Complaint alleges ‘profound and profound anti-Semitic discrimination’ at Berkeley Law School
The University of California, Berkeley School of Law suffers from “profound and profound anti-Semitic discrimination,” according to a copy of a complaint filed against the school with the Department of Education and reviewed by the Free Washington Beacon.
The complaint — filed last week by a Florida-based attorney and the International Legal Forum, a global watchdog that fights anti-Semitism — alleges anti-Israel and anti-Semitic bias at law school after nine groups Students passed regulations in August banning Zionist speakers from campus.
School’s decision to agree to ban on pro-Israel speakers violates 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bars recipients of federal funds from discriminating on the basis of race and origin nationwide, according to the complaint. The petitioners urge the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights to “immediately initiate an investigation against the University of California, Berkeley Law School” and order it to lift this ban on Zionists.
The complaint comes amid rising anti-Semitism on US college campuses. Assaults on Jewish students and their identity doubled in the 2021-2022 school year, especially in schools with large Jewish populations, the Free tag reported Last week. Last month, at George Washington University, for example, flyers reading “Fuck Zionists” were posted on campus’ Hillel Building, a center for Jewish life. The University of Southern California’s Hillel Building in August was also defaced, with vandals destroying the building’s facade.
The Education Department must determine whether Berkeley’s law violates civil rights law, then force the university to “invalidate the statutes in question,” according to the complaint. The watchdog also wants Berkeley leaders to ensure that any group endorsing anti-Zionist provisions is barred from receiving school funds and revoked its status as a “recognized student organization”. Students and faculty should also be required to participate in training that will foster a campus environment “free from anti-Semitic harassment and discrimination,” according to the complaint.
There is precedent for the Department of Education to get involved in the issue. The federal agency is investigating the University of Southern California over allegations that the school fomented “a hostile environment of anti-Semitism”. This investigation was launched after a watchdog group presented evidence of anti-Semitic discrimination similar to that included in the complaint against Berkeley Law.
A Berkeley Law spokesperson told the Free tag that the school “seeks to avoid commenting on complaints” filed with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. The spokesperson also said he was unaware of the specific complaint.
While Berkeley Law officials, including Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, have sought to downplay the issue, with Chemerinsky saying “only a handful of the more than 100 student groups at Berkeley Law have done so,” the attorneys say that this excuse is unacceptable.
“It is unfathomable that a similar statement was ever made that ‘only a handful’ of student groups have banned speakers from any other ethnic, religious or racial group,” states the complaint, which was authored in part by Gabriel Groisman, a Florida-based lawyer and Jewish rights leader. “Yet such blatant discrimination directly directed against Jews is excused, justified and incorporated. The university’s position is untenable under the law.”
The complaint further states that Chemerinsky “neither called for [the groups’] revocation, and he has taken no meaningful action in response to this blatant act of discrimination.”
The August resolution sparked fierce debate on the Berkeley campus and in the pro-Israel advocacy world. He said nine officially recognized student groups “will not invite speakers who have expressed and continue to hold views or who are organizing/sponsoring/promoting events in support of Zionism, the apartheid state of Israel and the occupation of Palestine”. The organizations employ rhetoric commonly used by enemies of Israel, including supporters of the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which is waging economic war against Israel.
At the heart of the complaint is the allegation that these groups target Jewish and pro-Israel students because of their religious identity or national origin. This “forced exclusion” of primarily Jewish students, the complaint states, “is unlawful and constitutes a flagrant violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.”
“There can be no misunderstanding: anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism,” the complaint says.
“By effectively saying ‘Zionists are not welcome,’ these student groups – and by extension Berkeley, its inability to act – are excluding, marginalizing and silencing Jews, and helping to create an environment hostile to Jewish students, faculty, and staff, under circumstances [where] anti-Semitism, including on campuses, is already at record highs across the United States,” according to the complaint.
Groisman, the attorney handling the case with the International Legal Forum, told the Free tag that framing hatred of Jews in the language of anti-Zionism will not save Berkeley from being investigated for discrimination.
“Federal laws are in place to protect students from discriminatory actions,” he said. “UC Berkeley student groups have tried to be cute by hiding their discrimination against Jews by excluding Zionists. We are confident that the US Department of Education will see through them and protect students under the protections granted by Title VI.”