UC Berkeley Chancellor: Honoring terrorists who killed Jews 'an affront'
The Chancellor condemned a pro-Palestinian group who lauded terrorists in a display on campus, but also slammed a Jewish student who wanted to 'eliminate' all Palestinians.
By DONNA RACHEL EDMUNDS
The use of the University of California, Berkeley, campus "to honor those who killed unarmed Jewish civilians" is an "affront" to the university's Principles of Community, the Chancellor of the university, Carol Christ, has said.Christ went on to equally condemn students who had expressed a desire to “eliminate Palestinians from the world.”Her comments came in two letters, issued separately to both Jewish and Palestinian groups on campus, following an incident in early February in which a meeting held by the Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC) descended into chaos over a motion to condemn a display by a pro-Palestinian group, Bears for Palestine, on campus grounds.The display included photos of Fatima Bernawi, Rasmea Odeh and Leila Khaled, all of whom were convicted of terror attacks in Israel. Senator Milton Zerman brought a resolution to ASUC's External Affairs Committee titled “Condemning Bears for Palestine for Their Display in Eshleman Hall Glorifying Violent Terrorists,” in which he called for Bears for Palestine to "significantly alter" or remove the photos.The resolution was due to be voted upon at a committee meeting held February 3, but the meeting descended into heckling and threats of violence, causing it to be adjourned. The motion was subsequently voted down by 4-1 at a meeting held the following week.In her letters, Christ explained that she had delayed weighing in on the controversy because she had been away from campus and wanted to be fully briefed. However, Christ said she was "deeply troubled" by what she had learned of both the tone and content of the ASUC meetings - on both sides of the debate. "Through letters, meetings, and conversations, students who both supported and opposed the resolution have conveyed disturbing, mirror-image claims, allegations, and fears, as well as requests for the responsive actions they believe are needed," she wrote to both parties."Any campus meeting or event on campus that leaves so many participants - regardless of their perspective and identity - feeling afraid, disregarded, and disrespected must, I believe, call into question not just the conduct of those involved, but also whether we can do more as a community to facilitate dialogue that adheres to the values described in our Principles of Community."Both Bears for Palestine and Tikvah: Students for Israel posted statements to Facebook in the days following the vote.Bears for Palestine told followers: "One student [at the meeting] declared that, upon his graduation, he wanted to join the IDF (Israeli “Defense” Forces) and “eliminate Palestinian nationalism and Palestinians from this earth,” then went onto specify that he will “kill Palestinians.” The student then fled the room, causing us and our allies serious concern about what he was about to do."Many of us have suffered first-hand at the hands of the IDF, and threats like this hit far too close to home. We have received a direct apology from Zionist organizations on campus, as well as Senator Milton and Senator Shelby, for the death threat. They have yet, however, to apologize for inciting this violence and not holding other members of their organizations accountable for the ongoing acts of harassment we have faced."Meanwhile, Tikvah: Students for Israel wrote to Christ regarding the meeting, posting a copy of their letter to Facebook."These posters [displayed by Bears for Palestine] are threatening to Jewish students and make us feel unsafe on our own campus. Glorifying individuals who have hijacked planes and murdered innocent Israeli civilians for being Jewish creates a hostile environment on campus for our community. This directly or indirectly encourages comparable behavior; after all, the point of role models is to imitate their behavior. A meeting that was meant to address Jewish safety, instead left us feeling more unsafe than ever before."Condemning the use of campus grounds for a display lauding terrorists, Christ wrote in her letters: "I want all to understand that while the campus acknowledges and understands that students have a constitutionally protected right to display the posters in question, using a campus location to honor those who killed unarmed Jewish civilians and/or bombed, or planned to bomb places frequented by unarmed Jewish civilians, is an affront to our Principles of Community."But, she added: "So too were the words of a speaker at the latest ASUC meeting who proclaimed a desire to, “eliminate Palestinians from the world.”"She then went on in the remainder of her letter to call on both sides to work with the university in finding ways for both sides to make their point of view heard in a respectful, peaceable manner."I will in the future, as I have in the past, speak out loudly and clearly in condemnation of antisemitism, Islamophobia, anti-Blackness, racism, and other hateful ideologies and perspectives that target people based on their identity, origins or beliefs," she pledged.To that effect, the university is exploring ways to promote educational information about antisemitism, Islamophobia and other prejudiced ideologies in a bid to reduce instances on campus and help students feel safe.