Berkeley Law ensures equal platforms for pro-Palestine, pro-Israel speech

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Sharon Pan/Staff

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I am writing to express my disagreement with several points made by my peer, Mukund Rathi, in his op-ed: “Erwin Chemerinsky should address Palestine exception to free speech.”

First, I question Rathi’s assertion that Erwin Chemerinsky, the new dean of Berkeley Law, is “inattentive to the Palestine exception to free speech.” The Boalt Hall Law Students for Justice in Palestine, or LSJP, regularly utilizes the same free speech rights that Rathi purports do not apply to them.

For example, LSJP handed out flyers to protest every one of the speakers that the Boalt Jewish Student Association, or BJSA, has brought to campus over the last two semesters, wrote an open letter to criticize the school’s decision to allow conservative pundit Ben Shapiro to speak on campus based purely on his views on the Middle East, and launched a campaign against the BJSA’s iTrek trip to Israel last year (which included letters, Facebook posts, tabling in the law school cafe, and a photo campaign of whiteboard pledges to not attend the trip). Just this week, LSJP members handed out flyers and were specifically given first priority to ask professor Alan Dershowitz questions during his talk at Berkeley Law.

I support LSJP’s use of free speech to point out viewpoints that they oppose; while I may hold a different perspective, I appreciate attending a school where all opinions can be shared. If there are specific instances during Rathi’s time at Berkeley Law — especially with Chemerinsky at the helm — when Palestinian speakers were exempted from free speech, I would like to know. I too feel that would be unacceptable.

Second, Rathi’s mention of Steven Salaita as an example of stifled Palestinian speech is inaccurate. Salaita’s offer from the University of Illinois was withdrawn not because of “critical tweets” about Israel during Operation Protective Edge in 2014, but rather for tweets that many viewed as anti-Semitic. For example, one tweet read: “If (Benjamin) Netanyahu appeared on TV with a necklace made from the teeth of Palestinian children, would anybody be surprised?”

At first glance this statement about Netanyahu might seem purely political, but it in fact trades in historic anti-Semitic tropes. The European Parliament Working Group on anti-Semitism includes in its definition of anti-Semitism: “using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.” Dating back to the Middle Ages, people falsely insinuated that Jews murder children to use their blood for ritual purposes. Salaita was not “punished” for anti-racist speech but rather denied tenure because of anti-Semitic tweets referencing that libel. Rathi concludes that “anti-racists need to develop and assert a fuller vision of the right to free speech.” Yet I would hope that anti-racists also commend a university’s decision not to hire someone who has made anti-Semitic remarks.

All perspectives can and should be allowed on campus. There is no evidence that Chemerinsky’s vision of free speech excludes the Palestinian view. I feel confident that if a student group invited an anti-Israel speaker to Berkeley Law, Dean Chemerinsky would ensure his or her right to speak.

Olivia Wittels is a law student at Berkeley Law.

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  • Oakley

    Palestinians sure are adept at worming and leaching their way into any sort of cause, real or imagined.

    See Linda Sarsour for details

  • SamXie

    There have been dozens of anti-Israel (oops- pro-Palestinian) speakers on campus. There have been anti-Israel measures placed before the graduate student union, and the student congress. There have been repeated anti-Israel events- not just tabling- at Sproul. Mock checkpoints, die-ins, random activities with flags and bullhorns. There have been dozens of anti-Israel op eds in this very paper. Yawn. And yet the poor poor Palestinians and their enablers still claim to be silenced. How puzzling.

  • ZZ

    Please.
    There is no evidence that Palestinians and their supporters are denied speech or access
    Yet they do a great job of denying others of their rights.
    How can anyone take this Mukund Rathi fellow seriously?

  • Oakley

    Steven Salaita. What a joke
    Why is that fool still part of any conversations?

  • taxpayer22

    “You can be full of kindness and love, but you cannot sleep next to a mad dog,” Ashin Wirathu , a Buddhist monk with a rock-star following in Myanmar, “If we are weak, our land will become Muslim.”.

    • diogenes

      The Palestinian experience has been the exact opposite. In 1900 Palestine was 90% Muslim, 5% Christian, 5% Jewish.

      • taxpayer22

        Remember what happened to the Jews of Medina and the Buddhists in Afghanistan – in the 7th Century.

      • SamXie

        The Christian experience as well. Bethlehem was once 100% Christian. Now its 80 % Muslim.

        • Arafat

          I believe Bethlehem is more like 95% Muslim. It is like everywhere else in Asia and Africa where Muslims live. Over time they ethnically cleanse the indigenous population out of existence. Of course sometimes they do it quickly as happened in Sudan in the 1990s where in short order all infidels were killed or forced into refugee camps.

      • Todd

        Your numbers are off. Jerusalem was 80% Jewish and the country was under Muslim colonial rule. So I assume you are not advocating going back to colonial rule.

  • taxpayer22

    There is no moderate Islam. Islam is Islam . -Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

  • Alison Weir

    I gave Ms. Wittels the benefit of the doubt in my comment below, but I see that she is a member of http://www.fuelfortruth.org/, which works to “influence their social and professional networks on Israel’s behalf.” I hope that someday Ms Wittels will learn the facts about Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, and will work for justice and human rights for all, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, or nationality. A good place to start her journey would be by viewing https://youtu.be/kNlGbjPOmCU and/or by reading the information at http://ifamericaknew.org/

    • lspanker

      I hope that someday Ms Wittels will learn the facts about Israel’s treatment of Palestinians

      Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is the direct result of Palestinian treatment of Israelis. Maybe if they didn’t keep firing rockets and mortars at Israeli citizens, they wouldn’t have to worry about IDF airstrikes and retaliatory raids.

