UC Berkeley lecturer Hatem Bazian
UC Berkeley lecturer Hatem Bazian

16 UC Berkeley faculty side with Jewish students against Bazian

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Sixteen UC Berkeley professors sent a letter to J. on Dec. 6 applauding four Jewish student groups for their statement regarding lecturer and Students for Justice in Palestine founder Hatem Bazian. The students’ letter urged the administration to take “decisive action” against Bazian, following the recent discovery of anti-Semitic tweets he shared this summer.

The student groups’ statement was distributed as an open letter Nov. 30, after recent revelations that, in July, Bazian retweeted images that could be interpreted as anti-Semitic. The letter was co-signed by the Chabad Jewish Student Group, Berkeley Hillel, Tikvah: Students for Israel and Bears for Israel. Without directly calling for Bazian’s firing, the letter cited examples of professors at other American universities who were fired or suspended for propagating anti-Semitic messages.

The faculty letter condemned Bazian and demanded he cease making what the letter described as anti-Semitic posts on websites “associated with the University.”

The retweets compared Jews to Nazis. One featured a stereotyped image of a Hasidic Jew and another comparing Israel to the rogue regime in North Korea, including a photoshopped image of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un wearing a yarmulke.

Here is the faculty letter in its entirety:

“We write strongly to endorse the outrage expressed by Jewish student groups in the face of a persistent pattern of anti-Semitic expressions (statements, postings, re-tweets) by UC Berkeley Lecturer Hatem Bazian.

“This is not about the Arab-Israeli conflict, the situation facing Palestinians in the Middle East, or Zionism. This is about the stoking of anti-Semitism in its age-old form of demonizing Jews. Whether or not such expressions are protected by the First Amendment or by academic freedom, they are clearly a violation of the principles of community and principles of tolerance embraced by the system wide University of California and by UC Berkeley.

“We condemn such anti-Semitism and demand that Lecturer Bazian desist from associating any of his anti-Semitic postings with our University, directly or indirectly. We note that one such expression was posted on a website associated with the University, was taken down after faculty protested, and now has returned to the website. Such outrageous actions surely would not be tolerated were the target other ethnic, racial or religious groups.

“We faculty members will not stop resisting such efforts to ‘normalize’ anti-Semitic expressions, as if these are different in kind from other forms of ethnic, racial, or religious prejudice. Anti-Semitism has no legitimate place in this university or our society.”

The letter was signed by George W. Breslauer, political science and faculty director, the Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life; Robert Alter, comparative literature and Near Eastern studies; Kenneth Bamberger, law and faculty director, the Berkeley Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies; Karen Barkey, sociology and Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society; Joan Bieder, journalism; Benjamin Brinner, music and faculty director, the Center for Jewish Studies; Steven Davidoff-Solomon, Berkeley Law; John Efron, history; Malcolm Feeley, Berkeley Law; Claude Fischer, sociology; Ron Hassner, political science and faculty director, BIJLIS; Ron Hendel, Near Eastern studies; Shachar Kariv, economics; Ann Swidler, sociology; Steven Tadelis, business administration; and Jason Wittenberg, political science.