Anti-Semitism rears its head at UC Berkeley

October 13, 2022 • 9:30 am

As you know, the “progressive” Left platform includes “anti-Zionism”, a code word for “the abolition of Israel as a Jewish state”. And that, in turn, means “the abolition of Israel and its replacement by Palestine”.  That is to be enacted through the “right of return”, i.e., all descendants of Palestinians who left Israel when the state was established in 1948 will come back to Israel as citizens. The “descendants” claim means that millions of Palestinians would move to Israel, and we all know what would happen then. Mass fighting and slaughter, to name two things. What Palestine—and the progressive Left—want is not a two-state solution, but a one-state solution, and that state would be Palestine.  If you doubt that, look at the ubiquitous slogan, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” This means that Israel will be completely replaced by Palestine.

Israel isn’t perfect of course, but you don’t have to approve of all the Israeli government’s actions to support the country’s existence. What always baffles me about the “progressive” left is that Palestine is the real apartheid state, prohibiting Jewish inhabitants and oppressing women, gays, apostates, and nonbelievers, as well as frmenting terrorism against civilians. Where would you prefer to live as a nonbeliever, LGBTQ+ person, or a woman? Israel or Palestine?

Ergo the more Left-wing colleges have begun a campaign of demonizing both Israel and Jews themselves, called “Zios” because most Jews support Israel and the continuance of that Jewish state. This college-level anti-Semitism also manifests itself in support of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) movement, also aimed at eliminating Israel. It’s worth adding that the U.S. government (yes, the Biden administration) is investigating the University of Southern California for civil rights violations of its Jewish students.

But Berkeley exceeded all college anti-Semitism this month when nine student groups decided to ban all speakers who were “supporters of Israel”. That is, a speaker who doesn’t say anything about Israel in his or her speech is still prohibited from speaking if they’ve expressed support for Israel in other places. It’s bad enough to ban speakers whose talk supports Israel, but far worse to punish speakers for the crime of having supported Israel in other places. You are not allowed to speak because you have the wrong sentiments. 

Steve Lubet, an emeritus professor of law at Northwestern, describes the situation in the article below from the Chronicle of Higher Education:

An excerpt:

The University of California’s Berkeley campus has been a hotbed of leftist politics since at least the early 1960s, so it is unsurprising that students at its prestigious law school have long embraced the cause of Palestinian rights. It was shocking, however, when the latest expression of anti-Israel sentiment veered into territory so extreme that even the law school’s progressive dean, Erwin Chemerinsky, observed that it could be seen as antisemitic. Although the students had not in any sense established “Jewish-free zones,” as some overheated commentaries called them, what they did was bad enough. Nine law-school affinity organizations, nominally representing a majority of the student body, adopted a bylaw providing that they will not “lend platforms to speakers” who “have professed or continue to hold” Zionist views.

Yes, you read that correctly. The bylaw does not simply prohibit pro-Israel presentations at the organizations’ events. It bans speakers on any topic who happen to support the existence of Israel — a category that encompasses more than 80 percent of the world’s Jews, and includes many Berkeley Law students and faculty. As Chemerinsky remarked in an email to students, “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.” For the same reason, I would also be unable to speak to the student groups about my research on 19th-century abolitionist lawyers, notwithstanding my decades of support for the anti-occupation movement within Israel. (Disclosure: I am a 1973 alumnus of Berkeley Law.)

You can see the gist of Dean Chemerinsky’s letter here; he’s Jewish, but by no means an unalloyed supporter of the Israeli government or its actions. Here’s part of what he said:

“I have learned that student groups have been asked to adopt a statement strongly condemning Israel and some have done so. Of course, it is the First Amendment right of students to express their views on any issues,” he wrote.

“It is troubling to broadly exclude a particular viewpoint from being expressed,” he added. “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.”

His email went on: “The principles of community for the Berkeley campus stress that we are committed to ensuring freedom of expression and dialogue that elicits the full spectrum of views held by our varied communities.”

