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International Legal Forum launches civil rights complaint against Berkeley Law for allowing ban of Zionist speakers

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The International Legal Forum has requested an investigation into Berkeley Law for allowing student groups adopt a bylaw banning Zionist speakers.


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NOVEMBER 28, 2022

The International Legal Forum, or ILF, along with Florida-based attorney Gabriel Groisman, claimed Berkeley Law is violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in a Nov. 18 complaint over the decision to allow several campus student groups to enact bylaws banning Zionist speakers.

Spearheaded by Law Students for Justice in Palestine, nine student groups have adopted the bylaws. Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky condemned the bylaws, but acknowledged that taking action to remove them would violate First Amendment rights.

As a result, ILF filed a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education, asking them to investigate Berkeley Law and compel the institution to “immediately invalidate” the bylaws, according to a Nov. 20 press release written by Groisman and Israel-based human rights lawyer and ILF CEO, Arsen Ostrovsky. They have also requested that campus adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism and create a training program to educate the campus community on antisemitism.

“It’s critical that the students at the university understand that there is a larger community outside of the university who is looking out for their interests,” Groisman said. “It’s important for them to stand up for themselves and particularly the Jewish community on campus.”

The ILF claimed in the press release that the ban violates Title VI because it is “discriminatory” towards Jewish speakers and students. Subsequently, the ILF said that the bylaws are “marginalizing and silencing Jews” and equated anti-Zionism to antisemitism in the press release.

Groisman said he and ILF first heard of the bylaws in August but waited to file the claim because they thought the university would stop funding to the student groups or invalidate the bylaws on its own based on statements from the UC regents and campus.

However, Palestine Legal staff attorney Dylan Saba agreed with Chermerinsky that restricting groups from enacting the bylaws would be a violation of free speech rights. Saba added that he doesn’t expect any such investigation by the Department of Education to find Berkeley Law administration or the student group bylaws in violation of Title VI.

“It sounds totally spurious,” Saba said. “What they are asking the university to do is violate the First Amendment. They are trying to sue (UC) Berkeley under federal civil rights law for not violating the Constitution.”

Saba noted that Berkeley Law’s condemnation of the bylaws has led to increased harassment and intimidation of Palestinian students on campus.

He added Zionism is a political ideology as opposed to a race or ethnicity and is therefore not protected under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act as ILF claims.

“Palestinians, like everyone else, are entitled to human dignity and should be able to voice opposition to the systems and governments and organizations that are oppressing them,” Saba said.

Ananya Rupanagunta contributed to this article.

Contact Ella Carter-Klauschie at 


NOVEMBER 29, 2022