UC Berkeley lecturer apologizes for anti-Semitic retweet

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Joshua Jordan/File

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UC Berkeley ethnic studies lecturer Hatem Bazian came under public criticism Nov. 20 for retweeting a meme that many have since called anti-Semitic.

The meme, originally posted on Twitter by a user named Ron Hughes, portrays a Jewish man holding his hands in the air with text below stating, “I can now kill, rape, smuggle organs & steal the land of Palestinians.” The tweet also contains a meme with a photo of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un, and it compares converting nations to Judaism to legalizing nuclear warfare and seizing countries.

In an email, Bazian said he only saw the meme of Kim Jong-un when he initially retweeted the post July 31.

“The (meme depicting the Jewish man) is extremely offensive and (I) would not in a million (years) think about sending such an image as it is anti-Semitic and does not make or offer any point of view in relations to Palestine or the Palestinian cause,” Bazian said in his email.

Bazian issued a public apology Nov. 21 on his Facebook profile, stating that the meme is not representative of his views or his “anti-racist work” to combat anti-Semitism and Islamophobia with Jewish groups that support a self-determined Palestine. He added that, as a Palestinian, his concern is with Zionism and Israel’s policies toward Palestinians.

Bazian has long been involved in pro-Palestine advocacy, founding Students for Justice in Palestine at UC Berkeley in 1992. The organization now has chapters in universities across the country.

UC Berkeley’s Students for Justice in Palestine could not be reached for comment as of press time.

Campus senior Adah Forer, co-president of campus group Tikvah: Students for Israel, said in an email that Bazian’s statement was “not a genuine apology.” Forer said she believes Bazian has used his apology to promote his ideas and condemn Zionism.

“Zionism is the liberation movement of the Jewish people, and the false statements Bazian makes about Palestinians living as second-class citizens in Israel is appalling,” Forer said. “He is using his platforms to spread hate, incitement, and misinformation, thus miseducating his followers and creating a deceitful narrative of the situation.”

Tikvah: Students for Israel also issued a public statement on its Facebook page Nov. 20 condemning the post as “truly revolting” and anti-Semitic.

Campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof said in an email that although the campus does not consider all criticisms of Israel’s policies to be anti-Semitic, the images Bazian retweeted “clearly crossed the line.”

“UC Berkeley unequivocally supports the University of California Regents’ ‘Principles Against Intolerance’, which are clear in their general condemnation of bias, hatred, prejudice and discrimination,” Mogulof said in his email. “We also adhere to and strongly support their specific statement that, ‘Anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination have no place in the University.’ ”

In her email, Forer said Bazian should face disciplinary action from the campus. Forer said she believes that if a campus faculty member had circulated similar imagery regarding another ethnic group, there would have been a “far stronger outcry.”

“I am very clear and open in my political views and have no interest in using anything that is racist or demeaning toward a religious, racial or ethnic community,” Bazian said in an email.

Contact Cade Johnson at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @cadejohnson98.