UC Berkeley refuses apology to Israeli speaker ousted by antisemitic mob

The treatment that Bar-Yoshafat describes is another black mark on Berkeley that shows the school’s growing reputation for allowing anti-Semitism.

By Susannah Luthi, The Washington Free Beacon

University of California, Berkeley, administrators have offered no apology to Israeli lawyer Ran Bar-Yoshafat, whose speech to a campus Jewish group was abruptly canceled by the university after violent protesters choked a female student attendee, spit in another attendee’s face, and broke into the auditorium where Bar-Yoshafat waited onstage.

“I’ve had no apology,” Bar-Yoshafat told the Washington Free Beacon. “No one from Berkeley has contacted me since, or tried to contact me, even.”

Only about 10 to 12 student attendees had been able to make it into the university venue where Bar-Yoshafat had been moved for the third time when violent protesters broke down the doors and university police abruptly declared that the event would be shut down.

Following this announcement, Bar-Yoshafat said, an unidentified staffer told him that he would have to leave. The staffer and security guards then showed him and his wife down a backstage corridor so that they could leave without having to navigate the violent protesters.

Before the lawyer could leave, however, two fully masked protesters jumped onstage and approached him with their hands in their pockets, without interference from security, and saw where he and his wife were going.

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Bar-Yoshafat said his university escorts showed him down the corridor, opened the door to the street, and left him and his wife outside alone with a “good luck.”

The couple had no idea where they were or how to get to their car until a staff member for the group sponsoring Bar-Yoshafat’s U.S. speaking tour found them.

The treatment that Bar-Yoshafat describes is another black mark on Berkeley that shows the school’s growing reputation for allowing anti-Semitism to fester on its campus.

Last fall, a civil rights group sued the university for its “hotbed of anti-Jewish hostility and harassment.”

In 2022, the federal government opened an investigation into “deep-seated anti-Semitic discrimination” at the university’s top-tier law school.

Berkeley is also home to the inaugural chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, which has been fomenting anti-Semitic fervor on campuses around the country.

The university did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

One female Jewish student has described being choked by Monday’s violent protesters, and another was injured.

Activists spit in a male Jewish student’s face and shouted “Jew Jew Jew” at him.

Bar-Yoshafat’s event was sponsored by a Jewish student group, which publicized the event as a chance to hear the lawyer “address Israel’s international legal challenges,” including whether Israel “violates international law, the rules of wartime conduct, and how the [Israel Defense Forces] can better protect civilians.”

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Bar-Yoshafat said he has had experience with protesters and hecklers on American university campuses, prior to Oct. 7—notably at UC Davis in 2012.

Given the heightened vitriol against Israel and pro-Israel sentiment following Hamas’s terrorist attacks, he was expecting trouble.

But the violence this time marked a sharp change, he said, and the cancellation was “giving a prize to those who are not allowing free speech.”

“This is a collapse of Western Civilization,” he said. “You are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. Now you are guilty and you are not even given the chance to defend yourself. I’m sorry, that’s not going to work in a normal society.”

On Thursday, masked protesters again targeted Bar-Yoshafat’s speech at Los Angeles’s landmark Holocaust museum, the nation’s oldest, which was founded by Holocaust survivors.

The protesters shouted, “Israel can go to hell,” among other chants, while waving flags and shouting at Israel supporters.

The museum, however, maintained tight security, and the protesters weren’t able to break into the event and disrupt the lawyer’s speech.

Bar-Yoshafat, who said he would return to Berkeley if invited, is on a speaking tour sponsored by Club Z, a national education program for Jewish teens that was founded in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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He is seeking to answer questions about international law and the Israel-Hamas war, in which he has first-hand experience as a reservist with the Israel Defense Forces.

California has witnessed particularly vitriolic anti-Semitism since Hamas’s Oct. 7 attacks.

Anti-Israel protesters shut down the State Assembly in January and forced the state Democratic Party to cancel some of its convention events in November.

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D.), meanwhile, called off the state capitol’s traditional live Christmas tree lighting ceremony to avoid planned protests in December.