Chemerinsky, speaking to J., [the Jewish News of Northern California] added this:

. . . “to say that anyone who supports the existence of Israel — that’s what you define as Zionism — shouldn’t speak would exclude about, I don’t know, 90 percent or more of our Jewish students.”

The reason for the ban, according to the penultimate link above, was “protecting the safety and welfare of Palestinian students”. That, of course, is bogus, a ridiculous playing of the “safety” and “harm cards.. No student would be “unsafe” because of a talk given by a speaker who supports Israel. (What they mean, of course, is that such a talk would “offend” them.) This is a mere show, one meant to express the students’ antisemitism and denigration of a supposedly “apartheid” state in favor of an oppressive theocracy that really practices apartheid.

Who are the groups who passed this resolution? This link gives the list:

. . . the Berkeley Law Muslim Student Association, Middle Eastern and North African Law Students Association, Womxn of Color Collective, Asian Pacific American Law Students Association, Queer Caucus, Community Defense Project, Women of Berkeley Law, and Law Students of African Descent.

In other words, it’s Progressives versus Jews. Now the UCB resolution is not really a violation of First-Amendment freedom of speech because the students have every right to invite their own speakers. But freedom of speech should extend beyond the First Amendment at universities; it should allow students to be exposed to controversial views for reasons best expressed by Mill in On Liberty. By widening “unapproved speakers” to “all speakers who have, at some time in their lives, supported the existence of Israel”, Berkeley Law has collectively stoppered its ears while crying ‘Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah!”

Lubet suggests other ways to express disapproval of Berkeley Law, including asking all speakers to refuse to speak at the school on principle, or asking judges to not accept as law clerks ringleaders of this resolution. I certainly favor the first tactic, though I’ll never be invited to speak at Berkeley Law. I leave it up to the readers to judge the second.

But if you still think that actions like these are designed to express disapproval of the Israeli government’s actions, you’ve bought into one of the dissimulations of the Progressive Left. This has nothing to do with the Israeli government. The real purpose is to show disapproval of Israel as a state and of those who support its existence. It is “anti-Zio”, which is the same thing as anti-Semitism.

46 thoughts on “Anti-Semitism rears its head at UC Berkeley

  1. Yes indeed. The far left wants to wipe Israel from the face of the earth. And, by holding American Jews responsible for Israeli policies, they are revealing their antisemitism for all to see. This is pure hypocrisy, of course. Palestinian students are not harmed when Jewish faculty members or speakers—the great majority of who support Israel’s right to exist—come to speak on topics as diverse as physics, economics, law, literature, whatever, topics unrelated to their support for a Jewish homeland. This move is clearly an attempt to erase Jews from the academic scene, an odious prospect.

    1. Hearty agreement that Palestinian students aren’t harmed by Jewish or pro-Israeli speakers, but I wouldn’t agree that the protesting students know this very well and are just using it as a feeble excuse because they have it in for Jews. On the contrary, the belief that people who belong to marginalized, oppressed groups are made weaker by being exposed to anything involving disagreement with their claims— now reframed as a form of violence — seems to be running rampant through all areas which touch on social justice. The Jews exemplify “whiteness” and Israel stands in for “colonialist power.” That leaves the brown indigenous Palestinians the victims.

      In my opinion, an underlying cause of this social justice-related belief in Little People who can’t handle truths (or lies) which the more sophisticated can (and thus require protection) is the ubiquitous anti-bullying units taught in elementary and secondary schools. An excellent thing in many ways, they may have too harshly stigmatized the idea that sucking it up and dealing with people being mean builds character.

  2. > most Jews support Israel and the continuance of that Jewish state.

    Do we, though? Serious question, and I’m not trying to be confrontational. I’m not sure how to find accurate polling data.

    Anecdotally, I know a lot of atheists of Jewish descent who don’t support Israel (some are anarcho-atheists; others are leftist atheists under age 50). I hesitate to find a neutral way of polling people, without push-polling (trying to influence people) or otherwise getting a tainted sample. Because of the complexity of the question ‘Who is a Jew’, I think we’ll have a hard time impartially getting representative feedback from those who are not devout.

