March 30, 2020

Author of Resolution Condemning Bears for Palestine Display Resigns from UC Berkeley Student Gov’t

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The author of a resolution condemning a Bears for Palestine (BFP) display resigned from his position on the student senate on Feb. 19.

The Jewish News of Northern California (J) reported that Milton Zerman wrote in his resignation letter that he decided to step down after the Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC) University and External Affairs Committee voted down his resolution on Feb. 10.

“The near-unanimous rejection of that bill has alienated the vast majority of Jewish students on the UC Berkeley campus and has in their eyes drained the ASUC of legitimacy and moral authority,” Zerman wrote. “It has also highlighted what most Jewish students recognize as a culture of anti-Semitism that has become mainstream on the UC Berkeley campus.”

Zerman compared his tenure in the ASUC Senate to Iranian Member of Parliament Siamak Morsadegh, the only Jew in the Iranian parliament. Zerman argued that he and Morsadegh are fighting a losing battle in their respective institutions.

“Remaining a member of an institution with values diametrically opposed to one’s own accomplishes nothing aside from legitimizing the institution in question,” Zerman wrote. “It is for this reason that I am severing ties with this year’s incarnation of the ASUC. From here on out, I will refocus my efforts on getting more Jewish students and political moderates elected to the ASUC Senate so that we can see real change in the ASUC and on campus going forward.”

He noted that his resignation is effective immediately; according to The Daily Californian, the ASUC Judicial Council has to certify the resignation during its upcoming Feb. 21 meeting.

The display, which was featured on campus in December, had pictures and accompanying text of BFP praising Palestinian activists, including Rasmea Odeh, Leila Khaled and Fatima Bernawi, all of whom have been involved in hijackings and bombings.

Jewish groups on campus had written a letter UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ on Feb. 10 calling on the university to provide better protection to Jewish students during ASUC meetings, arguing that they had been harassed and threatened at meetings.

Members of the Jewish community have written a letter to the administration, after its failing to protect Jewish…

Posted by Tikvah: Students for Israel on Monday, February 10, 2020

Christ sent similarly worded letters to both Jewish and pro-Palestinian groups on campus on Feb. 18 addressing the controversy around the display.

“While the campus acknowledges and understands that students have a constitutionally protected right to display the posters in question, using a campus location to honor those who killed unarmed Jewish civilians and/or bombed, or planned to bomb places frequented by unarmed Jewish civilians, is an affront to our Principles of Community,” Christ wrote. “So too were the words of a speaker at the latest ASUC meeting who proclaimed a desire to, ‘eliminate Palestinians’ from the world.”

The “eliminate Palestinians” remark is a reference to an anonymous student named “H” saying during the Feb. 10 ASUC meeting that he wanted to join the Israel Defense Forces so he could “eliminate Palestinians.”

Christ also wrote that she will continue to “speak out loudly and clearly in condemnation of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, anti-Blackness, racism, and other hateful ideologies and perspectives that target people based on their identity, origins or beliefs.”

Christ’s letter received praise from the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) San Francisco affiliate.

“In a free society, offensive speech is protected – therefore students have the right to lionize terrorists who murder civilians,” they tweeted. “But others have the moral responsibility to denounce extremism and the celebration of violence. Thank you Chancellor Christ for your moral leadership.”

The J pointed out that UC Berkeley student Josh Burg, who is Jewish, argued in a Feb. 19 Daily Californian op-ed that Zerman hurled insults at pro-Palestinian students during the ASUC meetings debating the resolution.

“Zerman called Bears for Palestine, an organization with many Muslim members, godless,” Burg wrote. “Coming from someone who apparently upholds the likes of [conservative columnist Ann] Coulter, this sounds like a thinly veiled, Islamophobic dog whistle.”

Zerman told the Algemeiner that he was specifically calling those who criticized his resolution as Islamophobic “godless,” saying that such criticisms “are an affront to Islam.”