UC Berkeley Adopts Policy that Could Restrict Access to Pro-Israel Speakers

The University of California-Berkeley has introduced a new policy on campus events that encourages a “double standard” against pro-Israel groups, Shiri Moshe reported in The Algemeiner on Monday.

The university put on hold a speech by renowned civil liberties lawyer Alan Dershowitz over a new “viewpoint-neutral” measure that requires campus student groups to notify administrators eight weeks in advance about planned events with an intended audience larger than 200 individuals.

Dershowitz’s speech, co-sponsored by the Chabad Jewish Student Center and pro-Israel student group Tikvah, was originally slated to take place at Berkeley on October 10, but had to be rescheduled after university departments rebuffed efforts to resolve the dispute.

Adah Forer, co-president of Tikvah, told The Algemeiner that the rule “can work against students who would like to bring pro-Israel speakers, because many departments on campus will refuse to host pro-Israel speakers but will gladly host anti-Israel speakers.” Forer added that the new policy is “skewing the ability of the campus community to hear differing perspectives and engage in dialogue.”

Multiple departments at Berkeley rejected or ignored requests to host Dershowitz, including departments “that we know have sponsored anti-Israel speakers in the past,” Forer explained. In 2015, the Ethnic Studies Department sponsored a talk by Omar Barghouti, a co-founder of the anti-Semitic boycotts campaign against Israel.

“A double standard is evident, as multiple departments refused to host Professor Dershowitz but have hosted anti-Israel speakers in the past, thus taking away from the academic integrity they supposedly stand for, especially when it comes to Israel,” Forer said.

Dershowitz threatened in an interview with Fox News last month that “if no department invites us, having invited people from the other side, we will sue them.” He believes “the eight-week rule is a cover for content-based discrimination against moderates, liberals, conservatives and supporters of Israel.”

He added that “I wanted to speak at the school and I wanted to present to students the liberal case for Israel and if Berkeley won’t let me do it, I have a legal recourse in which I intend to take.”

Last year Berkeley came under fire for offering a one-sided student-led anti-Israel course called “Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis.” The course was suspended briefly for failing to meet academic standards after critics charged that the course was “intended to indoctrinate students to hate the Jewish state and take action to eliminate it.” It was later reinstated by the university after minor revisions to the course were made. The student who designed the course called the changes he made to the course “cosmetic.”

[Photo: Charlie Nguyen / Flickr]