The ASUC Senate approved a bill to condemn antisemitism, with nine of 20 senators absent in protest of it Wednesday.
The absent senators chose not to attend the meeting because they claim Senator Shay Cohen’s bill “penalizes” senators, “forcing them” to approve a resolution that “equates supporting Palestine with being antisemitic,” said external affairs vice president Bailey Henderson during his address.
The equivocation arose from a resource listed in the bill — a video from campus’s Center for Jewish Studies — which states that antisemitism includes denouncing Israel or Zionism. It also stated that supporting the right of Palestinians to a “state of their own” and criticizing the Israeli government’s policies is not antisemitic.
“It’s sad that it had to get to this point about a bill that had pure and honest intentions,” Cohen said. “I feel like it was blown really out of proportion but it’s sad that the Jewish community constantly has to fight for the bare minimum even to denounce hate.”
Before the vote, Henderson read a statement from a group of Palestinian students from February 2020 and noted the students were not present out of fear for their safety due to following an incident involving a truck driving around Berkeley displaying their names. The statement resurfaced the harassment that occurred towards Palestinian students during a February 2020 ASUC Senate meeting.
During public comment, Jewish students expressed that condemning discrimination against both Palestinians and Jewish people are not mutually exclusive.
Several public speakers mentioned Kristallnacht, a violent attack carried out by Nazis that left approximately 91 Jewish people dead and 30,000 in concentration camps, the anniversary of which was that night.
“We are appealing to ASUC for help,” said James Hirschowitz, Cohen’s director of Jewish community development. “We are a small minority, truly in need. If ASUC refuses to condemn antisemitism on the worst night in Jewish history, they are sending a message that Berkeley is not a safe space to be Jewish.”
The senate also approved several consent calendar items. They revised rules on ASUC funding to prohibit its use for registered student groups’ social retreats, reestablished the ASUC Diversity Affairs Commission and urged campus administration to accept EBT, or CalFresh, in campus grocery stores such as Bear Market and Golden Bear Café.
Another resolution passed expressed support for California Assembly Bill 2549, which requires the California Department of Public Health to conduct research and spread awareness on street harassment. The resolution called on campus administration to initiate research on hate crimes and implement a crisis response team for students experiencing harassment.
In addition, the senate called on the Berkeley International Office to bring the financial burdens of international students finding winter housing to the attention of relevant departments, such as the Berkeley Housing Division. It made a note of COVID-19 policies and quarantine times in China and the Philippines that prevent students from returning home in a timely manner.