Thursday, April 18, 2019

Berkeley's Jewish Community Responds to 4/17 ASUC Senate Meeting

Berkeley's Jewish Community Responds to 4/17 ASUC Senate Meeting

A collective statement by the UC Berkeley Jewish Community, co-signed by 

Berkeley Hillel Student Board
Bears For Israel
Chabad at UC Berkeley Student Board
Greek Jewish Council
Jewish Students Association at Berkeley Law
J Street U at Berkeley
UC Berkeley Chapter of Challah for Hunger
UC Berkeley Chapter of the Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity
UC Berkeley Mishelanu
The Jews of Color Collective
Tikvah: Students for Israel

To the UC Berkeley community,

As representatives of the Jewish community here at Cal, we are appalled and deeply pained by the anti-Semitic remarks made over the course of the April 17th ASUC Senate meeting.

The verbal abuse and harassment, conspiratorial accusations, and spreading of false information that we witnessed conveys an attitude of hostility towards the Jewish people and a fundamental misunderstanding of who we are as a community. This university (and our student government in particular) has earned a reputation for its recurring issues with anti-Semitism. When we go home to our communities, we are constantly asked about our experiences with anti-Semitism on campus. Every one of us has gotten a call from a high school senior concerned about applying to a school with such a strong reputation for anti-Semitism. Time and time again, our community has been marginalized and vilified, but in turn we are met only with apathy and further demonization.

To be clear, the April 17th ASUC Senate meeting was not focused on Zionism or Israel, but was rather set up as a forum for comment on the recent Judicial Council ruling regarding the 2019 ASUC elections. In the public comment, some Jewish students spoke to the room about the disqualification of a Jewish senator-elect, among others, and noted that because of this, they felt that the Jewish community lost essential representation in the ASUC. In the comments following, we were the only identity group whose desire to be represented was rebuked. Several speakers used the opportunity to invoke anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist views as dog-whistles to target Jews, including specific Jewish students in the room.

We are troubled by the failure of these speakers to recognize that while Zionism is a crucial part of our community’s identity, each member of our community has their own personal relationship with Israel and Zionism. Using Zionism as a code for Judaism, and subsequently conflating this with white supremacy, is completely ignorant of how white supremacy is founded on anti-Semitism and victimizes Jews. The words we heard last night mirror the anti-Semitic rhetoric of white supremacy and contribute to the oppression of Jewish people on this campus and beyond. Additionally, there are Jewish students of color on this campus who felt overlooked by attacks targeting their Jewish identity and isolating them within their PoC (people of color) communities. A defense of PoC communities cannot include the anti-Semitic views expressed last night. The way that Zionism was and continues to be weaponized, misused, and misunderstood shows an unwillingness to listen and learn from the Jewish community on campus.

Below is a selection of the most hurtful statements made in last night’s meeting:

A former Senator complained about only hearing “white tears, Zionist tears,” and was met with uproarious applause while an audience member shouted, “F*ck Zionists.”

A former Senator falsely claimed that she was disqualified years ago as a result of her support for Palestine and for standing up to the “Israeli genocide.”

Another student leader spoke after the public comment period and expressed various anti-Semitic conspiracies, which included:

Claiming the Israeli Defense Forces train American police to kill black people;

Claiming that being friends with Zionists means one is complicit in oppression, the prison-industrial complex, and modern-day slavery;

Interchanging the words “Zionist,” “Israeli,” and “Jewish” - a clear indication that by calling for the exclusion of Zionists from campus spaces, they were calling for the exclusion of Jews altogether.

We, as Jewish students, condemn the events of April 17th and stand united against the hatred and ignorance that permeates our campus. We ask that the campus community stand with us, make your voice heard and show that Berkeley truly does stand united against hate. We would like to extend the invitation for dialogue to any member of the campus community that would like to listen to us and engage with us.


The UC Berkeley Jewish Community

Read it here


Gary Fouse said...

If J Street U and Hillel have signed onto the letter, the situation must really be bad. That's Berkeley for you.

Gary Fouse said...

This week's Daily Californian has reported on the contentious meeting without mentioning one word about the Jewish students' complaints. I have linked your article to my reader comments, both in the news section and their editorial page.