UC Berkeley lecturer Hatem Bazian
UC Berkeley lecturer Hatem Bazian

Bazian appointed to Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission

UC Berkeley lecturer Hatem Bazian, the founder of American Muslims for Palestine, has been appointed to the Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission, a 15-member board that advises the city council and school board and also develops educational programs to enhance citizen awareness of peace and justice-related issues.

City Clerk Mark Numainville confirmed that Bazian’s term began Sept. 18 after he was appointed by City Councilmember Cheryl Davila — who as a member of Berkeley’s Human Welfare and Community Action Commission in 2015 presented a resolution calling for divestment from several companies doing business with Israel. Davila was removed from the commission for six months for proposing that resolution.

Davila nominated Bazian as one of her standby officers earlier this year. Standby officers are selected to serve during an emergency or disaster if an elected official has been killed or seriously injured, or is missing. Bazian passed a background check but the City Council has not yet voted to approve the nomination.

Three Berkeley rabbis were among the Jewish community members objecting this summer to Bazian’s nomination. Rabbis Yoel Kahn of Congregation Beth El, Chai Levy of Congregation Netivot Shalom and Yonatan Cohen of Congregation Beth Israel said in a letter to Mayor Jesse Arreguin that they opposed Bazian’s serving as a standby officer for the City Council.

“Prof. Bazian has a history of encouraging and personally engaging in speech which is offensive, uncivil and encourages demonization of others, including many citizens of Berkeley,” the letter said.

Bazian was criticized by the UC Berkeley administration last year for retweeting a pair of cartoons the school determined had “crossed the line” into anti-Semitism, with one featuring caricatures of hook-nosed Orthodox Jews. Bazian apologized and deleted the images.

Bazian did not immediately respond to email seeking comment about the commission appointment. Commissioners can serve for up to eight years.

Bazian is a co-founder of Berkeley-based Zaytuna College, the first accredited Muslim undergraduate college in the U.S. A Sept. 24 tweet from Zaytuna College congratulated Bazian on the appointment.

Rob Gloster

Rob Gloster is J.'s senior writer. He can be reached at rob@jweekly.com.