The University of California, Berkeley, has emerged as a flashpoint on the topic of anti-Semitism in recent weeks, as nine student groups voted to adopt a rule forbidding pro-Israel speakers at campus events.
The anti-Israel sentiment gaining ground at the famously liberal university saw kickback, however, when a truck displaying images of Adolf Hitler drove through campus aiming to highlight the anti-Semitism on campus. The provocative image panels of Hitler giving the Nazi salute display in writing: “All in favor of banning Jews, raise your right hand.”
Conservative nonprofit Accuracy in Media sponsored the campaign three weeks after UC Berkeley School of Law was accused of creating “Jewish-free zones.” Nine student groups had adopted a resolution drafted by the Berkeley Law Students for Justice in Palestine group to ban pro-Israel speakers.
“[The organizations] will not invite speakers that have expressed interest and continue to hold views, host, sponsor or promote events in support of Zionism, the apartheid state of Israel and the occupation of Palestine,” the resolution said.
A self-defined Zionist, Berkeley Law’s Dean Erwin Chemerinsky said that he himself would be banned from speaking to the groups under this resolution.
“The controversy raises a conflict between anti-discrimination policies and free speech,” writes professor and legal expert Jonathan Turley, the author of an article in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy entitled “Harm and Hegemony: The Decline of Free Speech in the United States.”
“These groups clearly have a right to decide who they will invite as speakers. However, the resolution raises the countervailing question of whether the exclusion is discriminatory,” Turley states in an Oct. 1 post on his website.
“What is also ironic is that schools like Berkeley effectively impose such exclusions on other speakers. It is rare for top schools to invite conservative or libertarian speakers. When they do, these speakers are often subject to cancel campaigns or disruptions to prevent them from being heard,” Turley writes. “There is a de facto exclusion of many conservative and libertarian speakers.”
Accuracy in Media president Adam Guillette, a Jewish man who is “working to expose bias in mainstream and social media, as well as building an effective cadre of investigative journalists,” told J. The Jewish News of Northern California that “the growing anti-Semitic climate on America’s universities is exceptionally disturbing, and it’s time we stood up to these hateful bullies.”
Guillette is the former vice president of Project Veritas, a right-wing activist group that works to uncover falsehoods or injustices promulgated by progressive organizations and the mainstream media.
“The amount of hatred, intolerance and anti-Semitism is morally outrageous, and it’s time for us to (non-violently) fight back,” Guillette said.
However, the “Hitler” truck display sponsored by Guillette’s organization drew backlash. Some passersby threw rocks at the vehicle, according to a report by Gabe Stutman for J. One student wrote on social media: “Saw this bus on my morning run. Very scary.”
The Anti-Defamation League branch in San Francisco shared a picture of the truck on social media, saying: ”The addition of more antisemitism, like using Hitler imagery to score cheap rhetoric points, only trivializes the memories of the six million.”
The Jewish student group Berkeley Hillel released a statement to students, saying: “We know that some of you may have seen a truck driving around campus this morning with a disturbing image prominently displayed. Berkeley Hillel rejects antisemitism of any kind, and in all its forms.”
The center offered support to students who were feeling “upset or disturbed” by the Hitler image.
Last week, another campaign truck drove around the Berkeley campus, dispatched by the JewBelong nonprofit. The side of the truck read: “We’re just 75 years after the gas chambers. So, no, a billboard calling out Jew hate isn’t an overreaction.”
Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.