February 28, 2020

UC Berkeley Student Gov Committee Rejects Resolution Condemning Bears for Palestine Display

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

A UC Berkeley student government committee rejected a resolution that would have condemned a Bears for Palestine (BFP) display on Feb. 10.

The student-run Daily Californian reported that the Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC) University and External Affairs Committee voted down the resolution with four against and one in favor. The resolution would have condemned the display for glorifying “violent terrorists, including but not limited to Rasmea Odeh, Fatima Bernawi, and Leila Khaled.”

According to The Daily Californian, BFP posted the display in their cubicle on the third floor of Eshleman Hall, where the ASUC Student Union is located. The display featured several photos of what BFP said were Palestinian freedom fighters with text below the photos describing the figures, including Odeh, Bernawi and Khaled. Above the photos were Palestinian flags and the letters BFP, among other images.

Nathan Bentolila, former president of the university student group Tikvah: Students for Israel, said during the meeting, “Clearly Berkeley is not united against hate. I honestly have very little to say; the Jewish community is beyond disappointed.”

ASUC Senator Milton Zerman, who sponsored the bill, wrote in an email to the Californian, “The fact that such a message was controversial, let alone voted down proves that Berkeley still has a huge anti-Semitism problem.”

BFP wrote in a Feb. 12 statement on Facebook that a student said during the meeting he wanted to join the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) so he could “eliminate Palestinian nationalism and Palestinians from this earth.”

“We know the identity of the student who made the threat, but we have not released it because this is not only about one individual,” the statement read. “The threats to our safety are compounded and fueled by institutional inaction and structural racism, and we would like our supporters to focus on demanding bigger and structural change.”

BFP added that have received apologies from pro-Israel groups on campus about the student’s remarks, but they accused pro-Israel groups of “inciting this violence and not holding other members of their organizations accountable for the ongoing acts of harassment we have faced.”

They also wrote that the ASUC should have never considered a resolution “fascist as that one.”

According to the Algemeiner, the student who said he wanted to eliminate Palestinians identified himself during the meeting as “H.” Weiss and Zerman condemned that student’s reported remarks.

StandWithUs has launched a campaign for people to sign a letter urging UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ to condemn the BFP display.

“There is no serious factual dispute about the actions taken by Leila Khaled, Fatima Bernawi, and Rasmea Odeh,” the letter reads. “Khaled hijacked planes. Bernawi attempted to murder innocent civilians by bombing a crowded movie theater. Odeh helped murder two Jewish students in Israel: Edward Joffe and Leon Kanner. Her own family is on record confirming her involvement in this heinous crime.”

The letter concludes: “There is no contradiction between supporting free speech on campus and using your free speech rights to unequivocally condemn a display celebrating the murder of innocent people. Please put politics aside and do the right thing.”

University Assistant Vice Chancellor of Executive Communications Dan Mogulof told the Journal in a phone interview that Christ has been away from campus this past week but the university is working to address the matter.

“There will most definitely be additional responses to all that’s occurred,” Mogulof said. “The impact those posters have had on Jewish members of our community, Israeli members of the community … has been profound and raises a number of serious questions that the chancellor wants to address. By the same token, comments by a speaker at the most recent ASUC meeting regarding his desire to rid the world of Palestinians as had a profound effect on that community.”

He added that the aforementioned forms of expression are inconsistent with the university’s values.