Letter to Dean Chemerinsky on Behalf of American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists

The American Association of Jewish Lawyers & Jurists (AAJLJ) is the voluntary bar association of American Jewish lawyers. We are a national nonprofit association representing the American Jewish legal community on legal issues affecting and important to the community, including; Freedom of religion, civil rights, human rights, access to justice, social justice and defense of the rule of law. The association also advocates and defends issues affecting the global Jewish community, such as antisemitism and those that serve as a cover for antisemites who express only a desire to undermine the State of Israel, such as the BDS movement. We are also privileged to have student lawyers among our members.

We were appalled to learn that at a prominent law school like UC Berkeley, anti-Semitic acts are repeatedly tolerated, condoned, and encouraged by such inaction. That nine (9) student groups have been allowed to change their bylaws to ensure that no speakers supporting the State of Israel or Zionism can be invited to speak is abhorrent and appalling. For millennia, since the first Diaspora, the Jewish liturgy has called for a return to the Land of Israel, and the Jews have been given a clear message that as a people, race and religion you hold beliefs that are not even allowed to be spoken at Berkeley.

At its core, such an attitude is intellectually bankrupt, as students openly refrain from having a speaker heard, including current faculty and staff, because of their internal beliefs, even when speaking on non-Israel-related topics. These actions cast doubt on the caliber and quality of both the attorneys and faculty at Berkeley.

Student attorneys are taught that the law is a tool by which race or religion can be openly discriminated against, just as black people have been denied the right to own real estate in certain areas, just as electoral boundaries have been altered. By using the statute to restrict, a legal instrument of repression is used – lawfare.

The faculty is obviously lacking in ideas, but also in knowledge and research as it is unable to apply the law to protect its Jewish students. The Supreme Court was clear Christian Legal Soc. chapter of the university of California, Hastings Coll. of the L. v. Martinez, 561 US 661, 130 S.Ct. 2971, 2973, 177 L.Ed. 2d 838 (2010) states that a law school’s non-discrimination policy excludes discrimination on a range of grounds, including religion and sexual orientation. UC Berkeley has such a policy. If a society violates such a policy, you can find it here for teachers and here for students.

UC Berkeley openly contradicts the well-established principle that “[a] Lively dialogue is not possible when students isolate themselves from opposing viewpoints”), Martinez 561 US at 705, 130 S.Ct 2971. Therefore, a clear message must come from the law school in the form of prohibiting these organizations, namely Berkeley Law Muslim Student Association, Middle Eastern and North African Law Students Association, Womxn of Color Collective, Asian Pacific American Law Students Association, Queer Caucus, Community Defense Project, Womxn of Berkeley Law and Law Students of African Descent from using funds, facilities and officials Communication channels if their statutes are based on discriminatory criteria.

Bizarrely, as we can see given the Abraham Accords, with record levels of commitment, investment and dialogue between Muslim countries and the State of Israel, such obscurantism would not be seen in a student society in the United Arab Emirates or Morocco. The fact that any female or queer group would target Israel, where such individual groups enjoy more freedom than they do here, is intellectually bankrupt.

In the spirit of free speech, I’m offering to speak at Berkeley Law School to discuss with someone whether a law school is constitutionally allowed to regulate student groups that encourage discriminatory behavior. That is, if Berkeley himself does not see the personal beliefs of a Zionist Jew of North African descent as an impediment to legal debate.

It goes without saying that until this matter is resolved and we can be confident as an organization that UC Berkeley is properly training its attorneys, we urge members of the AAJLJ to think twice before pursuing a law degree of UC Berkeley. They are clearly the ones who might crumble in the face of a dissenting opinion, which we know is unheard of in the law.

Robert Garson is President of the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, a national organization representing the interests of Jewish lawyers and the community at large.