During the Black Lives Matter riots, UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ endorsed police defunding. “Elements of our country’s law enforcement culture dehumanize some of the very people whose safety and wellness police officers are sworn to protect,” she falsely claimed. Two weeks ago, UC Berkeley called the police on a conservative truck protesting campus antisemitism and the “Jewish Free Zones” erected by elements of its law school. Berkeley Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky had claimed that the university couldn’t take any action against the “Jewish Free Zones” enacted by student organizations even as he admitted that they would bar 90% of Jewish speakers. “That is their First Amendment right. I find their statement offensive, but they have the right to say it. To punish these student groups, or students, for their speech would clearly violate the Constitution,” he argued. That was in early October.
In late October, Chemerinsky responded to a truck rented by a conservative groupprotesting the “Jewish Free Zone” by threatening that, “we’re exploring whether there’s any action that can be taken against the Accuracy in Media for the truck.” According to Chemerinsky and Berkeley, banning Jews is free speech, protesting the ban isn’t. Chemerinsky described the ban of 90% of Jewish speakers as merely “offensive”, but condemned a protest against it as “despicable” and “outrageous behavior.” Adam Guillette, the president of Accuracy in Media, had decided to challenge the culture of campus antisemitism by renting a truck to name and shame the students responsible for the “Jewish Free Zones”. It’s a tactic that has been successfully used by groups fighting antisemitism like Canary Mission. Recalling his own student days, Adam told me that, “When I attended the University of Florida we dealt with the same sort of nonsense and our campus Jewish groups wouldn’t do a thing about it. “Most Jewish students and most Jewish student groups just want to go to class, live their life, and not be bothered. They think standing up to these bullies will only make things worse, so they remain silent and hope the problem goes away. Silence is never the correct response when dealing with bullies.” Instead of silence, he sent a truck naming the perpetrators and declaring, “shame, shame.” And UC Berkeley responded with violence and legal threats. A previous AIM truck protesting UC Berkeley’s antisemitism had been met with thrown rocks and condemnations by the ADL, Berkeley’s Hillel and the local JCRC. UC Berkeley administrators offered “emotional support” to students who felt upset by a truck with a picture of Hitler on it reading, “All in favor of banning Jews, raise your right hand.” In response to the latest AIM protest truck, Adam Guillette told me that “the university called law enforcement on our truck last week. The police told our driver that he was violating a city statute and wasn’t allowed to park on the public street in a paid parking spot near the law school.” It isn’t clear if such a regulation even exists, but what is clear is that despite his professed support for free speech, UC Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky attempted to suppress a non-violent protest against antisemitism by abusing police resources and local regulations. “It’s a shame that Chemerinsky’s devotion to free speech extends to antisemites but not to those who combat them. It seems he’d rather see us silenced than those who wish to intimidate Jews,” the AIM president told Front Page Magazine. Chemerinsky and UC Berkeley failed to protect Jewish students, but turned to the police to protect some of the students named by the AIM truck, like Jasmin Luz, of the Womxn of Color Collective, Jung Kim, of the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association, and Nicki Guivatchian, of the Middle Eastern and North African Law Students Association.” The AIM truck had a very simple message, “Stand Up To the Ringleaders of Antisemitism at Berkeley.” Instead, UC Berkeley Law rushed to protect them while suppressing free speech. “Whatever the disagreement on issues, to put students’ names on the side of the truck was despicable,” Dean Chemerinsky fulminated. The disagreement, as Chemerinsky had already admitted, was a plan to, in his own words, “exclude about, I don’t know, 90 percent or more of our Jewish students.” But banning Jewish students is a “disagreement on issues” while naming antisemitic students is “despicable”. According to him, naming Bull Connor at a protest was worse than the actual segregation. Jewish campus groups proved equally useless. Adam Naftalin-Kelman, Berkeley Hillel’s executive director, described the protest against antisemitism as “reprehensible” and “antithetical to building community”. Naftalin had previously condemned a similar campaign by the David Horowitz Freedom Center: #StopTheJewHatredOnCampus named students involved in the BDS “Hamas-inspired genocidal campaign to destroy Israel”. Naftalin had claimed then that the Freedom Center posters were “counterproductive to creating a vibrant and healthy community”. How Naftalin intends to build community with students who ban Jews has yet to be clarified. “It’s consistently frustrating to see how little campus Jewish groups will do to stick up for themselves,” AIM President Adam Guillette told me. Accuracy in Media intends to continue pressuring UC Berkeley with an email campaign and ongoing protests. And UC Berkeley has made it clear that it will continue protecting antisemites. Dean Chemerinsky argued that the perpetrators of the “Jewish Free Zones” have “free speech rights, including to express messages that I and others might find offensive.” He clearly doesn’t believe that those protesting against antisemitism do. UC Regents Chair Richard Leib issued a statement falsely claiming that “the existence of ‘Jewish Free Zones’ at the campus are both incorrect and designed to inflame the situation” and that student groups have a First Amendment right to “express their views” even “when some of us find those views reprehensible or offensive.” “That is the basis for free speech and UC will always support that,” he concluded. UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ admitted that the bans on Jews were “regrettable”, but that “there is no legal basis for sanctioning, defunding or deregistering” the organizations involved in them. All of that support for free speech for antisemites by UC Berkeley leaders falls apart when Jewish activists and conservative organizations actually protest against the antisemites. Then UC Berkeley sends in the lawyers and the cops. Are Christ, Chemerinsky or Leib willing to commit to the same level of free speech protection for Jews protesting against antisemitism as they do for antisemites protesting against Jews? The difference in their rhetoric and the systemic discrimination of their responses makes it clear that they believe that banning Jews is more legitimate than protesting against those bans. Their rhetoric and their actions reveal the underlying bias of their political sympathies. Former Beverly Hills Mayor John Mirisch responded to the crisis at Berkeley by challenging Chemerinsky to recognize that “groups advocating for BDS are frequently looking to wipe the state of Israel off the face of the earth, as their oft-repeated slogan ‘from the river to the sea’ so vividly illustrates.” They’ve begun by trying to wipe Jewish students out of college campuses. UC Berkeley continues providing cover to those hateful organizations, students and faculty.