UC Berkeley Law School's 'Jew Free Zones': the Latest Progressive Trend | Opinion

For several decades, Jewish college students have been sounding the alarm about rising antisemitism on college campuses. From "mild" episodes of graffiti to BDS activism, Torah desecrations and egging Jewish frat houses, university campuses have become hotbeds of anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist activism both in North America and throughout the world.

Rightly recognizing campus antisemitism as a blight on higher education and on America, former President Trump signed an Executive Order in 2019 on combatting antisemitism. Unfortunately, since then, not only has the campus situation for Jewish students not improved, it has taken a dramatic turn for the worse.

This can be seen most acutely in a move made recently by law school students at one of America's most progressive university networks, in one of America's most progressive states. At the beginning of the current academic year, nine law school student groups at the University of California at Berkeley's School of Law amended their bylaws to ensure that nobody who supports Israel or Zionism is invited to speak. Given that the vast majority of Jews worldwide support the state of Israel, these student groups have in essence created a Jew-free zone in the hallowed halls of Berkeley Law.

The ruling would bar the law school's own dean, Erwin Chemerinsky, who identifies as a progressive Zionist—increasingly an oxymoron, if the progressives have their way.

Banning Jews, or members of any other religious group, from participating in a civil activity such as speaking at a publicly funded university is discriminatory and immoral. And if it becomes acceptable and normalized in America to ban a Jew from speaking on a college campus because of an opinion held about Israel or Zionism, what is to stop the next step from happening, i.e the normalization of banning Jews from attending that same or other institutions of higher education or other other entities?

A lot of young, American Jews are not sticking around to find out the answer to that question. They see the writing on the wall on campus and see reports of the almost daily physical attacks on Jews in places like New York or other egregious antisemitic blood libels like blaming Jews for the resurgence of polio.

Just a few weeks ago, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) laid out the argument for effectively barring pro-Israel Jews from progressive spaces. "I want you all to know that among progressives, it has become clear that you cannot claim to hold progressive values, yet back Israel's apartheid government," Tlaib said during a livestreamed "Palestine Advocacy Day" conference. "We will continue to push back and not accept this idea that you are progressive, except for [Palestine] any longer."

Message received.

UC Berkeley
People walk through Sproul Plaza on the UC Berkeley campus on March 14, 2022 in Berkeley, California. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Is it any surprise that law students think it's ok to bar Jewish speakers when a member of Congress feels comfortable doing the same thing for the progressive movement writ large?

This isn't something progressives are ashamed of, but something they are proud of. Which is why society more broadly must firmly reject this discrimination when it comes for Jews.

There are those who might think that antisemitism is a Jewish problem. Alas, that is not the case. History clearly shows that tolerance of antisemitism is a very clear signal as to the general decline of a given civilization.

The anti-Jewish climate at Berkeley, on college campuses, in the hallways of Congress, and on the streets of New York is not "just" a Jewish problem—because what starts with the Jews never ends with the Jews. American Jews may flee California and New York for the calmer waters of DeSantis' Florida, but that is really just a band-aid "solution" for a serious national problem.

Toleration of antisemitism, whether it originates in the political Left or the Right, is a clear sign of civilizational decline. And if not addressed and defeated in America, it will, in hindsight be recognized as one of the clearest warning signs of the impending and irreparable decline of the American Republic.

Laura Rosen Cohen is a Toronto-based writer.

The views in this article are the writer's own.