    1. Quite right! Therefore, the term anti-Semitism is completely unacceptable here. Anti-Judaism, anti-Zionism, yes, but not anti-Semitism. Americans can’t even tell a Jew from a non-Jew unless they’re wearing a stupid little hat or a wig.

      1. What the deuce? You draw a distinction between anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism? Here’s the Anti Defamation League’s definition, though of course there are different definitions. This comes close to my own:

        The belief or behavior hostile toward Jews just because they are Jewish. It may take the form of religious teachings that proclaim the inferiority of Jews, for instance, or political efforts to isolate, oppress, or otherwise injure them. It may also include prejudiced or stereotyped views about Jews.

        Sorry, but it makes me laugh to see you try to draw a distinction between anti-Semitism on the one hand and anti-Judaism and anti-Zionism on the other. These are all subtle linguistic mutations to mask the commonality of what is going on: hostile beliefs and behavior about Jews.

        Stupid little hat or a wig? Read your own prose and ask yourself why you said that. As far as Americans not recognizing Jews, that’s completely irrelevant to the issue, which is censorship of those who approve of Israel.

        1. You’re more more tolerant than me, Jerry. “Stupid little hat or a wig” would get a ban on my forum.

      2. To call a Kippah or Yarmulka a stupid little cap or a Shtreimel a wig is not just disrespectful (well, I don’t mind that too much), but it has little to do with the ‘distinction’ between anti-zionism and anti-semitism: it is an irrelevant comment.
        Although there actually is a theoretical difference between anti-zionism and anti-semitism, our host has pointed out -in several posts, and in depth- that in practice, in real life, they are basically identical.

    2. One way of finding polling data from reputable organizations is Google. Here’s the first one I found, which matches the claims in the Chronicle article. It’s from Pew. Is this better than your anecdotes?:

      Eight-in-ten U.S. Jews say caring about Israel is an essential or important part of what being Jewish means to them. Nearly six-in-ten say they personally feel an emotional attachment to Israel, and a similar share say they follow news about the Jewish state at least somewhat closely.

      At the same time, the survey – conducted during the final 14 months of the Trump administration – shows a wide range of views among U.S. Jews about the Israeli government, including some pockets of strong criticism. Fewer than half of U.S. Jews give Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “excellent” or “good” ratings for his leadership. And just one-in-three say they think the Israeli government is making a sincere effort toward achieving peace with the Palestinians. (Fewer still, just 12%, say they think Palestinian leaders are sincere in these efforts.)

      The study also finds that a slim majority of U.S. Jews have heard about the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. The vast majority who have heard of the movement say they oppose it.

  3. None of this actually helps Palestinians and it hurts Jews (not just Israelis) so it’s all just a gloss for the students’ antisemitism.

    1. I think it demonstrates the exceedingly shallow intellectual depth of the students who simply believe the copious amount of propaganda manufactured by the Arab world about “Palestine” and Israel. And this includes the corruption of most academic Middle East Departments which have received huge donations from the likes of Qatar. When you see professors at your protests, you assume that the intellectual underpinnings of your position is sound.

      In their defense I would say that it is not easy to determine the truth these days. It requires a sincere academic resolve to investigate the proper source documents (now more than 100 years old), to appreciate actual International law as opposed to, for example, mere UN Resolutions, and to vet the various competing testimonies.

      1. It also requires the ability to turn down the pre-formed emotions, step back, see both sides of the argument, stop thinking in terms of absolute rights and good and evil, think ahead pragmatically of the consequences of a single state under real current conditions, and accept that underdogs who get treated unjustly might nevertheless be horrible nationalists or racists themselves and might be worse than their oppressors if they get full power.
        Unfortunately, like any religion, woke ideology is firmly against all kinds of differentiation. Rigid ideologic moralism is paramount (everything is a “human right”), even looking at currently unpopular perspectives is evil. Unfortunately, US foreign policy tends to be like that, too: Saddam Hussein was absolute evil (“Hitler”) and a dictator, so ousting him militarily was a moral necessity, and people who knew the country and said the consequences would probably be worse than the disease, or pointed out that the official grounds of war (imminent attack, weapons of mass destruction, conspiracy with Al-Kaida) were implausible, were vilified endlessly. Black and white thinking and contrast sharpening is of course a general human (possibly even mammalian) tendency, but one purpose of higher education should be to learn that things are usually a bit more complicated.

