Public Comment

New: Open Letter to the Berkeley City Council Re:Prof Hatem Bazian

Margy Wilkinson
Tuesday December 04, 2018 - 12:06:00 PM

The November 9, 2018, issue of The Jewish News of Northern California, includes an article about Mayor Jesse Arreguin’s objections to the appointment of Hatem Bazian to the City’s Peace and Justice commission by Council member Cheryl Davila. In addition to objecting to Prof. Bazian’s appointment to the Peace and Justice commission, the Mayor “vowed to oppose Davila’s nomination of Bazian as her standby officer in case she is unable to serve during an emergency or disaster.” The Mayor is quoted as saying: “There’s documentation showing things he has said that are very offensive and inappropriate and anti-Semitic,” Arreguin told J. “And on that basis, I think it’s a very serious issue about whether this person should be in public office.” 

Anti-Semitism is defined as: “hostility to, prejudice, or discrimination against Jews.” Prejudice is defined as a: “preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.” 

If the mayor’s only evidence of Prof. Bazian’s “anti-semitism” is the fact that he retweeted a distasteful message which he subsequently apologized for, then this charge is completely unfounded. Prof. Bazian said in a letter concerning the incident of the tweet: ““The tweet itself is not defensible and does not add to understanding any of the issues related to the Palestine-Israel conflict,” he wrote. “I am deeply sorry for causing pain and anguish to the Jewish community and for lack of careful examination on my part of the specifics of the image and text included.” Prof. Bazian is a scholar and well respected academic in Berkeley who is the co-founder of Zaytuna College of California, the first Muslim Liberal Arts College in America. ( ) And Prof. Bazian works closely with many Jewish organizations and has always stood for justice for all. 

And then there is a larger issue here – our elected officials must not conflate anti-Semitism with rejection of Israel’s domestic and foreign policies. 

Amria Hass , a Jewish Israeli journalist, has said: “ Their occupiers, their tortures, their jailers, the thieves of their land and water, their exilers, the demolishers of their homes, the blockers of their horizon. Young Palestinians, vengeful and desperate, are willing to lose their lives and cause their families great pain because the enemy they face proves every day that its malice has no limits.” 

The City of Berkeley needs to have a real discussion about what is happening in the Middle East. Many people in many parts of our country are already having that conversation. We should start very soon.