      • Alison Weir
        • lspanker

          I’m quite aware of the actual chronology. Perhaps you weren’t aware of the fact that up to about 2000-2001, Palestinians living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip often commuted into Israel proper to go to work, school, do their shopping etc, just as Mexican nationals in border towns such as Tijuana and Nogales would travel over the border to go to the US. I know that for a fact because I used to commute by car from Ashkelon to my workplace in Kiryat Gat during that time frame, and recall Highway 4 and Highway 35 often being jammed with cars, trucks and buses with Palestinian license plates. One of the more interesting sights was flatbed trucks with sheep being transported from Gaza to some kibbutz near Sde Yo’av where they were apparently fattened up then sent to market.That all ended with the Second Intifatah, when the Pallies began engaging in riots, lynchings, and suicide bombers, resulting in demands that then PM Ariel Sharon do something about it, which was to build the Security Fence and restrict access to Palestinans, causing many of them to lose their jobs. Fast forward to 2005 when the Israelis granted complete autonomy to the West Bank, which then chose to elect Hamas as their representative government, and engaged in a senseless orgy of violence and destruction including rocket and mortar attacks on Siderot and other Israeli cites which resulted in IAF airstrikes and other reactive measures. The misguided goo-goos who always whine about the Israelis mistreating the poor Pallies conveniently leave out certain details which don’t cast their chosen mascots in the most flattering light…

        • Arafat

          Like all neo-Nazis, Alison and her peers even hate one another. So much hate…what a waste of a life. So pathetic, so demented makes one wonder what her father did to her.

          http://elderofziyon.blogspot.com/2015/07/israel-haters-are-fighting-each-other.html

    • Arafat
  • tanner

    those filthy goyim must understand the meaning of obedience. any who challange their zio masters must be severely punished.

    To identify the truly sick racists google: chief rabbi of Israel
    says only purpose of goyim is to serve jews, life of goyim worth same as
    donkey. Netanyahu says this jerk is the
    greatest mind of this generation.

    http://www.timesofisrael.com/5-of-ovadia-yosefs-most-controversial-quotations/

    • A.S.F.

      The above-printed offensive post represents the characteristics of the trolls and Anti-Semites who are emboldened by the likes of the SJP, LSJP, BDS, JVP and groups like them. It is unfortunate when politically correct rhetoric serves as an excuse to unleash Jew-hatred and other forms of bigotry on the world.

      • Mike

        There is absolutely no relation between the offensive post above and the groups you cite.

      • tanner

        I’m full on Lubavitcher bro.

    • lspanker

      Stormfront much, bro?

      • tanner

        I am a student of the Talmud my friend. Maybe you should go back to dailystormer dot ai

  • Alison Weir

    Olivia Wittels cites a statement by the European Parliament Working Group on anti-Semitism, but may not be aware that this group is using and promoting a new, distorted definition of anti-Semitism that has been created on behalf of Israel. For two decades, some Israeli officials and Israel partisans have worked to embed a new, Israel-focused definition of antisemitism in institutions around the world, from international bodies and national governments to small college campuses in heartland America as a way to combat support for Palestinian human rights. Please see my article detailing this international campaign at http://iakn.us/2pMtWpg Israel partisans claiming that criticism of Israel is “anti-Semitism” doesn’t make it so.

    • diogenes

      “may not be aware”! That’s charitable.

    • A.S.F.

      As someone who has been rightfully challenged on her own usage of Anti-Semitic tropes, Ms. Weir–and who tries to justify them under the banner of “Anti-Zionism”–you are hardly one to complain about other’s insensitivity to YOUR rights or to the feelings of the groups you don’t so much represent honestly or credibly but, more to the point, exploit in service to your own personal prejudices. It is time you realized that not everyone is a ‘useful idiot”, ripe for manipulation.

    • lspanker

      Reading your posting history and your obsession with the USS LIberty incident makes it clear that you’re right up there with the rest of the Stormfront contingent…

      • SamXie

        Even extremist groups such as the comically named “Jewish” voice for “Peace” have rejected Alison Weir for her dalliance with the likes David Duke.

    • Dan Spitzer

      Olivia Wittels rightfully notes that Steven Saiaita was refused a faculty position because of his tweets which jibe with the age-old anti-Semitic allegations of Jewish blood libel. Correspondingly, how appropriate it is to see rejoinders here from Alison Weir who also engaged in this odious throwback to the worst of anti-Semitism when she herself published the fiction that Israelis harvested for profit Palestinian organs.

      Here’s everything you need to know about Ms. Weir, who has earned a place among the nation’s most notorious bigots:
      https://www.adl.org/sites/default/files/documents/assets/pdf/israel-international/Alison_Weir_Backgrounder-NW.pdf

    • Arafat
    • Tekyo Pantzov

      Even if people who wish to destroy Israel do not subjectively hate Jews as such, nonetheless Islrael´s destruction would undoubtedly harm all Jews, because Israel is the only Jewish state, and consequently the only state that can be relied on to help Jews when push comes to shove. Therefore desiring to destroy Israel is always anti-Semitic, and will remain so until a second Jewish state is established.

    • Todd

      It was created to protect Jews. Only anti-Jews are against it.