City Councilmember Cheryl Davila appointed campus Near Eastern studies and Asian American studies lecturer Hatem Bazian — who has faced controversy in the past — to the Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission.
Bazian started work as a commissioner Sept. 18 for the Peace and Justice Commission, a 15-member board that advises the City Council and school board on matters relating to peace and social justice.
Bazian, an advocate for Palestinian rights, is the co-founder and provost of Zaytuna College, the first accredited Muslim liberal arts college in the U.S., located in North Berkeley. Davila said in an email that she also appointed Bazian as her emergency standby officer, but he has yet to be confirmed by the City Council.
“I’m excited to work with Councilmember Davila to see what her priorities are and how I can assist her on the issues she wants to highlight,” Bazian said.
In November 2017, Bazian came under scrutiny by some campus individuals and Jewish organizations for retweeting a post they said was anti-Semitic. Bazian issued an apology soon after and said the tweet was not representative of his views.
Bazian also apologized for this retweet in a letter submitted to the Berkeley City Council on Sept. 25, in which he said his activism for Palestinian rights is centered on “promoting equality, justice, and fairness for all.”
But ASUC Senator Justin Greenwald, who ran on a platform advocating for Jewish students, said in an email that he believes people who “promote conflict not peace” are not qualified to sit on the Peace and Justice Commission.
Bazian is listed on Canary Mission, a pro-Israel website that compiles a blacklist of college students, professors and organizations said to have criticized Israel. Bazian said those who fund this website are “demonizing” him for being outspoken in favor of Palestinian rights.
“Unfortunately, whenever you stand up for Palestinian rights or bring Palestine into any equation, one has to deal with pushback and backlash,” Davila said in an email.
As a commissioner, Bazian said he wants to work on promoting inclusion and diversity in school curriculums and social justice among the campus community.
George Lippman, chair of the Peace and Justice Commission, said the commission is focusing primarily on establishing Berkeley as a sanctuary city and standing up to ICE and other federal programs that “don’t sit well with Berkeley values.”
“I look forward to working to address issues of peace, justice and inclusivity in the city of Berkeley,” Bazian said. “I want to bring students and other members of the campus in to see what our contribution will be to address the multiple issues facing the city.”