Graduate Assembly votes to denounce state assembly resolution

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Following a similar action taken by the UC Student Association, the UC Berkeley Graduate Assembly voted Thursday to pass a resolution denouncing HR 35, a state Assembly measure aimed at curbing anti-Semitism at the state’s higher education institutions.

The Graduate Assembly resolution argues that HR 35 encourages university administrators to censor legitimate criticisms of the state of Israel and infringes upon students’ freedom of speech and academic freedom.

“HR 35 sets a dangerous precedent by threatening to infringe on free speech rights by conflating criticism of political ideology and practice with racism or hate speech,” the resolution reads.

The resolution was drafted to point out the difference between the two issues, said Bianca Suarez, author of the resolution and the Graduate Assembly’s Campus Affairs Committee Vice President.

The Graduate Assembly’s resolution follows a similar one that was passed by the UC Student Association in September — a move that received a heated response from some members of Jewish and pro-Israel communities who felt they did not have enough input in the legislative process.

Unlike the association, however, the Graduate Assembly publicized the upcoming vote by posting the proposed resolution online about a month ago and consulted with various committees within the assembly in the interim, according to Bahar Navab, the assembly’s president.

Still, only nondelegates in favor of the resolution were present at Thursday’s meeting, despite it being open to all campus students, according to Suarez. Only one assembly delegate voted against the resolution.

Tom Pessah, a UC Berkeley graduate student and member of the campus group Students for Justice in Palestine, spoke at Thursday’s meeting in support of the resolution. He argued that HR 35 hindered his academic research and viewed the passing of the Graduate Assembly’s resolution as a step in the right direction for the university.

“Lobbyists working to stifle free inquiry and activism regarding Israel’s racist policies — past and present — cannot intimidate and silence democratic student governments,” Pessah said.

But to Abraham Levine, president of Tikvah: Students for Israel and a campus sophomore, the resolution came as a shock.

“I understand the GA’s desire to confirm the right of students to free speech, but I’m shocked that the GA would oppose a resolution calling on the university to protect Jewish students from discrimination in its entirety,” Levine said in an email.

The resolution stipulates that the Graduate Assembly will send a copy of its text to Gov. Jerry Brown, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and UC President Mark Yudof. In addition, Suarez said she plans to meet with the chair of the Academic Senate to discuss issues with HR 35.

“We are accountable and transparent to take positions from a holistic perspective, and I feel like we did that in this bill,” Suarez said.

Contact Andrea Guzman at [email protected].

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  • Melodie

    The Council for American Islamic Relations (CAIR) recently sent out a notice requesting students to report back on the materials available in their local libraries. There is not a peep from “free speech advocates” in California or anywhere in the country. Funny, that.
    From CAIR

    Anti-Islam Book Found in Broward County Public School Library
    Asalamu Allaikum,
    CAIR has received a report that an anti-Islam book has been found in a Broward County Public School Library. The title of this book is “Islam and Terrorism” authored by Mark A. regarding the Quran and teachings of the Prophet Mohammed. We have submitted a formal complaint to the Broward County Public School System and requested information through the Freedom of Information Act.
    Gabriel is a well know anti-Islam pundit that self proclaims scholarly knowledge of the Quran.
    This book contains dozens of xenophobic statements and inaccurate information While the School Board is investigating we need the Muslim communities help in identifying if this was an isolated incident or if there was mass distribution of this book into the Broward County School system. We also do not know which School Districts this book was distributed to. It may have been distributed State Wide.
    Action Needed.
    Please show your children a copy of the Action Alert and have them look in their schools library for a copy of this book. “Islam and Terrorism”. If your child finds this or similar books in the library please contact CAIR Florida immediately.
    Thank you for your immediate attention to this extremely important matter ! Please forward this ACTION ALERT to your email list.

  • lol

    lol when is Dan Spitzer going to show up to make Islamophobic comments?

    • Dan Spitzer

      Ask and yea shall receive, lol. Tom Pessah says he and his SJP support free speech and democratic governments. But their hypocrisy stinks to high heaven as they support Palestinian organizations, Fatah and Hamas, whose charters advocate Jewish genocide. Pessah and his brood say they support human rights, yet the freedom Jewish and Arab women enjoy in Israel is antithetical to the utter suppression of Palestinian women. Females in Arab societies are second class citizens by any civilized yardsticks, yet on this not so trivial matter, Pessah, SJP, MSU and JVP are conspicuously silent.

      Is there anyone on the UCB campus who has EVER heard the pro-Palestinian minion condemn the horrific treatment of women, gays and dissidents in Palestinian society? Or the Palestinian primary political parties advocacy of Jewish genocide? If you have, do kindly cite some examples which might extricate the sheer and utter hypocrisy of these organizations. Pessah talks about “Israeli racism.” Yet somehow, support for Jewish genocide is never articulated by Pessah and his pro-Palestinian pals. Think about it.

      • Dan Spitzer

        BTW, everyone in the civilized world should be phobic about Islam because so many of its adherents want to impose its ludicrous beliefs upon the entire planet. And if one doesn’t accept, the consequences are torture and death. Just look at the sad lot of any Palestinian teenage girl who transgresses the will of her father. Honor murder is the result.

