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April 19, 2019 3:54 pm

Twelve UC Berkeley Groups Condemn ‘Antisemitic Conspiracies’ Shared at Student Government Meeting

avatar by Shiri Moshe

An ASUC Senate meeting at UC Berkeley on April 17, 2019. Photo: Screengrab.

A dozen Jewish student groups at the University of California, Berkeley, said they were “appalled and deeply pained” by “antisemitic remarks” made during a Wednesday gathering of their student association, which conveyed “an attitude of hostility towards the Jewish people and a fundamental misunderstanding of who we are as a community.”

The meeting was held after the Judicial Council of the Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC) on Tuesday retroactively disqualified 14 candidates recently elected to serve from the Student Action slate, after the party received two censures for sending spam emails and three for failing to account for missing funds.

Some students at the meeting claimed the disqualification of the candidates disenfranchised voters, especially among “the transfer student and Pilipinx communities, both of which were unable to elect a community-endorsed candidate in the 2018 elections,” the student-run Daily Californian reported.

Several Jewish students also expressed concern about the disqualification of Jewish senator-elect Shelby Weiss, arguing “that the Jewish community lost essential representation in the ASUC,” according to a joint statement issued by the Berkeley Hillel Student Board, Chabad at UC Berkeley Student Board, the Jews of Color Collective, J Street U and eight other organizations.

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“In the comments following, we were the only identity group whose desire to be represented was rebuked,” the statement read. “Several speakers used the opportunity to invoke antisemitic and anti-Zionist views as dog-whistles to target Jews, including specific Jewish students in the room.”

Offensive comments were made by multiple people, according to the Jewish student groups, among them a former senator who complained of only hearing “some white tears, some Zionist tears, some Greek tears.”

“Ya’ll don’t even know what disenfranchisement even means,” she asserted.

Another student leader who spoke following the public comment period “expressed various antisemitic conspiracies,” the Jewish groups added. These included claims that Israeli forces “train American police to kill black people,” that “being friends with Zionists means one is complicit in oppression, the prison-industrial complex, and modern-day slavery,” and the use of the words “Zionist,” “Israeli,” and “Jewish” interchangeably — “a clear indication that by calling for the exclusion of Zionists from campus spaces, they were calling for the exclusion of Jews altogether.”

“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,” the students wrote. “Using Zionism as a code for Judaism, and subsequently conflating this with white supremacy, is completely ignorant of how white supremacy is founded on antisemitism and victimizes Jews.”

Some of the offensive rhetoric used in Wednesday’s meeting mirrored that employed by white supremacists, which contributed “to the oppression of Jewish people on this campus and beyond,” they argued.

“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,” the statement continued. “A defense of PoC communities cannot include the antisemitic 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.”

UC Berkeley and the ASUC “has earned a reputation for its recurring issues with antisemitism,” the students pointed out. “When we go home to our communities, we are constantly asked about our experiences with antisemitism 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 antisemitism,” they shared. “Time and time again, our community has been marginalized and vilified, but in turn we are met only with apathy and further demonization.”

In a statement on Friday to the Algemeiner, UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof noted that the ASUC meeting in question included “a number of highly regrettable comments made by students that were deeply hurtful and harmful for a number of identity groups.”

Mogulof pointed to a recent email sent to the campus community by Chancellor Carol Christ concerning “what appear to have been disturbing expressions of bias” at the meeting.

“Even as we seek to more fully understand what was said, I want to make clear that the University’s administration condemns bias, including racism, antisemitism and other forms of prejudice, on this campus and beyond,” Christ wrote.

“I also understand that at the same meeting students of color provided passionate, moving comment about the extent to which they feel isolated and marginalized on this campus,” he continued. “This, too, is disturbing and demanding of our attention and concern.”

A representative for ASUC did not respond to The Algemeiner‘s request for comment by press time.

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