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Jewish groups sue UC Berkeley over 'unchecked' anti-Semitism

Demonstrators gather to denounce antisemitism at in Washington earlier this month. Nationwide, Israel's war against Hamas militants in Gaza has launched multiple protests -- many in support of Israel and many in support of Palestinian identity, as well. A lawsuit filed against UC Berkeley on Tuesday says campus celebrations of last month's Hamas attacks on Israel turned into violence against Jewish students. According to the suit, one student was attacked, while others have received "hate e-mails calling for their gassing and murder." Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI

Nov. 28 (UPI) -- Two Jewish groups are suing the University of California system, UC Berkeley and school administrators for what they call a "longstanding, unchecked spread of anti-Semitism" at the UC Berkeley School of Law.

The Brandeis Center and Jewish for Americans for Fairness in Education filed the 37-page lawsuit Tuesday, demanding protection for Jewish students following last month's Hamas attack on Israel and the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

The lawsuit accuses the law school of "inaction" over anti-Semitism, violence and harassment against Jewish groups.

"Students stated that the school does so little to protect Jewish students, it feels as if the school were condoning anti-Semitism," the complaint said. "They added that officials at the university display a 'general disregard' for Jewish students ... They have little confidence that UC will protect them from anti-Semitic mobs."

Specifically, the groups are suing over policies enacted by 23 Berkeley Law student groups that they claim violate the First Amendment's right to freedom of religion and the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause. The groups say students and guest speakers have been excluded from participating if they do not disavow Israel.

UC Berkeley, school administrators and the University of California system are facing a lawsuit, filed Tuesday by two Jewish groups, over a "longstanding, unchecked spread of anti-Semitism." Photo courtesy of UC Berkeley
UC Berkeley, school administrators and the University of California system are facing a lawsuit, filed Tuesday by two Jewish groups, over a "longstanding, unchecked spread of anti-Semitism." Photo courtesy of UC Berkeley

"Conditioning a Jew's ability to participate in a student group on his or her renunciation of a core component of Jewish identity is no less pernicious than demanding the renunciation of some other core element of a student's identity -- whether based on race, ethnicity, gender or sexual identity," the lawsuit states. "No such imposition is required -- or would be remotely tolerated -- of other students."

In addition, the groups claim campus celebrations of last month's Hamas attacks on Israel turned into violence against Jewish students. According to the lawsuit, one student who was draped in an Israeli flag was attacked by protesters, while others have received "hate e-mails calling for their gassing and murder."

"By abdicating responsibility and failing to act as required by UC rules and U.S. law, the university has enabled the normalization of anti-Jewish hatred on campus," the complaint says. "Jewish students feel compelled to hide their identities."

UC Berkeley leaders blasted the lawsuit, calling the claims "inaccurate."

"The complaint filed by the Brandeis Center paints a picture of the Law School that is stunningly inaccurate and that ignores the First Amendment," Berkeley Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky said in a statement Tuesday.

"Student organizations have the First Amendment right to choose their speakers, including based on their viewpoint. Although there is much that the campus can and does do to create an inclusive learning environment, it cannot stop speech even if it is offensive."