Berkeley Law Student Groups Ban Zionist Speakers

At the University of California, Berkeley, a student group, Law Students for Justice in Palestine, has banned supporters of Zionism from speaking at its events.
The ban applies to all Zionists, irrespective of what topic they would choose to discuss on campus. Currently, nine Berkeley law student groups have adopted the ban on Zionist speakers. Many legal experts say that student groups have the right to ban speakers with whose views they disagree.

Following the publication in the Jewish Journal of a provocative article, “Berkeley Develops Jewish Free Zones” by Kenneth Marcus, chief of the U.S. Department of Education under President Trump, several prominent people said the ban discriminates against Jews. Pro-Palestinian law students deny the ban is antisemitic by arguing that Zionism is a political viewpoint while being Jewish is an identity. They justify the ban by noting that in 2010 Hillel issued guidelines that prohibit chapters from collaborating with speakers or groups that “delegitimize, or demonize, or apply a double standard to Israel.” (Dean Erwin Chemerinsky of Berkeley Law School, a Jewish Zionist, and some Hillel chapters at other colleges objected to these guidelines.)

Hillel is dedicated to supporting college students by strengthening their bonds with Jewish communities on campus, in the nation, in Israel, and throughout the world. When pro-Palestinian students resort to cancel culture, Hillel can respond by initiating dialogue. To try to persuade all the Berkeley law student groups to rescind their ban on inviting Zionist speakers, Hillel can promise to rescind its guidelines for not hosting anti-Zionist speakers. If Hillel’s attempt is unsuccessful, then Hillel and other major American Jewish organizations can advise Jewish applicants to law school to avoid applying to Berkeley.

About the Author
Ted Sheskin is an emeritus professor of industrial engineering and the author of a textbook, Markov Chains and Decision Processes for Engineers and Managers. He has published peer-reviewed papers on engineering systems and mathematical algorithms. His letters to editors addressing politics, economic policy, and issues facing Israel and American Jews have appeared in the NY Times, Daily News, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Cleveland Jewish News, Jewish Week, the Forward, and Jewish Voice.
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