A controversial suspended course at the University of California, Berkeley that emphasized the “decolonization” of Israel, and focused on exploring strategies that could potentially harm Israel’s right to exist, has been reinstated.
Antisemitic posters were posted on the campus as a reaction to the Jewish community’s condemnation of the course, “Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis”. In an open letter to Chancellor Dirks, 43 Jewish educational and Jewish civil rights organizations protested the course’s content. A Jewish watchdog, The Amcha Initiative–“amcha” is the Hebrew word for “your community”– charged that the course promoted “a classic example of anti-semitic anti-Zionism”.
The antisemitic posters that appeared on the campus charged that the Jewish organizations had censored free speech. One poster said, “Jewish bullies smash free speech at CAL and are pledged $38 billion dollars. Attention Non-Jews: PAY UP and SHUT UP!” The $38 billion dollars refers to American military aid to Israel.
Criticism of Israel is not automatically antisemitism, but a poster that demonizes Jews for pointing out when such criticism becomes disproportionate and non-constructive, is without question antisemitic. Similarly, the idea that Gentiles must “pay up” by honoring Jewish bribes, not only promotes age-old antisemitic Jewish conspiracy theories, but also inflames antisemitism by promoting the idea that Jews are on a quest to rule over non-Jews.
Another poster called out the 43 Jewish organizations for censoring coursework. In addition, the poster wrongfully accused Israeli government officials of being “advocates for a foreign state” who want to take control of UC Berkeley. The poster asked, “Should we allow these outside groups and [Israel] to “control our freedom of speech and academic expression?”
It is both unreasonable and antisemitic to think that the state of Israel and American Jewish organizations have the power to not only censor, but also control public universities, a sentiment which is underlined by the belief of overarching Jewish control of world affairs.
The UC Berkeley administration removed the posters declaring that they “violated our Principles of Community, as well as the Regents’ Principles Against Intolerance”.
However, the course itself was reinstated after Paul Hadweh, the course facilitator, verified that he had made changes to the syllabus. In an interview with the anti-Israel website, The Electronic Intifada, Hadweh admitted that the changes were simply “cosmetic”.
Aviva Slomich, the international campus director of CAMERA on CAMPUS (The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) believes that UC Berkeley is offering a class “that is so explicit in undermining the Jews historical ties to the land of Israel and Israel’s right to exist”, [that] the school is perpetuating an antisemitic atmosphere on campus”. This is a clear example of rhetoric that is unhelpful and not even-handed in the way it approaches issues, combined with the whitewashing of alternative opinions, eventually leads to openly antisemitic discourse.