On Feb. 10, the ASUC University and External Affairs Committee voted against SR 19/20-032, Senator Milton Zerman’s bill that would condemn Bears for Palestine, or BFP, for its cubicle display in Eshleman Hall.
Many members of the public attended to comment on the bill, most of whom stood in solidarity with BFP. Senator Shelby Weiss, who chaired the meeting, amended SR 19/20-032 and moved for a roll call vote. Senators Sylvia Targ, Derek Imai, Rebecca Soo and Romario, who does not use a last name, voted against the bill. Weiss then voted in favor of it and Senator Media Sina, who was not at the meeting, abstained from voting.
After moving through the remaining pending business, during which bills SR 19/20-037, SR 19/20-038 and SR 19/20-039 were passed, the meeting moved into public comment.
“Clearly Berkeley is not united against hate,” said campus senior Nathan Bentolila during the meeting. “I honestly have very little to say, the Jewish community is beyond disappointed.”
A large number of Jewish audience members in support of BFP disagreed with Bentolila by calling out, “You don’t speak for us,” to him.
Campus junior Pavin Johnson, who identified himself as Quapaw, said he was there to affirm the Native commitment to Palestinian students’ well-being on campus.
“I am very disturbed, not just with this racist bill being considered, but I am also disturbed with the egregious acts of violence enacted by campus Zionists, attacks against not just the Palestinian students, but other students from marginalized communities,” Johnson alleged during the meeting.
Johnson went on to call the attacks “hate,” adding that hate in any form is unacceptable.
As public comment continued, numerous Jewish-identifying audience members spoke against Zionism and in favor of BFP.
Campus junior Ella Parker spoke about supporting the Palestinian cause.
“I’m a Jewish student here and I’m standing in complete solidarity with BFP and all the Palestinians in the room,” Parker said. “I stand with the Palestinian freedom fighters acting out of self-defense and am glad that the bill didn’t pass, but (I) am disgusted and disturbed that I have been here three times in one week.”
A speaker, identified as H because they requested to remain anonymous for fear of personal attack, came forward and said they planned to join the Israel Defense Forces after their graduation to “eliminate Palestinian nationalism and Palestinians from the world.”
H left the room after speaking, prompting a five-minute recess. Police were unable to detain them outside of Eshleman Hall, having stopped the wrong person upon exit.
The meeting adjourned soon after this statement and several other public comments were made. As people left the room, members of BFP organized volunteers to walk attendees home.
Weiss denounced the speaker’s statement after the meeting.
“The words (spoken by H) do not reflect my feelings and I speak for most members of my community that we do not condone those words,” Weiss said. “Our support for the bill itself does not amount to those sentiments or those feelings of violence or hostility.”
Reflecting on the meeting, Weiss said in an email she was “deeply disappointed” by the committee’s decision on the bill.
Zerman, who was absent for much of the meeting, said in an email the rejection of his bill proved UC Berkeley had an “antisemitism problem.”
“The fact that such a message was controversial, let alone voted down proves that Berkeley still has a huge antisemitism problem,” Zerman said in an email. In another email, he added that he condemned the statement by H.