A display at a Bears for Palestine space at UC Berkeley glorifies terrorists, according to pro-Israel students. (Shelby Weiss)
A display at a Bears for Palestine space at UC Berkeley glorifies terrorists, according to pro-Israel students. (Shelby Weiss)

UC Berkeley student government resolution to condemn Palestinian display fails

After a chaotic UC Berkeley student government meeting last week, a resolution condemning a photo display that pro-Israel students said glorifies terrorists failed in a 4-1 vote on Monday night in a senate committee.

Shelby Weiss, a Hillel member and the only student senator who voted yes on the resolution, said she was “deeply disappointed” by the outcome.

“It just never ceases to amaze me the trivialization of Jewish death on this campus,” she said.

Shelby Weiss
Shelby Weiss

The vote came after a turbulent ASUC meeting on Feb. 3, when the resolution originally was scheduled for a vote. Hundreds of students showed up to deliver public comments, but the meeting devolved into shouting and threats, leading the student committee to postpone the vote for a week.

About 150 people showed up on Monday night, including representatives of multiple student groups who came to oppose the resolution. The discourse was less heated, according to Weiss.

The resolution concerned photos and descriptions of female Palestinian leaders and militants put on display by Bears for Palestine, a campus group that promotes Palestinian history and culture. The group’s space is inside a room designated for student organizations in Eshleman Hall.

Among the featured photos are Rasmea Odeh, convicted for her involvement in a 1969 bombing in Jerusalem that killed two college students, and Leila Khaled, involved in multiple plane hijackings, including a 1970 El Al flight.

The original resolution, sponsored by student senator and Berkeley College Republicans member Milton Zerman, condemned the photos and called for them to be taken down.

Weiss said she would support a scaled-back resolution that only condemned the photos. The other senators in the University and External Affairs Committee of the Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC) agreed to revise the resolution, but ultimately voted against it.

“There was nothing controversial about my resolution,” Zerman said in a statement. “All it dared to state is that terrorism is wrong and should not be glorified in a student government-managed space.”

Big turnout at a Feb. 3 UC Berkeley student union meeting where pro-Israel and anti-Israel student groups debated a measure to remove a controversial Bears for Palestine display. (Twitter/StandWithUs)
Big turnout at a Feb. 3 UC Berkeley student union meeting where pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian student groups debated a measure to remove a controversial Bears for Palestine display. (Twitter/StandWithUs)

Zerman said his main goal now will be to “push for Jewish advocacy outside of the ASUC.”

Weiss said she has no plans to reintroduce the resolution to the ASUC. “I personally believe it is not worth pursuing,” she said. “More people were hurt than helped.”

None of the other voting senators responded to requests for comment. Bears for Palestine representatives also did not return a message seeking comment.

In a statement sent to students and shared with J., UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ acknowledged that Jewish students have the right to “feel dismay and concern” over the photos. At the same time, she said that “each side has an equal right to express and have heard their perspective.”

University Assistant Vice Chancellor Dan Mogulof said that while the administration was “deeply disturbed by what happened” at the Feb. 3 meeting, the Bears for Palestine display is “completely and utterly protected by the Constitution of the United States.”

Both pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel activists said they received death threats after the first meeting, according to Mogulof. Some students were “doxed,” which is when someone’s personal information, such as home address and phone number, is posted online as a form of intimidation.

Mogulof said that students are encouraged to report any instances of personal harassment “so that the campus can take appropriate action in response.”

Gabriel Greschler

Gabriel Greschler is a staff writer at J. You can reach him at gabriel@jweekly.com and follow him on Twitter @ggreschler.