UC Berkeley Faces Lawsuit For 'Longstanding, Unchecked Spread of Anti-Semitism'

Campus has become a 'hotbed of anti-Jewish hostility and harassment,' suit alleges

A pro-Palestinian protest at UC Berkeley, Oct. 25, 2023 (Kevin Fagan/Twitter)
November 28, 2023

A civil rights nonprofit is suing the University of California Berkeley for permitting a "longstanding, unchecked spread of anti-Semitism" on its campus that has turned it into a "hotbed of anti-Jewish hostility and harassment," according to a copy of the complaint obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

The complaint, filed Tuesday by the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, an organization that combats anti-Semitism, documents previously unreported instances of anti-Semitism and violence against Jewish students perpetrated in the wake of Hamas’s Oct. 7 terror strike on Israel. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California and names the University of California Regents, UC president Michael Drake, UC Berkeley chancellor Carol Christ, and other officials as defendants.

"Anti-Semitism has run rampant at the school" as pro-Palestinian protesters rally against the Jewish state and praise Hamas’s slaughter of more than 1,200 Jews, according to the Brandeis Center. This includes a violent attack on a "Jewish undergraduate draped in an Israeli flag" and several incidents of pro-Palestinian students spouting "hatred and threats against Jews."

The Brandeis Center’s complaint is the first lawsuit against a university to emerge in the wake of Hamas’s attack last month, which sparked pro-Palestinian demonstrations at some of America’s most prestigious colleges. Berkeley in particular has a history of fostering anti-Israel sentiment and anti-Semitism on campus, with a 2022 complaint filed with the Education Department alleging the college’s law school is beset by "profound and deep-seated anti-Semitic discrimination." The school also came under fire last year when several student groups affiliated with the Berkeley law school adopted a ban on all "Zionist" speakers appearing on campus.

The Brandeis Center’s lawsuit builds on the 2022 complaint and documents a series of anti-Israel activities on campus that have left Jewish students fearing for their safety.

"Jewish students and faculty are receiving hate mail calling for their gassing and murder," according to the group. "Many Jewish students report feeling afraid to go to class."

The lawsuit alleges that anti-Semitism has been commonplace on Berkeley’s campus for years but hit unprecedented levels in the two months since Hamas launched its war on Israel.

"Following the October 7 Hamas attacks" anti-Semitic fervor "has erupted in on-campus displays of hatred, harassment, and physical violence against Jews," according to the complaint. "Court intervention is now needed to protect students and faculty and to end this anti-Semitic discrimination and harassment."

The situation has been allowed to metastasize by Berkeley’s leadership, according to the lawsuit, which "have failed to confront, much less combat, the anti-Semitic environment their inaction has fostered."

Jewish students at Berkeley report that they "have been the targets of harassment and physical violence" since anti-Israel protests broke out on campus.

In one occurrence noted for the first time in the complaint, "a Jewish student draped in an Israeli flag was attacked by two protesters who struck him in the head with a metal water bottle."

Jewish students also say they are "afraid to go to class, which would require them to pass through the pro-Hamas rallies taking place in Berkeley’s main thoroughfares," according to the complaint.

The lawsuit further alleges that Berkeley’s leadership has failed to police anti-Israel activity on campus, allowing Jewish students in particular to be targeted on the basis of their religion and expressed support for Israel.

The school’s administrators, the complaint alleges, "intentionally chose not to enforce the school’s policies in an evenhanded way, stating that they would enforce school policies in similar circumstances but would not do so against anti-Zionist behavior … despite acknowledging that the behavior by these organizations is anti-Semitic."

Kenneth Marcus, the Brandeis Center’s founder and chairman, said the lawsuit is a "direct result" of Berkeley’s failure to address a rising tide of anti-Semitism.

"It is a direct result of Berkeley’s leadership repeatedly turning a blind eye to unfettered Jew-hatred," Marcus said in a statement. "The school is quick to address other types of hatred, but why not anti-Semitism? Berkeley, once a beacon of free speech, civil rights, and equal treatment of persons regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, gender, and sexual preference, is heading down a very different and dangerous path from the one I proudly attended as a Jewish law student."