Troubling UC Berkeley Student Senate Bill on Israel

April 5th, 2010

JStreetU, J Street's student arm, joined with a coalition of groups to send a letter to the University of California at Berkeley Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost in response to the recent anti-Israel bill passed by the UC Berkeley Student Senate. J Street U joined the following groups in signing this letter: American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League, Berkeley Hillel, Chabad Jewish Student Center at UC Berkeley, Hasbara Fellowships, Israel Campus Coalition, Israel Peace Initiative, Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marina and Sonoma Counties, Jewish Community Relations Council, Jewish Federation of the East Bay, Jewish National Fund, Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa (JIMENA), MASA Israel Journey, New Israel Fund, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, StandWithUs/SF Voice for Israel, The David Project, and USD/Hagshama World Zionist Organization. A version of the following letter was read during debate on the resolution:

Dear University of California, Berkeley Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost George Breslauer: We are a broad-based coalition representing a wide range of perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, local and national Jewish community organizations that support and partner with students on college and university campuses throughout Northern California, including the University of California, Berkeley. We are writing to you with deep respect and admiration for the commitment that the UC Berkeley student body, faculty and administration has always had for universal human rights and equal opportunity. We are deeply troubled, however, to learn that the ASUC Student Senate has passed a dishonest bill, based on misleading and contested allegations, that unfairly targets the State of Israel while also marginalizing Jewish students on campus who support Israel. While the bill states that it is “in support of ASUC divestment from war crimes,” it focuses solely on one country, Israel. Though it states that the “ASUC resolution should not be considered taking sides in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict,” the exclusive focus on Israel suggests otherwise. Furthermore, the bill’s call for the University Regents and the ASUC to divest exclusively from Israel contradicts the bill’s own claim by, in fact, explicitly taking sides. We request that the administration at UC Berkeley strongly and unequivocally condemn the ASUC Student Senate resolution. Furthermore, we urge you to state firmly your intention not to divest university holdings from any company doing business with Israel. While the ASUC is a separate entity, its actions affect the atmosphere on campus for which the Chancellor’s office has primary responsibility. Your voice is needed now. The students associated with our coalition of organizations are deeply committed to securing human rights around the world. For this reason they have suggested that the ASUC Student Senate adopt a single, standard, socially responsible investment policy which would be applicable across the board. A single standard would allow students to fairly question the actions of anyone engaged in behavior that threatens and diminishes human dignity anywhere, without doing so under a pall of apparent lop-sided motives. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is complex and goes back decades. It is tempting to look exclusively at one side or the other to shoulder the blame, to judge one discrete incident without consideration of the larger picture, and to respond with full force. But one-sided reactions do not serve to improve complicated circumstances, rather they exacerbate them. We believe that this complexity should be reflected in the dialogue on campus rather than singling out one side or another for condemnation and punishment. This open debate, conducted civilly, will lead to a healthier environment on the Berkley campus for students with a range of political views. Thank you for your time and consideration. Respectfully, American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League, Berkeley Hillel, Chabad Jewish Student Center at UC Berkeley, Hasbara Fellowships, Israel Campus Coalition, Israel Peace Initiative, Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marina and Sonoma Counties, Jewish Community Relations Council, Jewish Federation of the East Bay, Jewish National Fund, Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa (JIMENA), JStreetU, MASA Israel Journey, New Israel Fund, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, StandWithUs/SF Voice for Israel, The David Project, and USD/Hagshama World Zionist Organization. Cc: University of California, Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, University of California, Berkeley Dean of Students Jonathan Poullard, University of California, Berkeley Vice Chancellor Gibor Basri, University of California, Berkeley Vice Chancellor Harry Le Grande, and University of California President Mark Yudof.