ASUC Senate to discuss student group display in Eshleman Hall

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ASUC Senator Milton Zerman sponsored an ASUC resolution titled “Condemning Bears for Palestine for Their Display in Eshleman Hall Glorifying Violent Terrorists,” which will be heard at the ASUC Senate’s next meeting.

The resolution asks Bears for Palestine, a campus student group, to “significantly alter” or take down the photographs of Palestinian leaders posted on the group’s cubicle, which is located on the third floor of Eshleman Hall. The display includes images of Palestinian leaders Fatima Bernawi, Rasmea Odeh and Leila Khaled — who is pictured holding an AK-47 rifle — according to the resolution. The ASUC resolution cites Odeh’s role in multiple bombings, including one in February 1969 that killed two people.

The resolution occurs at the same time as President Donald Trump’s announcement of an executive bill involving anti-Semitism and Israeli boycotts on college campuses.

“The glorification of murderers was wrong before Trump’s order and remains wrong now,” Zerman said in an email. “The proposed ASUC bill is about morals and justice which exist independent of any national policy.”

Bears for Palestine alleged the ASUC resolution violates its freedom of expression, calling the resolution a “dog whistle tactic” in a statement given to The Daily Californian. Bears for Palestine added that the photographs in its cubicle are of Palestinian activists who are fighting or have fought for Palestinian self-determination, which it said is a right protected by the United Nations. The group also alleged that the resolution is being used to “disregard the history of the Palestinian struggle” and “fails” to consider the many Palestinian lives lost.

“This equating of us simply standing up for our right to exist as human beings to be a form of terrorism, or endorsing terrorism, is exceedingly racist and Islamophobic,” Bears for Palestine alleged in the statement. “We have endured years of trauma; we have every right to mourn and honor the lives lost to this ongoing occupation.”

According to ASUC Senator Shelby Weiss, one of the challenges the resolution will face at the meeting before possibly being adopted is potential concern about students’ 1st Amendment right to free speech.

Bears for Palestine said in its statement that the 1st Amendment prohibits student governments from discriminating against student organizations on college campuses.

“Being Palestinian at Berkeley, or anywhere else in the world, means we all live in constant fear,” Bears for Palestine said in the statement. “We have no safe space no matter where we go.”

Cal Berkeley Democrats president Sarah Abdeshahian said in an email that she considers the resolution to be “absolutely unfair” and added that she felt Bears for Palestine should be allowed to celebrate Palestinian activists and advocate for Palestinian rights.

While there are no ASUC regulations regarding posters or decorations in Eshleman Hall cubicles, broader campus policy authorizes the usage of campus spaces contingent on compliance with several policies.

Weiss, whose platform includes Jewish community advocacy and programming, called the display a source of “distress, discomfort and pain” and alleged that the posters “threaten Jewish students’ sense of safety.”

Contact Maria Young at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @maria_myoung.