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Berkeley law dean responds to accusations of 'Jewish-Free Zones' after groups ban Zionist speakers

The article accusing Berkeley of establishing "Jewish-Free Zones" was re-posted by Barbara Streisand, Mark Levin, and others.

Published: October 2, 2022 1:09pm

Updated: October 2, 2022 4:10pm

University of California Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky on Sunday denied allegations that his school established a "Jewish-Free Zone" after several student groups pledged to never invite Zionist or pro-Israel speakers.

Kenneth Marcus, a Berkeley Law alumnus who has defended Jewish students who were victims of anti-semitism, wrote a letter in the Jewish Journal last week titled, "Berkeley Develops Jewish-Free Zones."

The controversy came after Berkeley's Law Students for Justice in Palestine began the academic year by successfully urging nine other student law groups, including Women of Berkeley law, Asian Pacific American Law Students Association and Law Students of African Descent, to amend their bylaws to never invite pro-Israel speakers.

Shortly after the anti-Israel groups' announcement, Chemerinsky, who is a progressive Zionist, denounced the ban and acknowledged the new bylaws would include him and about "90 percent or more" of the school's Jewish students, according to The Jewish News Journal.

"To state it plainly: There is no 'Jewish-Free Zone' at Berkeley Law or on the UC-Berkeley campus. The Law School's rules are clear that no speaker can be excluded for being Jewish or for holding particular views. I know of no instance where this has been violated," Chemerinsky wrote Sunday in a Daily Beast editorial.

He said he finds the anti-Zionist groups' statement "offensive," but it is "their First Amendment right."

Marcus slammed Chemerinsky and said the dean defends the school "on the ground that other Berkeley law student groups have not amended their bylaws to exclude Zionist speakers."

He said Chemerinsky "misses the point when he insists that all clubs admit Jewish students as members." When groups say they would bar students from speaking, it "sends a clear signal: Jews are not welcome, unless they deny their support for Israel which, for many, is an integral element of Jewish identity," Marcus wrote.

"Those who want to talk about Israel should be free to do so, regardless of their perspective; they should not silence one side of the debate. And they should certainly not use this as an excuse to restrict participation of any ethnic or religious group," Marcus said.

Israel is an integral part of mainstream Judaism. Marcus' article was reposted by many influential Jews, including actress Barbara Streisand, conservative commentator Mark Levin and Orthodox conservative attorney Ron Coleman.