UC Berkeley Investigating Antisemitic Death Threat Targeting Jewish Professor
A message invoking an antisemitic epithet and calling for the killing of a Jewish professor was found this week at the University of California, Berkeley, the school’s student newspaper reported.
The anonymous threat — posted outside the office of a Jewish professor at Kroeber Hall — “mentioned Hitler and called for killing the professor, using an extremely racist epithet for ‘Jew,’” said Benjamin Brinner, faculty director at the Center for Jewish studies.
University leaders including chancellor Carol Christ, chair of the faculty-led academic senate Lisa Alvarez-Cohen, and student government president Zaynab AbdulQadir-Morris condemned the incident in an email to students on Tuesday.
“Unfortunately, hateful messages targeted at marginalized groups on our campus are more common than any of us would like to believe,” they stated. “And while not all incidents rise to the level of requiring a police investigation as this one does, they are nonetheless damaging and odious.”
UC Berkeley’s police department has opened an investigation into the incident.
Brinner indicated that the message is a “particularly ugly manifestation” of antisemitism, which he said typically impacts students more than faculty on campus.
“In instances such as this, the target is an individual; in other instances, a swastika or some other offensive statement is posted in a public place,” he added.
The professor pointed to FBI statistics for 2016, which revealed that more than 50 percent of all religiously motivated hate crimes in the United States were against Jews. Muslims were the second most frequently targeted group, facing nearly 25 percent of the offenses.
Like multiple other universities, UC Berkeley has faced a number of antisemitic hate incidents in recent years. These have included homophobic and antisemitic fliers, swastika drawings, and — as was the case in March 2015 — graffiti saying, “Zionists should be sent to the gas chamber.”
In response to the hostility Jewish community leaders say their students face on campus, the University of California’s Board of Regents issued a condemnation in March 2016 of “anti-Semitism, anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination.”
In December, 16 UC Berkeley faculty members “strongly” backed concerns raised by Jewish students at the school over Hatem Bazian, a lecturer who shared a tweet depicting a caricature of an Orthodox Jewish man — described as “Ashke-Nazi” — with the caption: “I is chosen! I can now kill, rape, smuggle organs & steal the land of Palestinians *yay*.”
While Bazian — a co-founder of the anti-Zionist campus group Students for Justice in Palestine — has since apologized for the tweet, Jewish students have called for his dismissal, pointing to his years-long record “of spreading or justifying anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry.”
UC Berkeley and Brinner did not immediately respond to requests for comment.