Several University of California, Berkeley Law School student organizations made a pledge to boycott Zionist and pro-Israel speakers:
The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights is opening an investigation into the University of California, Berkeley Law School over its response to several student organizations who adopted a pledge to not invite any Zionist or pro-Israel speaker to give lectures.
Law Students for Justice in Palestine at Berkeley Law wrote in an Aug. 21 Instagram post that nine student organizations adopted a “pro-Palestine bylaw” stating that their group “will not” invite speakers who hold views in support of Zionism or “the apartheid state of Israel.”
Berkeley Law Muslim Student Association, Middle Eastern and North African Law Students Association, Womxn of Color Collective, Asian Pacific American Law Students Association, Queer Caucus, Community Defense Project, Women of Berkeley Law, and Law Students of African Descent were among the student organizations who signed the Law Students for Justice in Palestine at Berkeley Law pledge.
A complaint was filed with the Department of Education on Nov. 18 by Gabriel Groisman, an attorney at LSN Law in Miami, and Arsen Ostrovsky, attorney and CEO at International Legal Forum in Tel Aviv, Israel.
The complaint alleges that while Berkeley Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky condemned the proposed bylaw, he didn’t take enough action which is necessary as part of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.
“Although we acknowledge that Professor Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of Berkeley Law School, has condemned the adopted by-law, describing it as ‘very troubling’ and noting that according to their framing, he too would be banned because he supports the existence of the State of Israel, he has neither called for their revocation, nor has he taken any meaningful action in response to this egregious act of discrimination, as required under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act,” the complaint letter states.
The pair of lawyers received a letter from the Department of Education on Tuesday, stating that its Office for Civil Rights will be investigating the issue to determine if the university “failed to respond appropriately” to the incident.
In an Aug. 25 email to leaders of all student organizations, Chemerinsky harshly criticized the bylaw and said he wouldn’t be invited to speak at these organizations if the pledge was applied.
“It is troubling to broadly exclude a particular viewpoint from being expressed. Indeed, taken literally, this would mean that I could not be invited to speak because I support the existence of Israel, though I condemn many of its policies,” Chemerinsky said.
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