Cals Jewish Student Union rejects J Street U again

The Jewish Student Union at U.C. Berkeley has rejected J Street U for membership for the second time in the past two years.

According to the Daily Californian, the rejection at an Oct. 9 meeting focused on J Street U’s hosting of members of Breaking the Silence, a group of IDF soldiers who provide testimonies about what they claim are abuses they saw in the West Bank, Gaza and other areas during their military service.

The bylaws of the Jewish Student Union, an umbrella organization for Jewish groups on campus, stipulate that a member organization must not host speakers who demonize Israel, Daphna Torbati, JSU president, explained to the campus newspaper.

Representatives of J Street U told the paper that Breaking the Silence and groups like it facilitate a broader conversation about how best to support Israel.

J Street U is the campus affiliate of J Street, which advocates an end to Israeli settlements and an assertive U.S. role in brokering Israeli-Palestinian peace.

According to the Daily Cal, J Street U lost the vote 8-2, with two abstentions.

After the first vote, in November 2011, Berkeley Hillel sent a letter to J. announcing its backing for J Street U, noting that the Cal chapter “adheres to our Israel policy and Hillel International’s Israel guidelines and will receive the support of Berkeley Hillel” alongside other groups. Rabbi Adam Naftalin-Kelman, Berkeley Hillel’s executive director, told J. this week that “nothing has changed” from that stance.

However, unlike last time, Berkeley Hillel has not asked the JSU to reconsider its vote.

J Street U’s rejection this time around occurred despite working hand-in-hand with other campus Jewish groups last spring in a fight against a U.C. Berkeley student senate vote to recommend divestment from companies that deal with Israel’s military.  That resolution passed. — jta & j. staff