To our Berkeley Law Community:
We, the Board of the Jewish Students Association at Berkeley Law (JSABL), write to you saddened by the situation surrounding the new by-law passed by several student groups. This by-law supports the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction of Israel, and we are concerned by the impact this by-law is having on our Jewish community. That our organization was one of the few affinity groups not contacted during this process underlies our concern that these actions will disproportionately silence Jewish voices on campus.
Over the summer, Law Students for Justice in Palestine asked many student organizations to adopt a by-law which, in part, states: “in the interest of protecting the safety and welfare of Palestinian students on campus,” student organizations signing the statement “will not invite speakers that have expressed and continued to hold views or host/sponsor/promote events in support of Zionism, the apartheid state of Israel, and the occupation of Palestine.”
This by-law alienates many Jewish students from certain groups on campus. In considering which organizations to join, students should not be forced to choose between identifying as either “pro-Palestine” and thereby “anti-Israel,” or “pro-Israel” and thereby “anti-Palestine.” This dichotomy distorts the complexity of this issue. Students can advocate for Palestinians and criticize Israeli policies without denying Israel the right to exist or attacking the identity of other students. To say otherwise is antithetical to the dialogue around which our educational community is built. We are troubled that this by-law creates an environment in which only one viewpoint is acceptable.
We are further concerned by the antisemitic impact the by-law may have on the Berkeley Law community. Many Jewish students’ identities are intertwined with the existence of Israel as an ancestral Jewish homeland, just as many Palestinians’ identities are strongly connected to their ancestral homeland. When an affinity group adopts this by-law or conditions speaking privileges on denouncing Israel, many Jewish people are put in a position all too familiar: deny or denigrate a part of their identity or be excluded from community groups.
We treasure the openness of the Berkeley Law community, and we subscribe to U.C. Berkeley’s commitment “to ensuring freedom of expression and dialogue that elicits the full spectrum of views held by our varied communities.” Law schools are driven by the acceptance and promotion of intellectual differences. We hope our student body can model this principle. Rather than inviting dialogue and education amongst our community, this by-law outright silences a group of individuals and forces the adoption of one narrative.
We ask the Berkeley Law community to include us in this conversation. We look forward to engaging in a productive dialogue on this issue, and we hope that all students, regardless of their perspectives, feel welcome to share their opinion with us and our broader community.
The Board of the Jewish Student Association at Berkeley Law
Alexa Fishman, Co-President
Charlotte Aaron, VP of Communications
Adam Pukier, Treasurer
Noah Cohen, 2L Representative