University of California, Berkeley, School of Law is under renewed scrutiny for the alleged development of “Jew-free zones” that seek to prevent the invitation of pro-Israel speakers to campus.
Initially exposed in late August, the issue was thrust back into the national spotlight following a Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles op-ed by Kenneth L. Marcus, chairman of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, and former assistant U.S. secretary of education for civil rights.
“Nine different law student groups at the University of California at Berkeley’s School of Law, my own alma mater, have begun this new academic year by amending bylaws to ensure that they will never invite any speakers that support Israel or Zionism…These exclusions reflect the changing face of campus antisemitism. The highest-profile incidents are no longer just about toxic speech, which poisons the campus environment. Now anti-Zionist groups target Jewish Americans directly,” Marcus wrote Sept. 28.
On. Aug. 21, the student groups passed a bylaw stating that they would refuse to invite speakers supporting “Zionism, the apartheid state of Israel, and the occupation of Palestine.”
Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of Berkeley School of Law, denied the existence of the “Jew-free zones” in a response to Marcus in the Jewish Journal.
“Indeed, as Mr. Marcus advocates, and as I explained in a recent message to the Law School community: ‘The Law School has an “all-comers” policy, which means that every student group must allow any student to join and all student organized events must be open to all students.’ I know of no instance in which in this has been violated or there has been any discrimination against Jews. I have been in regular contact with our Jewish students about this,” Chemerinsky wrote.
Prior to Marcus’s op-ed, Chemerinsky said he was troubled by the bylaw, which would also exclude him.
“It is troubling to broadly exclude a particular viewpoint from being expressed,” he wrote in an email to the leaders of the law school’s student groups. “Indeed, taken literally, this would mean that I could not be invited to speak because I support the existence of Israel, though I condemn many of its policies.”
Roz Rothstein, CEO of the Israel education organization StandWithUs, told Fox News when the story broke in August that the nine law student groups should “rethink their end goals.”
“Misrepresenting Zionism is anti-Semitic and will never lead to peace,” she said. “Half the world’s Jewish people are in Israel, the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people, and the other half likely have friends and/or relatives who live there. Denying Jews the right to self-determination creates a double standard against only one country in the world. Those who lead biased, anti-peace campaigns should rethink their end goals and be honest about their prejudice against the Jewish people and the only Jewish country in the world.”