      1. Can’t wait for the “LGBT Queer March in Hebron” this year. Should be nearly as fun as “Slutwalk 2022 Islamabad”. The nonsense Bronze Age fairytales aren’t keen on people minding their own business in their own bedrooms with chosen partners. Big, old, moralizing Gods have a LOT to say about THAT kind of blasphemy!

        Today’s kids are pretty slow on context, history and theology of Islam and the Middle East.

  4. I don’t know if you’ve seen the final and third episode of Ken Burns’s recent documentary on the US’s response to the Holocaust.

    The very end of the episode shows news clips of Dylann Roof, the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, the Charlottesville protest violence, some Trump speeches, and the 2021 Capitol riot.

    For having an ‘objective’ view on the Holocaust, you would think the episode would have clips of this strand of anti-Zionism among campuses, Palestinian rhetoric against Israel, and other anti-Semitic trends from the far Left along with those attitudes from the Right presented adamantly in that same episode. Is Ken deliberately glossing over those details for some “America-is-a-loathsome-nation-because-of-white-supremacy” narrative?

    1. Hmmm, that is a good point. II am sure that every historical documentary can gather criticisms about it left this or that out. Perhaps his intention was to follow the thread of traditional antisemitism, so it kept its focus on the far right. Still, it would have been mighty nice to see it acknowledge the rise of this problem on the left.

  5. We are told over and over again that criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitic. That may be so. But the downright obsession with which Israel – and only Israel – is criticized can hardly be explained otherwise.

    1. That’s an excellent point. You have to wonder whether BDS activists spend similar amounts of time criticizing Syria, Saudi-Arabia, Myanmar, China, or any of the other blatantly oppressive regimes in the world, and if not, why not.

    2. Yes it can be explained otherwise.

      There are many people in the UK who are critical of Israel (its actions against Palestine, not its existence). The reason is nothing to do with anti-semitism IMO. The conflict is cast in terms of the big local power (Israel) punching down on the underdog (Palestine). We love an underdog here. We also understand that the modern state of Israel was the creation of a Western imperialist power (i.e. the UK). This narrative works well for the regressive left and, unfortunately, our media buy into it. So the average person here is ignorant of what life is like under Israeli rule and under Palestinian rule.

      We are ignorant of the true situation and we keep being fed the “punching down” narrative by our media. This is why so much cynicism is focused on Israel in particular.

  6. Aside from its implicit antisemitism, the law student organizations’ ban is a classic of the totalitarian mentality: it would exclude (under the rubric of “Inclusion”) all speakers guilty of wrongthink. The next step for Progressives will undoubtedly be a requirement that potential speakers all submit Diversity Statements—so as to safeguard the “safety” of those who might conceivably be offended by any hint of non-DEI thought.

    Many of us with a sentimental attachment to the four-letter word “Left” have begun to wonder why groups claiming to be Progressive keep going this way. Maybe there is a psychological connection between the aim for utopia, and the demand that everybody, at all times, vigilantly exclude every hint of wrongthink.

  7. Anyone horrified by this might read this article at Bari Weiss’ Substack, concerning American Jewish students who choose to emigrate to Israel on graduation after their experiences at an American university.
    It’s no better in the UK. My best man, retired from his north London medical practice, made an exploratory trip to Israel given his level of concern about anti-semitism in the UK Labour party. When Boris won, and Corbyn was dethroned he delayed that plan and moved out of London instead. He is ready to go though, if Starmer gets in and does not control the powerful anti-semitic faction in his party.

  8. I find it disturbing that future lawyers would be so averse to being exposed to an opposing argument. Makes me wonder if they understand what lawyers do.
    Such puritanical sentiments don’t seem like they would be an asset.

