Anti-Semitic remarks prompt backlash from UC Berkeley Jewish community after ASUC meeting

students gathered in the ASUC senate chambers in Eshleman Hall for the April 17 ASUC meeting
Kaho Otake/Staff

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A lengthy and heated public discussion at a regular ASUC meeting Wednesday night regarding Student Action’s disqualification resulted in several anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic comments, prompting backlash from the UC Berkeley Jewish community.

In a joint statement released Thursday evening, many Jewish campus groups that signed the statement said they were “appalled and deeply pained” by the anti-Semitic remarks made at the meeting — including verbal abuse, harassment and false information, according to the statement.

“We, as Jewish students, condemn the events of April 17th and stand united against the hatred and ignorance that permeates our campus,” the statement said. “We ask that the campus community stand with us, make your voice heard and show that Berkeley truly does stand united against hate.”

Attended by more than 200 students, the meeting was dominated by a public comment period during which students discussed the disqualification of Student Action’s entire slate — including Jewish former senator-elect Shelby Weiss — from the 2019 ASUC elections.

Throughout the meeting, Jewish students who said they had lost a source of representation in the ASUC were met with remarks that referenced Zionism and the Israel Defense Forces. Some of the comments — notably one mentioning “white tears” and “Zionist tears” — were caught on video and shared on Facebook.

Many, though not all, campus Jewish student groups signed the statement, including the Berkeley Hillel Student Board, Bears for Israel and the Greek Jewish Council. Though some of the participating groups have displayed differing political beliefs about Zionism, they all presented a united front in their disapproval of the events that occurred at the meeting.

Among the student organizations that chose not to sign the statement was Jewish Voice for Peace, or JVP, which released its own statement condemning language that equates anti-Zionist rhetoric with anti-Jewish rhetoric.

“We are Jews who stand in our Jewish identities just as firmly and proudly as we do in our rejection of Zionism,” JVP said in its statement. “It is not only disingenuous, but also dangerous, to conflate the two in order to brand any criticism of Zionism as antisemitic and attack progressive voices on campus committed to uplifting marginalized students.”

Chancellor Carol Christ sent an email to the campus community Friday morning addressing “disturbing expressions of bias” at the ASUC meeting. The email did not specifically mention the Jewish campus community or details regarding the incident, but it reaffirmed the campus administration’s condemnation of bias, including “racism, anti-Semitism and other forms of prejudice.”

Contact Maya Eliahou at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @MayaEliahou.