Is UC Berkeley guilty of creating Jewish-free zones?

Nine student groups have adopted a bylaw excluding pro-Israel speakers in order to safeguard the “welfare” of Palestinian students. 

By Debbie Reiss, World Israel News

UC Berkeley School of Law students have kicked off the academic year by barring speakers that support “Zionism, the apartheid state of Israel, and the occupation of Palestine,” prompting charges of intentional “Judenfrei” – the Nazi term for an area that has been “cleansed” of Jews.

Nine student groups adopted a bylaw, initiated by UC Berkeley’s Law Students for Justice in Palestine at the end of August, claiming that excluding pro-Israel speakers is fundamental to “the safety and welfare of Palestinian students on campus.”

Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, himself a progressive Zionist, slammed the bylaw, saying it would mean that he and 90% of Jewish students would be banned.

Kenneth Marcus, founder and chairman of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law and former law student at the school, accused the groups of establishing Jewish-free zones.

In an op-ed published in the Jewish Journal, titled “Berkeley Develops Jewish-Free Zones,” Marcus notes that the move “seems frightening and unexpected, like a bang on the door in the night.”

Pointing to the San Francisco Bay Area’s dark past, where Jewish-free zones first spread 100 years ago, Marcus maintains that anti-Zionist campus groups are now directly targeting Jewish Americans.

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“The exclusionary bylaws operate like racially restrictive covenants, precluding minority participation into perpetuity,” he writes.

Marcus continues:

“Anti-Zionism is flatly antisemitic. Using “Zionist” as a euphemism for Jew is nothing more than a confidence trick. Like other forms of Judeophobia, it is an ideology of hate, treating Israel as the “collective Jew” and smearing the Jewish state with defamations similar to those used for centuries to vilify individual Jews.

“This ideology establishes a conspiratorial worldview, sometimes including replacement theory, which has occasionally erupted in violence, including mass-shooting, in recent months. Moreover, Zionism is an integral aspect of the identity of many Jews. Its derogation is analogous, in this way, to other forms of hate and bigotry.”

Marcus has represented Jewish students at several universities, including two sexual assault victims who were kicked out of a survivor group at the State University of New York at New Paltz for being Zionist as well as a Jewish student government vice president Rose Ritch, who was driven from office at the University of Southern California with threats to “impeach [her] Zionist ass.”

Free speech?

Marcus dismissed claims that the exclusions were valid on the basis of free speech, claiming that the argument runs the other way too and that “anti-Zionist bylaws limit the free speech of Zionist students.”

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“Discriminatory conduct, including anti-Zionist exclusions, is not protected as free speech,” Marcus adds.

“The students should be ashamed of themselves. As should grownups who stand quietly by or mutter meekly about free speech as university spaces go as the Nazis’ infamous call, judenfrei. Jewish-free,” Marcus concludes.

Roz Rothstein, co-founder and CEO of pro-Israel advocacy group StandWithUs, told Fox News earlier this month that the student organizations should “rethink their end goals.”

“Misrepresenting Zionism is antisemitic and will never lead to peace. Half the world’s Jewish people are in Israel, the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people, and the other half likely have friends and/or relatives who live there.

“Denying Jews the right to self-determination creates a double standard against only one country in the world. Those who lead biased, anti-peace campaigns should rethink their end goals and be honest about their prejudice against the Jewish people and the only Jewish country in the world,” Rothstein said.