UC Berkeley student group protests executive order on anti-Semitism

Alex Stassinopoulos/Staff

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The campus chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace, or JVP, held a protest Friday on the edge of Sproul Plaza in opposition to the executive order signed by President Donald Trump on Wednesday.

The executive order is a response to the increase in anti-Semitic incidents in schools since 2013. The order states that the executive branch should have a policy of enforcing Title VI of the Civil Rights Act against forms of discrimination rooted in anti-Semitism as “vigorously” as other forms of discrimination, according to the White House.

At its peak, the “pop-up action” had about 35 students in attendance and it lasted roughly an hour and a half, according to JVP member Liza Mamedov-Turchinsky.

“We had around 24 hours to organize (the event),” Mamedov-Turchinsky said. “It was an emergency mobilization to respond to the executive order.”

Mamedov-Turchinsky alleged that the order would conflate Jewish status as a “nationality” and attempt to suppress organizing largely from Palestinian groups.

The protest was meant to show the protesters as anti-Zionist Jewish people standing with Palestinians in solidarity, according to Mamedov-Turchinsky. She added that the group wanted to show the campus that the executive order allegedly does not protect Jewish people.

“As a Jewish person, it’s important to speak out about issues like this because silencing Palestinians does nothing to keep me safe as a Jewish person on a college campus and in general,” Mamedov-Turchinsky said. “To have this come from Trump who has … just come off … one of the most anti-Semitic speeches he’s ever given … is doing no favors to Jews and is putting minority groups against each other.”

A statement from JVP added that protest co-sponsors included Cal Bears Against ICE, the JVP’s Bay Area chapter and other Bay Area groups within the Palestine Action Network.

The statement called the executive order’s definition of anti-Semitism “harmful” and “overly broad,” alleging that it silenced progressive Jewish students. The organization also alleged the “hypocrisy” of the order, citing the president’s previous “peddling” of anti-Semitic and anti-Jewish views and “conspiracy theories.”

“As Jews, we know all too well … the growing threat that anti-Semitism poses to our community,” JVP said in the statement. “The order doesn’t address that. … (It’s) an unconstitutional attack on the free speech of student activists.”

The statement claimed that Jewish students face “less of a threat than” Palestinian activists, some of whom end up on blacklisting websites like Canary Mission, which documents individuals on college campuses who support Palestinian rights.

In the statement, the group acknowledged that the present is a “scary time” for the Jewish community, but stated that it wanted Jewish people to understand that aligning themselves with the “far right” does not keep the community safe.

“Although our voices as Jews who stand in solidarity with the Palestinians may not be the loudest, there is a long history of Jews speaking out against the colonization of Palestine,” JVP said in the statement.

Contact Sebastian Cahill at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @SebastianCahil1.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Liza Mamedov-Turchinsky was the event’s organizer. In fact, Mamedov-Turchinsky is an organizer for Jewish Voice for Peace, but did not organize the event.