At Berkeley, Jews Are Becoming the Protesters Rather than the Protested

March 21, 2024 | David Schraub
About the author:

Since the February anti-Semitic riot at Berkeley, Jewish students are no longer waiting passively for administrators to protect them and dole out justice to the rioters but are taking matters into their own hands. So David Schraub, a law professor and frequent commentator on American Jewish matters who earned a PhD at Berkeley, reports.

“A few other developments have occurred since [the riot], both of which entail Jews becoming the protesters, rather than the protested,” he writes.

First, my friend and former colleague Ron Hassner has begun a sit-in in his own office, refusing to leave until the Berkeley administration takes action regarding a series of demands he’s made regarding how to address campus anti-Semitism. Second, a large group of Berkeley Jewish students marched on Sather Gate, where a different group of pro-Palestinian students had been blocking passage as part of their own protest (and reportedly have been haranguing Jewish students in the vicinity).

This marks a significant change from how Jews on campus have acted in the past:

This is an interesting example of Jews adopting what I termed a “protest politic”—seeking change via the medium of a protest (as opposed to, say, a board resolution, letter to the editor, or political hearings). . . . While I personally am averse to protests (not on general political or tactical grounds; it’s a temperamental preference), it does seem that acting via protest—sit-ins, marches, or even disruption—[is] a way of marking yourself as being of a particular political class on campus and so a way of being taken seriously.

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