(OCTOBER 31, 2022 / CONG. BRAD SHERMAN PRESS RELEASE) I am outraged and disappointed by the decision of 14 student groups at the UC Berkeley School of Law to pass a bylaw that would effectively end Jewish participation in their organizations. This new bylaw, which bans the participation of speakers that “support Zionism”, would prevent figures such as President Biden or Berkeley Law’s own Dean Erwin Chemerinsky from speaking at these events simply because they believe that Israel has a right to exist. This shameful bylaw not only undermines students’ First Amendment rights but also effectively bars nearly all of Berkeley Law’s Jewish students from having equal access to student organizations.
For too long, we have given antisemitism a pass when its proponents label it as anti-Zionism. 95% of American Jews hold views that may fall under the definition of Zionism, which is simply the belief that the Jewish people should have statehood – just like the Ukrainian people, the Armenian people, or any other nation. To oppose the national self-determination rights of only the Jewish people has always been and will always be antisemitic.
This unacceptable decision comes at a time where antisemitic speech and incidents are on the rise in California and across the country – with antisemitic incidents in 2021 hitting the highest amount ever recorded in the United States. California ranked the third highest in number of antisemitic incidents last year, which of course includes the shocking incident in Spring of 2021 where several people waving Palestinian flags beat diners in a Los Angeles sushi restaurant while chanting “death to Jews” and “Free Palestine.” There have also notably been a flurry of antisemitic incidents across Los Angeles just this week and in Berkeley over the summer.
The Jewish community knows all too well that antisemitic rhetoric like that used by the 14 Berkeley Law clubs can escalate into acts of hatred. While I appreciate Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky rightfully calling the adoption of this exclusionary bylaw “troubling”, more must be done. UC Berkeley touts free speech as one of its “most cherished values.” However, the adoption of this bylaw makes it so that many students, particularly Jewish students, will not be able to access student organizations that their tuition funds as a result of those students exercising their free speech rights. As a result, the funding and registered status that Berkeley provides to these student organizations must be made conditional on this discriminatory and antisemitic bylaw being revoked.
At a time of rising antisemitism, we must stand firm against attempts to alienate and demonize the Jewish community. I urge Berkeley Law to stand with its Jewish students and cease funding to any student organizations that effectively bar Jewish speakers and students from participating.
This press release was published on Congressman Brad Sherman’s website and can be viewed here.