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UC Berkeley Student Groups State Free Speech 'Cannot Be Romanticized,' Ban Pro-Israel Speakers

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Leftist student groups at the University of California, Berkeley, have banded together in an agreement to limit whom they invite to speak on campus, with bylaw changes expressly targeting people who support Israel.

The new policies include a promise not to “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.”

According to the Jewish Journal, this effectively excludes a vast majority of the Jewish contingent on campus — including the dean of the Berkeley School of Law — from speaking to the groups.

Berkeley Law Students for Justice in Palestine explained the restrictions by stating, “Free speech and the exchange of ideas cannot be romanticized.”

“Choosing not to platform Zionists, who are either active or complicit in causing harm to Palestinians … is absolutely a tenable action.”

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The coalition is made up of nine student groups, including the Queer Caucus, the Berkeley Law Muslim Student Association, the Middle Eastern and North African Law Students Association, Women of Berkeley Law, and the “Womxn of Color Collective.”

In an August Instagram post, the BLSJP hailed these groups for “refusing to be complicit in Israeli apartheid by adopting a pro-BDS bylaw.” It said they are “committed to providing a supportive community space for all indigenous peoples globally, including movements for Palestinian liberation.”

The BDS movement promotes boycotting, sanctioning and divesting funds from the state of Israel.

Of course, these efforts by the BLSJP and other leftist groups have faced opposition.

Should UC Berkeley lose government funding for prohibiting free speech?

The Berkeley Jewish Students Association released a statement condemning the groups’ new policy, saying it “alienates many Jewish students from certain groups on campus.”

The group suggested that 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.”

The dean of Berkeley Law, Erwin Chemerinsky, who is Jewish himself, weighed in on the issue as well.

“It is troubling to broadly exclude a particular viewpoint from being expressed,” he wrote in an email to student group leaders, according to The Jewish News of Northern California. “We are committed to ensuring freedom of expression and dialogue that elicits the full spectrum of views held by our varied communities.”

UC Berkeley is not the only place of higher learning seeing this form of discrimination.

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The watchdog group StopAntisemitism released a report this year highlighting anti-Semitism at several of the nation’s top universities and grading them based on the safety and acceptance of Jewish students.

Yale University, Columbia University, New York University, the University of Southern California and UC Berkeley all received an F.

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