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Berkeley slammed over violent pro-Palestinian mob after Jewish students report being choked, spit at

Berkeley is already facing a federal lawsuit and a separate Education Dept. probe over antisemitism allegations.

Published: March 3, 2024 3:49pm

The University of California, Berkeley, which is already facing a federal lawsuit and a separate Education Department probe into its law school over antisemitism allegations, is being slammed for its response to a violent pro-Palestinian mob that broke open doors of a pro-Israel speaking event, resulting in the event being shut down as Jewish students reported being choked and spat at by protestors. 

"The attack on the building, and on the event, was an attack on the fundamental values of the university, which are also essential to maintain and nurture open inquiry and an inclusive civil society, the bedrock of a genuinely democratic nation," Berkeley administrators said last week after the event was shut down. 

The statement also acknowledged how "Doors were broken open and the protesters gained unauthorized entry to the building," causing the event to be canceled and the building to be evacuated.

The speaker whose event was shut down, Israeli lawyer Ran Bar-Yoshafat, told The Washington Free Beacon on Friday that he has not received an apology from Berkeley. "No one from Berkeley has contacted me since, or tried to contact me, even."

Danielle Sobkin, a third-year student and co-president of the pro-Israel student organization that planned the event, criticized the university's response for not mentioning the word "antisemitism." 

"I think the entire response is a huge failure on the part of the administration, on the part of the chancellor," Sobkin told Jewish Insider. "And I think students are just really disappointed that fear and the Jewish hate that was so blatantly perpetuated on Monday night has been essentially sidelined, not being recognized, nor has anything been done about it."

Bay Area Jewish Community Relations Council CEO Tyler Gregory expressed similar feelings. 

"I found it to be shocking that the statement from the administration didn’t use the word 'Jewish' or 'antisemitism' anywhere," Gregory said. "It feels like they’re trying to gaslight people about who the victims are. Whether that was intentional or an oversight doesn’t matter. Either way, we’ve got a problem here."

Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof said days after the incident that the riot had been "informed by antisemitism, but that’s different than saying that everybody there was motivated by that or engaged in that," and that the original email from the school did not mention antisemitism because administrators at that time had been unable to confirm whether there had been antisemitic incidents.

Meanwhile, one Jewish student who requested anonymity, told the Jewish Journal that pro-Palestinian protesters choked her during the event. Photos posted online after the event show a young woman with red marks on her neck. 

The student said the incident left her "shaking and crying" and in pain, and that she filed a police report. "I never have felt scared to be a Jewish student on campus until last night," she said.

A video from the night of the event shows a student stating that a woman yelled, "Jew, Jew, Jew" in his face before spitting at him.

Margulof said the Berkeley police department has received four criminal reports related to the event and that one of the reports, which involved battery and antisemitic slurs, is being investigated as a hate crime, The Times of Israel reported. 

However, Margulof noted that "unfortunately, most of the protesters were masked," and the police did not have the resources to make arrests at the scene.

The nonprofit Louis D. Brandeis Center For Human Rights Under Law filed a federal lawsuit against Berkeley in November over antisemitism allegations. Additionally, the U.S. Education Department's Office of Civil Rights opened a probe into UC Berkeley Law School over antisemitism allegations.

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