Anti-Israel Tolerance on Campus

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Last week, before a UC Berkeley program titled “Israel at War: Combat the Lies,” at which Israel Defense Forces reservist and lawyer Ran Bar-Yoshafat was scheduled to speak, a student group called Bears for Palestine posted on Instagram its intention of “combatting lies” by shutting down the event.

According to the Bears for Palestine post, Bar-Yoshafat “is dangerous. He has committed crimes against humanity, is a genocide denier, and we will not allow for this event to go on.”

And they did just that.

Hundreds of student protesters showed up at the event, banged on the doors and windows, broke at least one glass door, threatened, harassed and spat on students, injuring at least one, and prevented students from entering the program. The protesters then forced their way into the lecture hall shouting “intifada, intifada.”

The event was canceled. Bar-Yoshafat and those already in attendance were escorted out the back of the building. There are no reports of protesters being arrested, sanctioned or disciplined.

The next day, UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Benjamin Hermalin posted a joint note on the university’s website, expressing their “deep remorse and sympathy to those students and members of the public who were in the building, fearing for their safety.”

They then described exactly what happened: “Last night an event was scheduled featuring a speaker from Israel who had been invited to campus by some of our student organizations. Minutes before the event was to start, a crowd of some 200 protesters began to surround the building. Doors were broken open, and the protesters gained unauthorized entry to the building. The event was canceled, and the building was evacuated to protect the speaker and members of the audience.”

Christ and Hermalin added: “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 society, the bedrock of a genuinely democratic nation.”

The UC Berkeley leaders pledged to look into the matter to “decide on the best possible path to fully understand what happened and why; to determine how we will address what occurred; and to do everything possible to preclude a repeat of what happened.”

Nice words. But meaningless. Also, dishonest.

Christ, Hermalin and everyone else at UC Berkeley know exactly what happened on their campus on the evening of Feb. 26, and why. And unless UC Berkeley is willing to respond meaningfully and forcefully to student violence, student interference with free speech at a properly convened gathering and students otherwise spreading hate, rancor and intolerance on campus, the clueless leadership should be removed from UC Berkeley along with the offending students.

Unfortunately, the UC Berkeley story is not unique. We hear daily about antisemitic, anti-Israel and other intolerant actions on campuses across the country. These are precisely the cases that the Department of Education needs to be investigating under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, with an eye toward enforcement of the clear prohibition of discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.

Maybe UC Berkeley and others will start taking the law more seriously when their federal funding is withheld.

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