Law Professors

Law dean Chemerinsky condemns 'blatant antisemitism' of caricature, confronts 'rude' protester with law prof wife

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AP Erwin Chemerinsky 2019

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 viewing a disrupted law student dinner in his backyard Tuesday through a First Amendment lens.

The First Amendment didn’t protect student protester Malak Afaneh, leader of Berkeley Law Students for Justice in Palestine, because she gave her speech on private property, Chemerinsky said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times after the event.

“No one has the right to come into my house, or yours, and disrupt a dinner,” Chemerinsky, an ABA Journal contributor, told the Los Angeles Times. “As a matter of constitutional law, this is absolutely clear.”

Afaneh had stood during the dinner for about 60 3Ls to talk about the plight of the Palestinians and to call on the University of California to divest itself of investments that supported Israel’s war. A video posted online shows Chemerinsky’s wife, law professor Catherine Fisk, trying to grab a microphone from Afaneh’s hand and then draping her arm around Afaneh’s shoulder as they spoke in raised voices. Chemerinsky stood to the side shouting, “Please leave!”

An Instagram post said Fisk’s actions constituted a violent assault. In a statement, Chemerinsky said he was “enormously sad that we have students who are so rude as to come into my home, in my backyard, and use this social occasion for their political agenda.”

Other publications with coverage, besides the Los Angeles times, are the San Francisco Chronicle, the Volokh Conspiracy and KRON4.

In his statement, Chemerinsky denounced a poster caricature of him placed on social media and bulletin boards in the law school building before the dinner. It showed Chemerinsky holding a bloody knife and fork with the caption, “No dinner with Zionist Chem while Gaza starves.”

“I never thought I would see such blatant antisemitism,” Chemerinsky wrote, “with an image that invokes the horrible antisemitic trope of blood libel and that attacks me for no apparent reason other than I am Jewish.”

Chemerinsky did not act in response to complaints about the posters, however, because he thought that they were protected by the First Amendment.

Chemerinsky planned to host more dinners with security present.

“Any student who disrupts will be reported to student conduct, and a violation of the student conduct code is reported to the bar,” he wrote in his statement.

See also:

“Berkeley Law dean thinks school is on ‘strong legal ground’ after student groups ban Zionist speakers”

“Chemerinsky: ‘Never in my life have I seen or felt the antisemitism of the last few weeks’”

“Anti-Zionist policies by student groups at UC Berkeley Law fostered harassment and hatred, suit alleges”

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