Page One

Activists spar on Mideast issue

By David Scharfenberg Daily Planet staff
Wednesday March 27, 2002

Local activists sparred over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during an Alameda County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday that was intended to focus on a more peaceful theme. 

The debate came during public comment on an anti-hate crime resolution put forth by Supervisor Keith Carson, who represents Berkeley, Albany and Emeryville. The ceremonial resolution, which reaffirmed a “zero tolerance policy toward hate crimes” in Alameda County, passed unanimously. 

Carson offered the resolution after a series of Latino organizations and lawyers in the Bay Area, Sacramento and Washington, D.C. received hate mail earlier this month, and a San Francisco synagogue, Congregation Beth Israel-Judea, suffered an apparent arson attempt Friday. 

“It’s been very unfortunate that lately ... there has been an increase in hate crimes,” said Carson. “It’s important that we speak out boldly.” 

Members of the public, several from Berkeley, praised the board for passing the resolution at a largely amicable meeting.  

But two activists, Deborah Louria, East Bay Region director of the Jewish Community Relations Council in Oakland, and Barbara Lubin, executive director of the Middle East Children’s Alliance in Berkeley, clashed over the Israel-Palestine debate on the UC Berkeley campus. 

Louria, in response to a question from Supervisor Gail Steele, said that activists from Students for Justice in Palestine, a campus group, have created an intimidating atmosphere for Jewish students at UC Berkeley. 

“Jewish students on campus feel especially beleaguered, harassed, isolated,” said Louria. 

Louira focused specifically on a February 16-18 conference on Palestinian solidarity organized by the student group. Louira complained that conference security surrounded and intimidated Adam Weisberg, executive director of Berkeley Hillel, a Jewish student center, and Yitzhak Santis of the Jewish Community Relations Council as they moved about during the conference. 

“They decided to intimidate us,” said Santis, in an interview with the Planet after the meeting, labeling the students’ tactics “fascistic thuggery.” 

But Lubin noted that there are several Jewish students in Students for Justice in Palestine, and argued that the intimidation goes both ways. 

“Clearly, there are problems on the campus,” Lubin said. “But I would say they go both ways.” 

Snehal Shingavi, a UC Berkeley graduate student and member of Students for Justice, argued that Weisberg’s appearance at the conference was designed to intimidate and said the security detail was intended to protect everyone involved. 

Shingavi also argued that the leading pro-Israel group on campus, the Israeli Action Committee, has intimidated Middle Eastern students. 

“In the post-September 11 environment on campus, it’s clearly been extraordinarily intimidating to be Arab, or Muslim, or Palestinian on this campus,” Shingavi said.