News & Politics

'Bears for Palestine' Celebrates Terrorists at UC Berkeley

Students for Justice in Palestine at UC Berkeley (Ariel Hayat via Flickr)

Algemeiner, a website for Jewish and Israel news, reports that a group at the University of California, Berkeley, called Bears for Palestine, “us[ed] its dedicated cubicle space to display photos” of Palestinian terrorists—namely Fatima Bernawi, Rasmea Odeh, and Leila Khaled, “the latter seen wielding an AK-47 assault rifle.”

Bernawi was reportedly “the first Palestinian woman to organize an attack in Israel, placing a bomb [which didn’t explode] in a Jerusalem cinema in 1967. Rasmea Odeh was involved in a 1969 terror bombing in a Jerusalem supermarket that killed two Israeli students, Leon Kanner and Eddie Joffe. Sentenced in Israel to life in prison, she was freed in a prisoner exchange; in 2017 she was deported from the U.S. to Jordan for lying on immigration forms.

As for Leila Khaled—who, like Rasmea Odeh, is affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), designated by the U.S. as a terror organization and responsible for multiple suicide bombings—she was involved in the hijacking of a TWA plane in 1969 and an (Israeli) El Al plane in 1970 and is considered a Palestinian icon.

Back at UC Berkeley, on February 3, the student senate met to vote on a bill to condemn Bears for Palestine for the pro-terror display. “More than 200 people showed up…with many Jewish and Zionist students coming out to back the resolution, while Bears for Palestine members and supporters gathered to oppose it.”

Two hours later, “Jewish students collectively left the meeting” after deciding “that enough was enough and that [they] were not going to sit idly by as [their] members were threatened and harassed.”

A Jewish student named Moi Stern Weisleder told Algemeiner:

“It was absolute mayhem as we were leaving…. They were celebrating, it was like a football game or something.

“They were singing to our faces, they were insulting us, calling us Nazis, supporters of genocide, terrorists, child-murderers…. It was terrible.

“There was no dialogue between the two [sides]…. Whenever a Jewish student would go up and speak, they would be interrupted, they would be laughed at.” Opponents of the resolution “would scream at them, that they were white supremacists and shouldn’t even be up there….”

Not long after that, the meeting adjourned without having reached any decision.

Algemeiner further reported that Jewish student leaders at UC Berkeley sent a letter to the university’s chancellor, Carol Christ, accusing the administration and the student association of “continually” failing to stand up for Jewish students in the February 3 incident and others.

Meanwhile, the resolution on condemning Bears for Palestine for their lionization of terrorists was voted down this week, 4-1, by a student-association committee. Shelby Weiss, a Jewish student and the only one who voted in favor, said she heard “a lot of rhetoric and discourse steeped in historic antisemitic tropes.”

As for the Jewish student leaders’ letter of complaint, UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof told Algemeiner it was “being taken very seriously.” He went on to say:

“We have before us hard, urgent work to do with students from across the spectrum of perspectives…. That includes the impact of the posters in question, and also includes some of the things that were said by Jewish students at the meeting last Monday night.

“If you call Muslim students ‘godless,’ you have to expect a negative reaction,” he noted. “If you put up posters that celebrate those who killed or tried to kill unarmed civilians, you have to expect a negative reaction.”

By “godless” the spokesman was referring to allegations that a Jewish student called Bears of Palestine members “godless” ( and also “cowards”) during the heated exchanges at the February 3 student senate meeting.

The Jewish student admits to this offense. Seemingly, though, applying a couple of negative adjectives to your opponents in the midst of such a kerfuffle is not the same as publicly glorifying people convicted of murder and airline hijackings.

But moral equivalency marches on. Chancellor Christ, responding to the Jewish students’ letter, said in a statement:

“I am not able to adjudicate what happened…, nor am I interested in blame…. Students who support the Palestinian cause have a right to celebrate those they see as fighters for that cause, and their rights to express that support are fully protected by our country’s constitution.

“By the same token, Jewish students have a right to feel dismay and concern after seeing a poster they perceive as honoring those who killed, or attempted to kill, unarmed Jewish civilians…. Each side has an equal right to express and have heard their perspective.”

It sounds exquisitely symmetrical, but I’m not at all sure Chancellor Christ would have responded similarly to, say, a far-right group flaunting pictures of Dylann Roof, who shot up the black church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015, or of Omar Mateen, responsible for the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting—let alone with the pictures showing such individuals brandishing a weapon.

What’s been happening at UC Berkeley is far from an isolated episode, as a report issued last September on “The Harassment of Jewish Students on U.S. Campuses” makes clear. As the report details, ostensibly “pro-Palestinian” groups, whose real goal is Israel’s delegitimization and destruction, have been engaging in “extreme acts of vilification and exclusion from campus life…against openly pro-Israel students and groups.”

With campus administrations mired in moral equivalency and cowed by the “pro-Palestinian” groups or sharing at least some of their ideology, the executive order on combating campus anti-Semitism that President Trump signed in December is aimed at getting government involved in tackling the problem. If that happens it will be long overdue.