Biden Admin Launches Investigation Into UC Berkeley Over Alleged Antisemitism

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The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced that it is launching an investigation into the University of California Berkeley Law School due to concerns of anti-zionism.

Gabriel Groisman, an attorney and partner at LSN Law, P.A., and Arsen Ostrovsky, an Israel-based attorney, and CEO of The International Legal Forum filed a complaint with the OCR on Nov. 18, according to the Cleveland Jewish News. The complaint came as a result of multiple student groups adopting Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions bylaws associated with the pro-Palestine movement, that banned pro-Israel speakers from their chapters. (RELATED: New York College Assigns Former Leader Of Pro-Hamas Group To Investigate Alleged Antisemitism)

The OCR agreed Tuesday to conduct an official investigation into the “hostile environment” at U.C. Berkeley Law, according to the Cleveland Jewish News.

“Whether the University failed to respond appropriately in the fall 2022 semester to notice from Jewish law students, faculty, and staff that they experienced a hostile environment at the law school based on their shared Jewish ancestry when University-recognized student organizations passed a bylaw against inviting speakers who support ‘Zionism, the state of Israel, and the occupation of Palestine,'” the OCR stated in the letter.

Ostrovsky told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the notion that anti-Zionism and antisemitism are not related was false.

“Zionism is an integral and core component of Jewish identity. So in other words when they use the excuse saying ‘no Zionists [are] welcome’ what in effect they are actually saying that no Jews are welcome,” he stated.

In August, students from the student chapter Law Students for Justice in Palestine at Berkeley Law passed bylaws banning pro-Israel speakers from being invited to events and required its board members to attend a “Palestine 101” training, according to the chapter’s Instagram. The bylaws were passed by nine other student chapters on campus. 

Ostrovsky explained that he hoped the investigation would soundly reject the antisemitism brought about by the inclusion of the new bylaws.

“First and foremost, we would like to see a revocation of the bylaws in question and [a statement] explaining their adoption was discriminatory and antisemitic,” Ostrovsky noted. “And we also would like to hear the university communicate a clear statement that anti-Zionism is antisemitism and that this is something they all take seriously moving forward.”

In addition, Ostrovsky said they hoped the university would adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism. The definition was created in 2016 by the committee on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial in Budapest, according to the IHRA.

“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities,” the IHRA states.

Assistant Dean Alex Shapiro told DCNF that the university was aware of the investigation and is fully cooperating.

“The campus has in place strong anti-discrimination policies that support our belief in and compliance with what we understand to be the values and obligations enshrined in Title VI and the First Amendment,” Shapiro wrote.

The OCR and Berkeley LSJP did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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