Chemerinsky: 'Never in my life have I seen or felt the antisemitism of the last few weeks'
Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of the University of California at Berkeley School of Law, speaks during a lecture at the university in October 2019. Photo by Jeff Chiu/The Associated Press.
Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of the University of California at Berkeley School of Law, is calling on campus officials across the country to denounce “blatant antisemitism.”
“I was stunned when students across the country, including mine, immediately celebrated the Hamas terrorist attack in Israel on Oct. 7,” wrote Chemerinsky, an ABA Journal contributor, in a op-ed for the Los Angeles Times.
“How can anyone celebrate the killing of 260 people attending a music festival, or the brutal massacre of more than 100 people in a kibbutz, or the pulling of people from their houses to take as hostages?” Chemerinsky asks. “If this happened to people who were not Jews would there be such celebrations?”
Chemerinsky, 70, said he has heard antisemitic things from time to time, “but never in my life have I seen or felt the antisemitism of the last few weeks.”
Someone at Chemerinsky’s school posted a picture of him on Instagram with a caption indicating that he had taken an indefinite sabbatical to join the Israel Defense Forces. A student at a town hall told Chemerinsky that the only way that she would feel safe would be for the school to “get rid of the Zionists.” Chemerinsky has also been labeled “part of a Zionist conspiracy,” he has heard.
Chemerinsky said he mourns the deaths in Israel and Gaza.
“I strongly oppose the policies of the Netanyahu government, favor full rights for Palestinians, and believe that there must be a two-state solution. But if you listen to what is being said on college campuses now, some of the loudest voices are not advocating for a change in Israeli policies but are calling for an end to Israel,” he said.
“An oft-repeated mantra among some is that Israel is a settler colonialist country and should be forced to give the land back to the Palestinians. I have no idea how it would be determined who is rightly entitled to what land, but I do know that calling for the total elimination of Israel is antisemitic,” Chemerinsky wrote.
Many campus administrators who haven’t spoken out want to appear neutral or don’t want to appear antisemitic, Chemerinsky said. He also refrained from speaking out at first.
“But when do we stop being silent and when do we say the antisemitism must be condemned and it is not acceptable on our campuses?” Chemerinsky wrote. “I believe this must be that time.”
Hat tip to Josh Blackman, a professor at the South Texas College of Law in Houston, who noted Chemerinsky’s op-ed in a post at the Volokh Conspiracy.