A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed against U.C. Berkeley by two Jewish students who claimed the school fostered an atmosphere of anti-Semitism.
The suit, filed in March 2011 by recent Cal graduate Jessica Felber and current undergraduate Brian Maissy, claimed that harassment by pro-Palestinian activists on campus violated their First Amendment rights to freedom of religion and speech.
The suit named U.C. President Mark Yudof, U.C. Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and the Associated Students of the University California, charging them with allowing the situation to continue.
In dismissing the suit Dec. 22, San Francisco U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg said that even if the harassment took place, it constituted protected political speech, according to the Associated Press.
The judge also said the university did not violate the students’ constitutional rights, and did not have a legal obligation to intervene in such disputes between private individuals, such as Felber’s claim she was intentionally rammed by a shopping cart pushed by a pro-Palestinian activist during “Apartheid Week” events.
“The incident … did not occur in the context of her educational pursuits,” Seeborg wrote, according to the AP report.
“Rather, that event occurred when she, as one person attempting to exercise free speech rights in a public forum was allegedly attacked by another person who likewise was participating in a public protest in a public forum.”
Seeborg also rejected the plaintiffs’ claim that U.C. officials were deliberately indifferent, noting the administration “has engaged in an ongoing dialogue with the opposing parties in an attempt to ensure that the rights of all persons are respected, and to minimize the potential for violence.”
In their suit, the plaintiffs cited a long history of harassment of Jewish students by Muslim and other anti-Israeli student groups throughout the U.C. system dating back to 1995, including anti-Israel speakers, physical violence, and ongoing intimidation.
The suit cites in particular the annual “Apartheid Week,” which features students brandishing fake guns at “checkpoints” and demanding to know whether passers-by are Jewish.
A lawyer for the plaintiffs told the San Francisco Chronicle his clients were reviewing their options.