    Boycotting all the students for clerkships has been suggested for Yale Law students as well due to recent events. Not everyone agrees it is a good idea though:

  9. Is it really anti-Semitism at Berkeley? It seems likely that advocates of the Palestinian cause have been effective at claiming an oppressed status and saddling Israel as an oppressor. That’s all that’s needed to swing the woke mob – that and an appalling ignorance of history.

    1. I think your explanation is more likely than straight-up anti-Semitism, and Occam’s Razor supports the idea. The oppressed/oppressor narrative is stock-in-trade for the woke, so that explanation requires fewer assumptions than the anti-Semitic explanation.

      Like I’ve said before, it’s anti-Semitic in effect, but probably not in intent.

      1. I would suggest, as one commenter noted earlier, there are many people in the world far more “oppressed” than Palestiians (I would argue that they aren’t oppressed at all, but we’ll leave that aside), but the world and the UN are OBSESSED with Israel’s “oppression”. Why, of all the oppressions that are around, is Berkeley picking on this one? Why aren’t they refusing to hear speakers who have expressed sympathy for Palestine, which treats women and gays as second-class citizens? Shouldn’t the Women of Berkeley law refuse to hear anybody who has expressed sympathy for Palestine, Iran, or Saudi Arabia–states where women are STRUCTURALLY second-class citizens?

        No, I’d argue that the success of Palestinians in casting themselves as oppressors and Israel as the oppressor (and its Jews, who of coure are the victims of terrorist attacks when they’re not in the government) can be understood only in light of a history of anti-Semitism. I would suggest you look at the UN’s history of singling out Israel among all counries as a violator of human rights. Here: this is from Wikipedia:

        As of 2013, the State of Israel had been condemned in 45 resolutions by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). Since the UNHRC’s creation in 2006, it has resolved almost more resolutions condemning Israel alone than on issues for the rest of the world combined. The 45 resolutions comprised almost half (45.9%) of all country-specific resolutions passed by the UNHRC, not counting those under Agenda Item 10 (countries requiring technical assistance)

        Cause and effect cannot be, I think, as neatly separated as you suggest.

        1. “The UN constantly condemns Israeli human rights abuses” isn’t as convincing an argument for supporting Israel as one might think. It almost makes it seem like they commit a lot of human rights abuses.

          1. It’s not an argument for supporting Israel; it’s an argument for seeing how Israel is disproportionately singled out for condemnation compared to countries committing far more egregious human rights abuses. Those countries are ignored. Why?

            If I were you, I wouldn’t take the UN’s numbers as an index of human rights abuses. Would you care, for instance, to compare UN resolutions against Israel with those against North Korea, Iran, or Saudi Arabia?

            Sorry, but you seem to know nothing about the history of the UN’s condemnation of Israel.

            1. Hear hear! Your point about the hypocrisy of singling-out Israel is extremely resonant.

              If memory serves, I think this hypocritical practice was already exposed back in the 1980s by Prof Anne-Marie Kriek. Hope I can find her extremely eloquent article. Once I do I’ll post a link to it if that’s ok…

        2. I think you are right about the direction of causation. Fake oppression of Palestinians is worse than any other oppression because it is alleged to be carried out by real-life Jews. If Muslims of the other sect were running what used to be Israel and were persecuting the present-day Palestininians, you wouldn’t hear a peep out of Berkeley or the U.N.

        3. All this and more is true, but the original question was about Berkeley specifically, where I have doubts that actual animosity toward Jews plays much of a role. I have less doubt with some of our younger congress members who have promoted BDS.

          I myself am very pro-BDS. Spinoza signed his work with these initials, and that will always be their primary meaning to me.

