Open Letter Condemning Zionist Attacks at UC Berkeley

On November 13, 2008, three Palestinian students at the University ofCalifornia, Berkeley, were attacked by members of the Zionist FreedomAlliance, an off-campus organization participating in an "IsraeliLiberation Week" concert organized by the student group Tikvah.  Thesestudents hung two Palestinian flags off the balcony of a nearbybuilding to protest the message of the event.  According to testimony,three members of ZFA approached the dissenting students, physicallyassaulting them and invoking ethnic slurs.  When the campus policearrived, they failed to charge all of the attacking students (only onewas issued a citation), and subjected the victims of the attack tohumiliation and harrassment.  The administration and media have largelyportrayed the incident as a "clash" or "conflict" between two groups ofstudents, rather than addressing it as an assault.  More information isavailable from IndyBay, the Daily Californian (note strong bias), and Dina Omar’s statement.  

The Bay Area chapter of IJAN wrote an open letter to support thestudents who were attacked and to contextualize the violence within thestructural violence of Zionism, racism, and colonialism.  

Other Palestine-solidarity and anti-racist organizations are invited to sign onto the letter — please email bay.ijsn@gmail.com for more information.  The full text of the letter is below.

 


 To Whom It May Concern:               
                                            
We write to condemn the recent racist attacks on three Palestinian students at UC Berkeley, perpetrated by a current student, a former student, and a community member, all affiliated with the Zionist Freedom Alliance.  We also are concerned at the administration’s inadequate response.  We support the Palestinian students who sought not only to exercise their rights to freedom of expression, but also to challenge the racism that enabled these attacks to occur in the first place.
 
While campus and other media have portrayed the situation as a “Violent Conflict Between Jewish and Palestinian Students” (Daily Cal, November 14), the statement of Dina Omar (one of the women attacked) clearly articulates that the ZFA representatives were unprovoked aggressors who attacked Palestinian students on the basis of their ethnicity, making racial slurs and inflicting serious physical injury.
 
As Omar states, the original Daily Cal article and the administration have attempted “to equate and compare two unequal parties,” though “this incident was by no means a ‘fight.’”  Furthermore, she documents the police and administration’s failure to pursue or charge the aggressors (only one was issued a citation), while subjecting the victims of this violence to harassment and humiliation.  She charges, “The university places blame on the recipients of the violence.”
 
Both the initial violence and the collusion of the Administration and police with this hate crime are unacceptable.  Far from being an isolated dispute between two parties, this attack, and the administration’s response, can be seen as part of the historical and systematic patterns of Zionism and racism.  As a colonial ideology and movement that began colonizing Palestine over a century ago (well before the official creation of the state of Israel), Zionism has consistently denied the existence of the land’s indigenous people, and simultaneously employed various forms of violence to expel or eradicate them, including massacres, demolition of homes and building of settlements, restrictions to resources and freedom of movement, and a series of apartheid-like laws.
 
The Zionist Freedom Alliance, which deceptively cloaks itself in the language of “social justice” and appropriates political tools such as hip-hop, is far from a liberatory organization.  Rather, the ZFA is a project of Magshimey Herut, a group that works in conjunction with the World Zionist Organization (WZO), the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Jewish National Fund—all quasi- governmental organizations that were founded with the explicit purpose of colonizing Palestine to create an exclusively Jewish State. They exist to secure political and economic support for the continued expansion of Israeli apartheid, justify the violence of the State of Israel, and persecute dissenters as anti-Semitic. It is not, therefore, surprising that they would fund the Zionist Freedom Alliance, whose violence is an extension of the Israeli state violence that these organizations actively fund and support.
 
Still, while the recent attacks and right-wing organizations like the ZFA may present a particularly violent example of Zionism, we remind the community that they are not merely "bad apples." All organizations that promote a Zionist relationship to Israel—including those that merely support an end to occupation in Gaza and the West Bank, or that promote a US-brokered "peace agreement," or that use a "human rights" framework to depoliticize this deeply political issue—are complicit in the violence wrought by 60+ years of illegal and apartheid-like occupation of Palestine.  

Despite the predominance of these voices within public discourse, we assert that Zionism and Judaism need not go hand in hand.  As Jews committed to social justice and freedom for all people, we stand against all forms of racism, including Zionism, an ideology of Jewish supremacy against Palestinians.  Jewish histories of persecution compel us to oppose persecution of all people. For us, “Never again!” means never again for all people.
 
The International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network joins a long struggle for securing the rights of the Palestinian people. We participate in this movement understanding that it is integral to the vibrant movements of our time—the movements for indigenous land rights, immigrant and refugee rights, economic and racial justice, the rights of women and children, and labor rights. For us, there is no safety or self-determination found in the persecution of others, but only in joining struggles for liberation, justice and peace.  In sharp contrast to the language the Zionist Freedom Alliance has co-opted, it stands out as a minority against this growing voice demanding collective liberation.
 
We expect UC Berkeley to foster an educational environment free of violence and intimidation. We stand in solidarity with students, faculty, and organizations like Students for Justice in Palestine that seeks to challenge structures and ideologies of violence, racism, and colonial occupation.
 
We demand that the UC Berkeley Administration and ASUC:

1.    revoke the funding that was allocated towards the ZFA event;
2.    forbid future ZFA organizing and activities on campus;
3.    investigate the assault as a hate crime, rather than assault and battery;
4.    support organizing for Palestinian rights and publicly reject the conflation of challenging Israel, organizing for Palestinian rights or anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism; and
5.   &n
bsp;issue a formal statement making this support and distinction clear, including an apology for its handling of the situation.

As the death toll of war and occupation reaches new heights, funding for education reaches an all-time low, and the number of Californian youth locked up in prisons rivals the number of young people granted access to higher education, it is crucial for UC Berkeley to speak up against racism and violence.  Now is the time to help create an educational environment in which all of our students can safely flourish and learn.  We trust that UC Berkeley will stand by its convictions, history and stated commitment of supporting justice.
 
Respectfully Yours,
The International Anti-Zionist Jewish Network, Bay Area
International anti-Zionist Jewish Network, International Coordinating Team

The following organizations support this statement (check back for updates):
Global Women’s Strike

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *