November 15, 2018

UC Berkeley’s Vice Chancellor to Meet With Jewish Student Organizations Over Lecturer Who Re-tweeted Anti-Semitic Images

UC Berkeley is working to set up a meeting between the university’s vice chancellor and the Coalition of Jewish Student Organizations to discuss the matter of a lecturer who re-tweeted anti-Semitic images.

Hatem Bazian, who lectures on Asian American Studies, Muslim American Studies and the like, re-tweeted a tweet in November that featured two images: one of a Jewish man saying: “Look Mom! I is chosen! I can now kill, rape, smuggle organs & steal the land of Palestinians yay #Ashke-Nazi”; the other portrayed Kim Jong Un with a yarmulke stating that he converted his entire country into Judaism and then telling President Trump, “Now my nukes are legal and I can annex South Korea and you need to start paying me 34 billion a year in welfare.”

The full tweet can be seen below:

Bazian did issue an apology for re-tweeting the tweet, calling the images “offensive.”

“At the time, I saw the image of the North Korean Kim Jong-Un and tweeted it without giving it much thought as I was teaching a course in Spain and France,” Bazian said in a statement posted to Twitter. “I did not realize or read the full text in detail until it started re-appearing on my twitter feed again from a number of pro-Israel groups that target Palestinians.”

“While we do not believe that all criticism of Israel’s governmental policies is inherently anti-Semitic, the social media posts in question clearly crossed the line, and we are pleased they have been deleted,” UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof said in a statement. “We deeply regret the impact these posts have had on members of our campus community and the public at large. UC Berkeley is and will remain committed to fostering and sustaining a campus community, and a world, where everyone feels safe, welcome and respected.”

Four Berkeley Jewish student groups – Chabad Jewish Student Group, Bears for Israel, Berkeley Hillel and Tikvah: Students for Israel – called for further discipline against Bazian in a letter to the university administration, according to Fox News.

“While we fully support academic freedom and free speech, we believe Bazian’s record is severe enough to warrant more than just condemnation,” the letter reads. “We also know that there is a precedent for the removal of non-tenured faculty who promote hate on social media and elsewhere. Oberlin College fired professor Joy Karega, following an investigation into anti-Semitic statements she made on social media, a University of Tampa professor was fired for suggesting that Hurricane Harvey was ‘karma’ for the state of Texas, and a John Jay College professor was suspended for tweeting about ‘dead cops.’”

The letter also argued that Bazian has a history of anti-Semitism, including claiming in 2002 that UC Berkeley was under Jewish control.

Mogulof told the Journal in an email that the First Amendment prevents the university from firing Bazian.

“The expression in question took place outside of the work place, on the employee’s own time,” Mogulof wrote. “The University, no matter what the reason or who the perpetrator might be, cannot act in contradiction to settled law and ample court precedence that make it all but impossible to dismiss an employee of a public institution for activities or expression of this sort that takes place during the employee’s own time, and through the use of the employee’s, not the University’s, resources. While there are other steps we can and may have taken, as per University policy I am not at liberty to disclose or describe any personnel actions that might have followed this lecturer’s recent conduct.”

However, Mogulof informed the Journal that UC Berkeley Vice Chancellor Oscar Dubón responded to the Jewish student groups with a letter expressing his willingness to meet with them to discuss the matter; the university is working to schedule the meeting later in January.

“I believe that the Vice Chancellor’s letter, and his intention to meet and engage with the students, makes amply clear how seriously we take this matter and the extent to which this matter has not yet been settled,” wrote Mogulof.