of Palestinian students on campus.” In essence, student groups that endorse this bylaw agree to exclude speakers who simply support Israel’s right to exist.
In an email to leaders of student groups at Berkeley Law, the law school dean, Erwin Chemerinsky, called the bylaw “troubling” and stated that if “taken literally, this would mean that I could not be invited to speak because I support the existence of the state of Israel.” Neither Chemerinsky nor the law school forcefully condemned the student groups that have adopted this bylaw or indicated that the law school would be taking disciplinary action against them, even though they have pledged to alienate and silence Jews and supporters of Israel.
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein condemned the student groups that have adopted this SJP bylaw, as well as the Berkeley Law administration for failing to sanction these groups, stating, “It’s unconscionable that Berkeley Law has so feebly responded to this obvious effort to marginalize Jewish and pro-Israel students and prevent them and others from speaking on campus and telling the truth about Israel, the only genuine democracy in the Middle East. Dean Chemerinsky has made it clear that universities should be places where all ideas and views can be expressed, yet he and the law school are tolerating behavior that is purposefully undermining that very principle.
“The dean’s message to student group leaders was painfully weak. When he noted his support for Israel’s existence, he felt the need to qualify it, by adding that he condemned many of Israel’s policies – as if that is even remotely relevant to whether Jewish and pro-Israel voices and views have the right to be expressed at Berkeley Law. The dean should be forcefully and unequivocally condemning all of these student groups and taking immediate steps to discipline them for their antisemitic, anti-free speech actions.”
Susan B. Tuchman, Esq., the director of the ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice, added, “All students and student groups are expected to comply with UC Berkeley’s Campus Code of Student Conduct, which is expressly based on Berkeley’s commitment to ‘fostering behaviors consistent with a civil and educational setting.’ Yet the student groups that have adopted this antisemitic, anti-Israel bylaw are flouting this commitment by demonizing, disrespecting and silencing Jewish and pro-Israel voices and views on campus.
“Dean Chemerinsky is correct that these student groups have the First Amendment right to express themselves, but they do not have the right to interfere with the free speech of others with whom they disagree. These groups receive valuable privileges and benefits from Berkeley Law, including funding and the use of rooms on campus. The ZOA calls on Berkeley Law to revoke the recognition of SJP and the other student groups that have adopted this anti-Israel, antisemitic bylaw. Having pledged to violate Berkeley Law’s commitments and values, they don’t deserve the privileges and benefits that the law school affords them.”