Berkeley Intifada 

As students embrace the Palestinian cause, UC Berkeley has lost whatever reputation it may once have had for tolerance.

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But many remember spring 2002 as the season the screaming really started. On spring break, someone hurled the cinderblock through the front door of Berkeley's Hillel Center, scrawling the words FUCK JEWS nearby. Also that spring, catalogues appeared listing courses that would be offered during the forthcoming fall semester. One of these was an English course titled "The Politics and Poetics of Palestinian Resistance." Its instructor was graduate student Snehal Shingavi, a prominent member of Students for Justice in Palestine. Among the required textbooks for the class was The New Intifada: Resisting Israel's Apartheid. In the official catalogue, the course was described as addressing "the brutal Israeli military occupation of Palestine, an occupation that has been ongoing since 1948, has systematically displaced, killed, and maimed millions of Palestinian people. ... This class will examine the history of the Palestinian resistance and the way that it is narrated by Palestinians in order to produce an understanding of the intifada. ... Conservative thinkers are encouraged to seek other sections." The national media had a field day with it. Responding to the outcry, the UC administration issued a statement attributing the course description to "a failure of oversight on the part of the English Department in reviewing course proposal descriptions." Shingavi's "no conservatives allowed" shtick was deemed discriminatory, and the official course description was altered. By that time, however, the class was already full, and even boasted a waiting list.


Micki Weinberg remembers the events of April 9, 2002 as one of his pinnacles of horror. On that day, Students for Justice in Palestine held a rally on campus to commemorate 1948's Deir Yassin massacre, in which Israeli forces killed a hundred Palestinian civilians in a village near Jerusalem. Also that day, at the same time and virtually the same place, Jewish students gathered for a vigil to mark Yom Ha'Shoah, the annual Holocaust remembrance day. Whether these two commemorations were scheduled concurrently by happenstance or on purpose has been a matter of debate ever since.

At noon, Sproul Plaza was packed solid with an estimated six hundred to a thousand students, the majority of whom were Palestinian supporters. Palestinian and Israeli flags fluttered against the gray sky. One sign read, "Israel lovers are the Nazis of our time." Another proclaimed, "Today, Israel is killing terrorists who would attack America." Voices blared through megaphones. "Anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism," declared pro-Palestinian community activist Micah Bazant -- the Jewish son of a Holocaust survivor. "Yes it is, yes it is!" chorused another group of students. A skirl of rage erupted when Bazant began reciting the Kaddish, the traditional Hebrew prayer of mourning, in honor of the Deir Yassin dead.

Both before and after April 9, Weinberg counted among his friends several anti-Israel activists and members of Students for Justice in Palestine. But that afternoon threw into nauseating relief the razor-sharpness of the wedge between himself and those friends. Weinberg recalls being handed a leaflet by anti-Israel demonstrators on which photographs of Nazi soldiers herding European Jews onto cattle cars were juxtaposed with photographs of Israeli soldiers and Palestinians. "1942. Poland," the message on the leaflet warned. "Do not let it happen again." Weinberg kept it as a souvenir. "It was sick and twisted," he later recalled.

Student Daniel Frankenstein, meanwhile, was passing the pro-Palestinian demonstrators on his way to class that afternoon when a wad of spit splattered his leg. Among the hundreds gathered there, it was impossible to identify the spitter.

"It landed on my thigh, and instead of stooping to their level I just wiped it off and continued walking to class," he recalled. "And frankly, it doesn't matter who did it. Whoever did it was associated with this movement and this protest, and this is indicative of how confident they felt in their message. It's ironic, because it absolutely represents the lack of discussion and lack of freedom for the people they're trying to represent -- and this vicious cycle of not wanting to hear the other side of an issue."

Frankenstein believes the protesters recognized him as a supporter of Israel and an opponent of Students for Justice in Palestine. As a student senator that spring, he had been openly pro-Israel. His parents used to smuggle books to Jewish refuseniks in the USSR, and one of his earliest memories is of chanting, "Let my people go!" at a rally outside San Francisco's Soviet Consulate. Far from silent on the student senate floor, Frankenstein had opposed a proposal that Cal become a sister school with a Palestinian university. The registered Democrat remembers his critics calling him a "conservative Zionist bastard" and proclaiming, "Frankenstein supports killing innocent children in the Middle East."

The pro-Palestinian demonstrators ultimately marched through Sather Gate to Wheeler Hall, where again they staged a sit-in. Nearly eighty protesters, including 41 students, were arrested and charged with unlawful occupation, resisting arrest, and, in one case, biting a cop. The university also suspended the official privileges of Students for Justice in Palestine and charged the arrested students with violating its Code of Student Conduct -- an offense that carries the possible penalty of suspension for a school year. Students for Justice in Palestine responded with a dispatch signed by instructor Shingavi, who maintained that the group had been singled out for punishment because it was pro-Palestinian.

At a rally on campus protesting the arrests, Palestinian-born Islamic Studies lecturer Hatem Bazian spoke stirringly. Cal's administration, he reportedly told the crowd, was under pressure to punish the demonstrators. As for the source of that pressure, Micki Weinberg recalls Bazian telling his listeners that the answer lay in the names of UC Berkeley's buildings. Zellerbach, Bazian offered pointedly. And Haas. And Moses.

Standing in the crowd, Weinberg fumed. Rising around them, after all, were the campus's other hundred or so buildings, with names anything but Jewish -- names such as Hearst, Barrows, Evans, Campbell, Tang, Giannini, Latimer, O'Brien, McCone, Etcheverry, Sproul, Warren, Morrison, Stephens, Edwards, Chavez, and King.

"I yelled out, 'That's anti-Semitic!'" he recalled. "But he just repeated what he had said. The crowd was cheering. It just didn't make sense to me. If he's worried about countries with democratic problems, he has other things to worry about than the Cal music building."

All charges against the arrested protesters were eventually dropped, none were suspended, and no formal admissions of guilt or wrongdoing were ever made. The university reinstated the privileges of Students for Justice in Palestine.


A strong pro-Muslim bias pervades American academia, Daniel Pipes argues, and its by-product is the dissemination of anti-Israel and anti-US sentiments to a generation of students. "The scholars set the tone -- they're considered the experts," he said in a short interview before his Cal appearance. "The problem with Berkeley is that the scholarship here is so one-sided, representing only one point of view. And that point of view is hostile to the US and to friends of the US. I'm not saying that's a viewpoint that should have no representation. It's the unremitting quality of it that I object to, the indoctrination.

"The politicization of this university began forty years ago, and what has emerged at Berkeley is a working relationship between the leftists and the Islamists," he continued. "The left has been looking for a revolutionary movement for quite some time. So here come these people and they're actually doing it." Pipes was careful to remind his listener that the revolution in question entails "the blowing up of buildings."

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