Daily Israel Report

U.S.: Jewish Student Sues UC Berkeley over Muslim Assault

A Jewish student attacked for supporting Israel is suing UC Berkeley for allowing a “dangerous and threatening” campus environment.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 3/6/2011, 8:41 PM / Last Update: 3/6/2011, 10:53 PM

A Jewish student at the University of California at Berkeley who was attacked by a Muslim student last year has filed suit against UC Berkeley for failing to provide a safe atmosphere. In her suit, 21-year-old Jessica Felber alleges that UC Berkeley did not effectively deal with harassment and intimidation by Muslim and pro-Arab student groups, leading to “a dangerous and threatening environment.”

Felber was attacked by Husam Zakharia, leader of the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) group, during a rally. At the time, she was holding a sign that said “Israel Wants Peace.”

Zakharia rammed Felber with a shopping cart, causing her injury. Following the assault, she was granted a restraining order against Zakharia.

The assault could have been prevented if campus authorities had taken sufficient care to ensure students' safety, according to the suit. Instead, UC Berkeley policies “fostered and encouraged” pro-terrorist incitement, “turned a blind eye to the perpetrators of illegal activities,” and “failed to effectively discipline the MSA [Muslim Student Association] and SJP for their pro-terrorist programs, goals and conduct; despite having ample notice that such violence was foreseeable.”

By failing to provide security to Jewish and pro-Israel students, UC Berkeley “condoned and allowed the MSA, the SJP and MSU [Muslim Student Union] to threaten, harass and intimidate Jewish students and to endanger their health and safety.”

The suit lists several instances of past anti-Israel and anti-Jewish incitement on the Berkeley campuses and UC campuses in central and northern California, particularly the campus in Irvine.

According to the lawsuit, the SJP and MSA have previously staged “checkpoints” at which they brandish mock weapons and demand that students state their religious affiliation. The checkpoints are meant to mimic the IDF's checkpoints in Judea and Samaria, at which soldiers check passing vehicles for weapons and bombs.

The suit also notes that Zakharia and two other SJP activists were cited in 2008 for battery, after disrupting a college by a campus Jewish group and assaulting a Jewish student.

SJP members heckled Mideast expert Daniel Pipes and author Nonie Darwish when the two came to speak at UC Berkeley in 2004 and 2007 respectively. SJP activists allegedly shouted “Death to Zionism,” “Zionism is racism,” and “Seig Heil” during Pipes' address.

Felber is represented by civil rights attorney Joel Siegal, and by attorney Neal Sher, a former head of American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and of the Justice Department's Nazi prosecution unit.

Last year, two University of California professors warned that growing Muslim extremism on campus was putting Jewish students at risk. The warning came shortly after students at UC Irvine harassed visiting Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren. In a rare move, those who harassed Oren may face criminal charges.