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UC Berkeley hits back at claims law school groups promoted 'Jewish-free zones'

Washington Examiner logo Washington Examiner 10/3/2022 Jeremiah Poff
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The University of California, Berkeley law school dean is defending the institution from accusations that various student groups were seeking to be "Jewish-free zones."

On Wednesday, UC Berkeley law school alumnus and former Trump administration official Kenneth Marcus published an op-ed in the Jewish Journal that said nine student groups at the law school had vowed to no longer invite and sponsor speakers who espoused Zionism or supported the nation of Israel.


Marcus, who served as the assistant secretary for civil rights at the Department of Education, said the actions by the student groups were "frightening and unexpected, like a bang on the door in the night."

The exclusion of pro-Israel speakers drew alarm from Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of the UC Berkeley law school, who, according to Marcus, noted the policy would prohibit the groups from inviting him and most of his Jewish students.

"These exclusions reflect the changing face of campus antisemitism," Marcus wrote. "The highest profile incidents are no longer just about toxic speech, which poisons the campus environment. Now anti-Zionist groups target Jewish Americans directly."

But after the op-ed was published, Chemerinsky defended the law school, saying Marcus's op-ed "paints a misleading picture of what happened at Berkeley Law."

"Mr. Marcus points out and identifies some student groups that adopted a statement drafted by Law Students for Justice In Palestine condemning Israel. But what he does not mention is that only a handful of student groups out of over 100 at Berkeley Law did this," Chemerinsky said. "He also does not mention that in a letter to the leaders of student groups I expressed exactly his message: excluding speakers on the basis of their viewpoint is inconsistent with our commitment to free speech and condemning the existence of Israel is a form of anti-Semitism."

Marcus, in response, said Chemerinsky "misse[d] the point" and that "excluding Zionists is not like excluding Republicans and environmentalists."

"It is not just viewpoint discrimination," he said. "If a Democratic club amended their bylaws to prohibit Republican speakers from appearing before them, we could accept their right to do so. ... When persons are excluded on the basis of their ethnic or ancestral identity, however, we must respond differently."

Marcus said he was "pleased" with the dean's letter but added that he would like to see Chemerinsky "take action."


"Discrimination should have no place at the University of California, or at any institution of higher learning," Marcus wrote. "Those who care about free speech should protect it fiercely, but that does not mean invoking it where it does not apply. To do so cheapens the value of free speech, as well as providing intolerable barriers to equal opportunity. Those who want to talk about Israel should be free to do so, regardless of their perspective; they should not silence one side of the debate."


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Tags: Racism, UC Berkeley, Higher Education, Law, California

Original Author: Jeremiah Poff

Original Location: UC Berkeley hits back at claims law school groups promoted 'Jewish-free zones'


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