An SJP chapter at the University of California, Berkeley. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma) (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
Students for Justice in Palestine

The outgoing chancellor also denounced rising antisemitism on the campus as ‘deeply disturbing’ and expressed support for the school’s Jewish Studies and Israel Studies fields.

By Dion J. Pierre, The Algemeiner

University of California, Berkeley chancellor Carol Christ has issued a message assuring Jewish faculty that the school will not boycott and divest from Israel, according to a letter shared with The Algemeiner.

The letter — written to the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Jewish Student Life and Campus Climate — followed concerns that Christ expressed agreement with the ideology and aims of pro-Hamas protesters in a previous missive.

It announced a settlement for ending a “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” in which students lived for several weeks and refused to leave unless the school adopted an anti-Israel stance.

In it, Christ commended the protesters as “professional” and “productive” while describing Israel’s prosecution of its war against Hamas as “horrific,” sentiments that were reportedly dictated by the protesters as a condition of their cooperation.

“I plan to make a public statement by the end of the month sharing my personal support for government officials’ efforts to secure an immediate and permanent ceasefire,” Christ said.

“Such support for the plight of Palestinians, including protest, should not be conflated with hatred or antisemitism.”

Christ, who will soon retire from academia, did say that the protesters’ demands for a boycott of Israel and divestment of holdings in countries linked to it are nonviable, but she hesitated to formally denounce the latter, saying only that it is prohibited under California law.

In the latest letter, however, Christ announced “new campus programs to provide antisemitism education to larger numbers of students, faculty, and staff.”

Additionally, she said that her earlier comments do “not in any way, open the door to, or have anything to do with, divestment from entities based on the fact that they do business with Israel or are situated in Israel.”

The outgoing chancellor also denounced rising antisemitism on the campus as “deeply disturbing” and expressed support for the school’s Jewish Studies and Israel Studies fields — statements that drew praise from Jewish faculty leader and political science professor Ron Hassner.

“The chancellor’s statement is evidence of Berkeley’s ongoing support for Jewish Studies and Israel studies. That, in turn, is a function of respect for our Jewish students and faculty community,” Hassner told The Algemeiner on Monday.

“While masked anti-Israel protesters engaged in violence, racism, intimidation, and property destruction, the Jewish campus community responded with quiet dignity. While protesters made quixotic ‘foreign policy’ demands, the Jewish community called for safety, coexistence, and antisemitism education. I’m glad campus ignored the former and embraced the latter.”

Christ’s initial praise of pro-Hamas students troubled many on campus given their actions during the 2023-24 academic year, particularly after Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel.

In February, a mob of hundreds of student and non-student protesters shut down an event at the UC Berkeley Zellerbach Library featuring Israeli reservist Ran Bar-Yoshafat, forcing Jewish students to flee to a secret safe room as the protesters overwhelmed campus police.

Footage of the incident showed a frenzied mass of anti-Zionist agitators banging on the doors of the Zellerbach.

The mob then, according to witnesses, eventually stormed the building — breaking windows in the process, according to reports in The Daily Wire — and precipitated the decision to evacuate the area.

During the infiltration of Zellerbach, one of the mob — assembled by Bears for Palestine, which had earlier proclaimed its intention to cancel the event — spit on a Jewish student and called him a “Jew,” pejoratively.

“You know what I was screamed at? ‘Jew, you Jew, you Jew,’ literally right to my face,” the student who was attacked said to a friend. “Some woman — then she spit at me.”

Shaya Keyvanfar, a student, later told The Algemeiner that her sister was spit on and that the incident was unlike any she had ever witnessed.

“Once the doors were closed, the protesters somehow found a side door and pushed it open, and a few of them managed to get in, and once they did, they tried to open the door for the rest of them,” Keyvanfar said.

“It was really scary. They were pounding on the windows outside — they broke one — they spit at my sister and others. They called someone a dirty Jew. It was eerie.”

UC Berkeley assistant vice chancellor for communications and public affairs Dan Mogul told The Algemeiner the next day that the incident left a “black mark” on the university’s history.

During May’s encampment, the protesters — members of UCB Divest — resorted to physically attacking Jews, committing what the school’s newspaper described as “an aggravated assault and attempted robbery” of a Jewish demonstrator’s pro-Israel flag.

In the end, the pro-Hamas agitator who instigated the incident punched a Jewish student in the face and paramedics had to be called to the scene.

Despite this incident and others in which Hamas symbols were paraded across the campus, Christ’s public statements portrayed the protesters’ actions’ positively.

That she agreed to negotiate with them instead of ending a protest that disrupted university business and promoted racial hatred not seen in the US since the 1950s frustrated faculty.

“Their mission statement ends with ‘in solidarity without compromise, from the river to the sea,’ a phrase identified by Congress as antisemitic and calling for genocide and the destruction of Israel,” over 300 professors said in a letter to University of California Board of Regents president Michael Drake, which was first obtained by The Jewish News of Northern California.

“In negotiating with UCB Divest and in agreeing to their demands to review the holdings of the endowment, the chancellor has given legitimacy to this virulently anti-Israel and antisemitic group.”


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