The University of California at Berkeley (UCB) has for years been considered one of the most prestigious universities in the land even as it has built a reputation for left-wing craziness and lack of tolerance for anything other than liberal orthodoxy. In recent years, it has been among the leaders in pro-Palestinian/anti-Israel activism. One reason is the presence of Professor Hatem Bazian, a Palestinian who came to the US to obtain his higher education and is now ensconced at Berkeley. This is a character who has called for an intifada in the US and has been reported to have told a student audience to go out and count the number of buildings on campus with Jewish names. In addition, Bazian is a co-founder of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), a brown shirt organization that uses tactics of bullying, disruption and intimidation on campuses nation-wide. Bazian is also co-founder of something called the Islamophobia Research and Documentation Center, which in spite of its grandiose title, occupies little more than a broom closet in room 638 of Barrows Hall on the UCB campus.
Not surprisingly, SJP is quite active on the UCB campus as they carry on a never-ending campaign against Israel. As a result, Jewish students at UCB, much like Jewish students on many college campuses, often have to attend school in a climate of fear. Just ask Jessica Felber, a young Jewish student who while attending UCB a few years ago had a loaded shopping cart rammed into her from behind by an SJP student activist.
Or ask the Jewish students who held a peaceful protest after swastikas started appearing on campus in 2010. They were heckled and given the finger by a professor named Andrew Gutierrez, now retired, is married to a charming lady who is a member of Women in Black, who show up on campus regularly and bother everybody screaming against Israel.
There are many more episodes I could recount, but you get the flavor. Most recently, UCB has risen to the pinnacle of academic anti-Semitism with a recently announced course offering sponsored by Bazian that is dedicated to delegitimizing Israel. To make things even crazier, it is not taught by one of Berkeley's myriad of wacky, left-wing professors, rather by a student-and a member of SJP. That, of course, prompted an avalanche of letters protesting the course on the grounds that not only did it constitute yet another contribution to campus anti-Jewish sentiment, but that it violated the UC Regents' Policy on Course Content-to wit: the classroom is not a place for a teacher to promote his or her political agenda (wink wink, nod nod). It was also pointed out that the course did not go through the requisite approval process. That led to the school briefly suspending the course pending approval, which then went through faster than FBI Director James Comey could clear Hillary Clinton of any wrongdoing in the email scandal.
That controversy was accompanied by the latest revelation, the appearance on campus of anti-Jewish posters (Not anti-Zionist, not anti-Israel, but anti-Jewish).
True, the school has condemned the posters, but until we see the culprits identified and expelled, the statement rings hollow. And I firmly believe the culprits can be identified. They don't have far to look, you know.
Several years ago, David Horowitz came to speak at UC Irvine, where I teach part-time, and pronounced UCI as the worst university in the country when it came to these problems. That may have been true then due to the excesses of the Muslim Student Union and its long list of radical, anti-Semitic invited speakers, but I don't think it's true today-though far from perfect. That dubious distinction belongs now to UCB with San Francisco State running a close second.
Part of the problem at Berkeley has been the presence of a feckless chancellor named Nicholas Dirks,who has been forced out of office by the equally incompetent Janet Napolitano (Yes, that Janet Napolitano), who is now UC president. Dirks not only used tax-payer funds for a trip to India, a personal trainer, and to construct an escape hatch from his office in the event of student protests, but also to hire a PR firm to promote his image as he sought bigger and better positions in life. Standing up to brown shirted thugs on campus is not his specialty.
But what to do about rampant anti-Semitism at UC Berkeley? Clearly, the time for writing letters of protest has passed. They have resulted only in cosmetic changes like the UC Regents' Policy on Course Content as well as the recently adopted Regents' Statement of Principles on Tolerance, which was written with specific reference to anti-Semitism after years of complaints. They are now little more than scraps of paper. What is now needed is lawsuits against UCB and any other university that tolerates anti-Semitic intimidation. In addition, donors who care about this issue should stop giving to schools that don't protect their Jewish students. Finally, Jewish students and their families should reconsider any thoughts of attending schools like Berkeley. Only when their reputations and their coffers are in the toilet will schools like Berkeley begin to take the problem seriously.