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Accuracy in Media at UC Berkeley Law: A Bad Tactic

We can either surrender these centers of higher education or recommit to American institutions.
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February 22, 2024
University of California, Berkeley russaquarius/Getty Images

I’m a first-year Jewish student at UC Berkeley School of Law and far from the first to note antisemitism lurking within our student body. Even the constitutional law professor and Dean of UC Berkeley School of Law, Erwin Chemerinsky, felt compelled to address antisemitism in an October Los Angeles Times op-ed. But in our community’s rush to stamp out this pervasive hatred, some organizations have adopted a tactic that is unproductive, childish and wasteful of resources. I speak of the Accuracy in Media truck campaign. These trucks are parked near campus and display both students’ sensitive personal information and their loathsome online statements against Israel and the Jewish people. I have no sympathy for those who wish us harm, but I find this to be a bad tactic. 

I won’t make a value judgement on the tactic of doxing. I leave that to more informed voices in our public discourse than mine. 

For months, in between classes I rush to the Berkeley Law quiet room, set up for those who need a space for meditation or midday prayers. I pick up the Hillel siddur while a classmate lays down a prayer rug for Asr (the late afternoon prayer in Islam). These unguarded moments, before and after our encounter with G-d, could be a space for us to speak openly as men in an otherwise suffocating national political climate.

 It could be a time to build trust, a time to correct lies and errors that give otherwise decent people repugnant views on Jews and Israel. But he demurs, afraid that his words will land his face on a truck and name on an online list. He’s afraid of telling me his sincere beliefs and I lose my chance to privately challenge his views in a lasting way. Instead, his assumptions and views are reinforced by hateful voices on social media that spew the blood libel. 

I cannot change his mind, or anyone else’s, if they cannot trust me with their real thoughts. Only after their guard is down can I change the narrative on Israel’s war against Hamas. Other Jewish students have voiced similar missed chances, with the Accuracy in Media truck frustrating our efforts.

To the critical observer, it is as if we had to call in our mother to handle our bullies, rather than engage with them ourselves on our own terms. 

The consequences don’t end there. The truck makes our Jewish law student community out to be children, seemingly afraid of the other students. To the critical observer, it is as if we had to call in our mother to handle our bullies, rather than engage with them ourselves on our own terms. 

To the financial backers and supporters of the Accuracy in Media trucks: Many Jewish young adults aspiring to legal careers will be receiving admissions letters from law schools in the coming weeks. Many will contemplate accepting Berkeley Law. The institution boasts leading research in law and technology, high clerkship opportunities and an unmatched record of public service. All these draws will be weighed against a virulent reputation of antisemitism, likely resulting in lower Jewish enrollment

But this doesn’t have to be the trade-off that future students make. As it stands, I am the only Jewish law student with a kippah. Many other politically engaged, religious, traditional Jewish students who applied in last year’s admissions cycle refused to come here, citing antisemitism. Their fear is self-fulfilling, as Jewish voices in class and in campus politics are drowned out as their numbers dwindle. To those who care about antisemitism on this campus and in the leadership of the infamous nine student groups that banned Zionist speakers, an answer lies in many more involved Jewish students actually being here. So why not exchange these expensive trucks and loud campaigns for a more subtle, lasting impact? Why not sponsor a series of scholarships to make the admissions offer to Berkeley Law a more attractive choice to prospective students? We can either surrender these centers of higher education or recommit to American institutions.

Hundreds of Jewish and non-Jewish faculty signed a letter condemning Hamas. Berkeley Law has the only year-round kosher dining hall among the UC system and two separate Orthodox institutions to learn Torah, not to mention Hillel. This place can be a Mecca for Jewish students. All it takes is a well-funded push.


Jacob Shofet is a first-year law student at UC Berkeley. 

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