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Complaint Filed Against Berkeley Law Over Student Groups Barring Zionist Speakers

“Although we acknowledge that Professor Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of Berkeley Law School, has condemned the adopted by-law, describing it as ‘very troubling’ and noting that according to their framing, he too would be banned because he supports the existence of the State of Israel...
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November 22, 2022
UC Berkeley’s Campus; Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

A legal complaint has been filed against UC Berkeley Law School over nine student groups passing bylaws barring Zionist speakers from coming to campus.

The complaint was filed by attorneys Gabriel Groisman and Arsen Ostrovsky, the latter of whom heads the International Legal Forum. The complaint, which was sent to the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR), alleged that Berkeley Law is in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act for failing to take action against the student groups.

“Although we acknowledge that Professor Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of Berkeley Law School, has condemned the adopted by-law, describing it as ‘very troubling’ and noting that according to their framing, he too would be banned because he supports the existence of the State of Israel, he has neither called for their revocation, nor has he taken any meaningful action in response to this egregious act of discrimination, as required under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act,” the complaint, which was obtained by the Journal, stated. “Moreover, incredulously, Dean Chemerinsky has repeatedly stated that ‘only a handful of student groups out of over 100 at Berkeley Law did this.’ It is unfathomable that a similar statement would ever be made that ‘only a handful’ of student groups banned speakers of any other ethnic, religious or racial group. Yet such blatant discrimination directly targeted against Jews is being excused, justified and mainstreamed.”

The complaint called anti-Zionism “the most common form of antisemitism on US college campuses today.” “Anti-Zionism is the denial of Jews their inalienable and collective right to self-determination, as expressed in the connection to their ancestral homeland, the Land of Israel, which for the overwhelming majority of Jews, forms an integral part of their identity,” the complaint stated. “In fact, the University of California Regents have declared ‘anti-Semitism, antisemitic forms of anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination have no place at the University of California’ calling on University leaders actively to ‘challenge anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination when and wherever they emerge within the University community.’ By effectively saying ‘Zionists are not welcome,’ these student groups—and by extension Berkeley, from its failure to act—are excluding, marginalizing and silencing Jews, and contributing to the creation of a hostile environment for Jewish students, faculty and staff, in circumstances were antisemitism, including on campus, is already at record high levels across the United States.”

The complaint concluded with a call for such bylaws to be rescinded and for Berkeley Law to ensure that no university funding goes to any student groups with these bylaws.

“The groups that have implemented this discriminatory policy attempt to hide their discrimination against the Jewish community by excluding ‘Zionists,’” Groisman and Ostrovsky said in a statement. “This thin veil is completely transparent as Zionism is an integral, indispensable and core element of the Jewish identity. There can be no equivocation: anti-Zionism is antisemitism. And, by effectively saying ‘Zionists not welcome,’ these student groups—and by extension UC Berkeley Law School—are excluding, marginalizing and silencing Jews, and only exacerbating what is already a deeply hostile environment for Jewish students, faculty and staff. 

“We are confident that the US Department of Education will conduct a full investigation of the matter and will ultimately either invalidate the discriminatory bylaws or prohibit the University from continuing to fund and host organizations that engage in such blatant discriminatory conduct which is violative of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act,” they added.

A spokesperson for the Berkeley Law told the Journal that the campus doesn’t usually comment on OCR matters.

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