        4. Kurds in Turkey are also far, far less oppressed (if at all) than Westerners believe. Militant Kurdish separatists just have a PR strategy that works well in the West. But deep seated anti-Turkish animus from the long fight against Ottoman imperialism probably also plays a role, as does veiled old style anti-Jewish animus, aka antisemitism, in many but not all critics of Israel among authochthonous Western Europeans. The obsession with Israel, plus the one-sided argumentation, is partly fueled by by Euro-Arab/Islamic activism. Children of Arab immigrants and people culturally adjacent to them are a sizeable chunk of young people in large parts of Europe now, and although frequently socially conservative, they tend towards the left politically because the left is seen as immigrant-friendly. These people will come to be more influential in the coming decades, and I get the impression that certainly those with a Palestinian background are majority “from the river to the sea” crazies. In my multicultural neighborhood, there are lots of “Free Palestine” graffiti, and I can assure you they were not written by autochthonous Germans.
          The far right in Germany as well as in France makes a great show of being pro Israel these days, for two very obvious reasons: A) Being pro-Israel and pro-Jewish is seen as a legitimate reason of being critical of Arab immigration, B) Israel is an ethno-cultural nation state, and as Israel is accepted and supported by all mainstream political parties, that gives legitimacy to the wish that Germany (or France), too, may remain an old style ethnoculturally defined nation state, which however is practically impossible now in France as well as in Western Germany due to the sheer size of the immigrant population.
          Note that in France, as well as in Germany, some prominent critics of Muslim immigration are Jewish: Eric Zemmour or Alain Finkielkraut in France, Henryk Broder in Germany. The reason is obvious.

        5. “No, I’d argue that the success of Palestinians in casting themselves as oppressors and Israel as the oppressor (and its Jews, who of coure are the victims of terrorist attacks when they’re not in the government) can be understood only in light of a history of anti-Semitism.”

          That’s an angle I hadn’t considered. I find your argument very compelling, although I might still suggest that many of the “woke” are merely useful tools of the anti-Semites. Like me, they haven’t fully considered the anti-Semitic origin of the Jews-as-oppressors narrative but, unlike me, they’ve bought into the narrative itself.

          I suppose that raises a question: if you are an uncritical tool of an anti-Semitic movement, does that make you de facto anti-Semitic?

      1. David Anderson’s correction of the pop-Left historical distortions was on the mark. I suggest one, additional, psychiatric explanation for the virulence against Israel found in the Stalinoid/Trotskyist precincts of the pop-Left, such as Britain’s Corbynistas: old-fashioned, subconscious jealousy. Consider. The part of the Jewish Left active in the Palestine Mandate, and after, created the Histadrut labour confederation/cooperative, and the kibbutz movement, and it played a major role in the formation of the entire society known as Israel. Over the same time period, the Anglophone pop-Left produced nothing but 100 years of hot air, and a fringe of academic poseurs, with zero effect on the actual structure of their societies. Cause enough to unleash the green-eyed monster.

        1. The National Health Service is nothing? Or maybe your “pop left” does not include the Labour Party before its neoliberal turn.

        2. Leon Trotsky (aka. Lev Davidovich Bronstein) was a jew, IIRC. Not a religious one though, but I guess there are more non-religious jews than religious ones. Our host being a prime example.
          And yes, Israel of the fifties and sixties could be considered a highly ideologically leftist state. It is good to point that out. Intelligent ‘Communism with a human face’, as it were.

  10. There are many interesting discussions of these issues, from a point of view that is relatively unfamiliar, in blog posts at the website The Magnes Zionist, named for Judah Magnes, the first chancellor of Hebrew University. The posts on the website are mainly by Jeremiah Haber, who lives in Jerusalem. I recommend especially his discussion a few years ago of the accusations of anti-Semitism against Corbyn.

  11. The Progs despise Israel because it is the final and most recent example of European colonization and it hits all their Oppression erogenous zones: White over Brown, European over Asian/ African, Judeo-Christian over Muslim, rich country v poor country, colonizer vs colonized etc.
    Israel is the last plausible place they can act out all their fantasies of liberation, where the heroic revolutionary Leftist rescues a poor oppressed Brown person and defeats the evil White Europeans. That’s why they don’t care about how much the Arabs hate women and gays or their crazy anti-Semitic propaganda and indoctrination: no nuance or context must be allowed to interfere with their sacred narrative.

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