Berkeley Opens Hate Crime Probe After Violent Protest Forces Israeli Speaker To Evacuate

'No one from Berkeley has contacted me since,' Ran Bar-Yoshafat said in wake of canceled speech

Ran Bar-Yoshafat (Israel National News)
March 4, 2024

The University of California, Berkeley, launched a hate crime probe in connection with a violent protest that saw demonstrators shut down an Israeli lawyer's speech to campus Jewish groups, the school announced.

The event, which was organized by two pro-Israel student groups and scheduled to take place last week, was abruptly canceled after an anti-Semitic mob rushed the venue where Israeli lawyer Ran Bar-Yoshafat was waiting to speak. Violent protesters choked a female student attendee, spit in another's face, and shouted "Jew, Jew, Jew."

Now, Berkeley is investigating the ordeal as a hate crime. In a Monday statement, the school cited "two alleged incidents" of "overtly antisemitic expression," as well as "allegations of physical battery."

"After we sent last week’s message, UCPD and OPHD received reports that two of the Jewish students who organized the event, as well as some of the attendees, were subjected to overtly antisemitic expression," said the school's chancellor, Carol Christ. "UCPD is investigating these two alleged incidents, which also included allegations of physical battery, as hate crimes."

The probe comes days after Berkeley released its original statement on the ordeal, in which the school pledged "to do everything possible to preclude a repeat of what happened." But the statement did not mention the words "Jewish" or "anti-Semitism," and Bar-Yoshafat later told the Washington Free Beacon that no Berkeley administrators reached out to him to apologize or discuss the event.

"I've had no apology," he said. "No one from Berkeley has contacted me since, or tried to contact me, even." Bar-Yoshafat's speech was meant to "address Israel’s international legal challenges," including whether Israel "violates international law, the rules of wartime conduct, and how the [Israel Defense Forces] can better protect civilians."

As part of its hate crime probe, Berkeley is conducting interviews and reviewing video evidence, its leaders said in their Monday statement.

"Political protest is about opposition to an idea, action, or policy. Antisemitic expression is a frightening attack on an entire people," Christ and executive vice chancellor Ben Hermalin wrote. "All members of our community, no matter their political views, should feel safe on our campus. Our commitment to these values is non-negotiable."