  • andrewsu

    Bahar Navab is from Iran. Does she condemn how the Organization of Islamic countries pushes year after year to get the UN to have worldwide blasphemy laws? Keith Ellison has gotten Islamaphobia condemned by the Senate. Does she denounce this? Does Bianca Suarez stand up for those harrassed as racist for wanting stronger anti-immigration laws or questioning why Hispanics should even qualify for Affirmative Action in the first place?

    • Guest

      Nice of you to assume someone with a Persian ethnic background must be Islamist, let alone Muslim. Besides, the GA President does not vote on the Delegate Assembly and had no role in passing this. The majority of GA delegates are graduate students in the science and engineering departments, not known as hotbeds of campus activism.

  • andrewsu

    The student government and Board of Regents have condemned people who question Affirmative Action. Why hasn’t the Graduate Assembly stood up those slurred as racist due to questioning AA or other sensitive issues reagrding blacks, Hispanics or Muslims. Why don’t they defend those who are against Islamists, Affirmative Action, or liberal immigration policites? There is also an enormous backlash against any finding that there is a link between IQ and race. Why will they not stand up for freedom of speech when it comes to offending blacks, Hispanics or Muslims or the policies and worldview they shove down our throats?

    • Guest

      The California State Assembly has never passed a resolution saying speech against Affirmative Action is racist and that universities should censor speech against AA. Anyone who believes it has should find said resolution and prove it.

  • Guest

    “Unlike the association, however, the Graduate Assembly publicized the upcoming vote by posting the proposed resolution online about a month ago and consulted with various committees within the assembly in the interim, according to Bahar Navab, the assembly’s president.

    Still, only nondelegates in favor of the resolution were present at Thursday’s meeting, despite it being open to all campus students, according to Suarez. Only one assembly delegate voted against the resolution.”

    So, you have a process that gives much more time for transparency and input than the UCSA, yet the outcome is the same. Are people who criticized the UCSA now ok with this, or will this show that they were against the outcome, not the process, all along?

  • Dan Spitzer

    Tom Pessah, the spokesperson for Stupids for Just Us in Foul-Asstine, says he is opposed to the silencing democratic governments, student or otherwise. Well, Pessah Pig, aren’t you a mite hypocritical given your support of the Palestinians whose leaders stifle any real measure of dissent? And do you really stand for democracy when half the Palestinian people you champion, the women, are relegated to second class citizenry? And when the two Palestinian charters call for the genocide of Jews, is that a democratic society you support?

    As for the Graduate Assembly’s resolution, that is about as worthless as toilet paper which stores may try to sell to Palestinians (who, as prescribed by Mohammed, still use their left hands). It is the House representatives-elected by the people of California unlike these Graduate Assembly drinkers of Arab Kool Aid, who will determine whether Jewish students continue to be persecuted by the pro-Foul-Asstinian minion…

  • anynomus

    Abraham Levine must think he is really clever acting like the Graduate Assembly is against protecting Jewish students. The whole point is that HR 35 doesn’t call for protecting Jewish students: it calls for censoring political debate with the frivolous claim that drawing attention to Israel’s human rights violations and undemocratic behavior is racist. But Mr. Levine has plugged his ears and screaming “LA LA LA LA LA” hoping nobody else notices what HR 35 was really about. How stupid do you think the rest of us are?

  • tanya

    ok, so this HR 35 bill has to be bad if all of the graduate assembly reps but one voted to condemn it.

    • I_h8_disqus

      However, the state legislature voted for the bill, so doesn’t that mean it is good? The truth is that you should read the bill yourself, and then make a decision without being influenced by politicians. There is no reason that you should think something is good or bad based on what school politicians or state politicians say. Politicians are most often elected because of popularity instead of because of their abilities. So there isn’t really any reason to think they would know more than you know.

  • berk grad stud

    kudos to the graduate assembly for standing up for free speech. we don’t need the israel lobby’s doublespeak telling us to that calling out israel’s racism is itself racist. naturally, berkeley graduate students are smart enough to see through this rhetorical smokescreen.

    • Dan Spitzer

      The most appropriate Daily Cal headline says it all:

      “Graduate Body Condemns Law Aiming to Curb Anti-Semitism.”


      This is all the more pathetic when one learns that the head of the GA is from–wait for it–that bastion of democracy Islamofascist Iran. Speaks volumes doesn’t it?

      • Dan Spitzer

        What would the Graduate Assembly, Tom Pessah, and SJP say about this:

        The Iran-backed Palestinian group Hamas, a designated terrorist entity that controls the Gaza Strip and remains publicly committed to Israel’s destruction, is being criticized by rights groups for abuses against protesters, journalists, and supporters of rival Palestinian factions. Last week Hamas security officials arrested and interrogated two journalists who were seeking to leave the Gaza Strip for a media conference. The journalists were reportedly questioned about their political affiliation, causing analysts to link the detainment to a broader Hamas crackdown on sympathizers of Hamas’s rival Fatah. Meanwhile the Hamas government was forced to apologize Tuesday after revelations that their security officials attacked female activists calling for reconciliation between Palestinian factions.