Back in June of 2010 a leader of a pro-Palestinian student group at University of Berkeley allegedly rammed a Jewish woman with a shopping cart as she staged a counter-protest to an anti-Israel “Apartheid Week” rally conducted by the Muslim Student Association and Students for Justice in Palestine. The counter-protest was dubbed “Israel Wants Peace Week.”
Now, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Seeborg has deemed that the Muslim students who harassed Jessica Felber and other Jewish students were simply engaging in protected political speech.
The Greeley Gazette reports:
On Thursday U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg said the harassment, even if true, constituted protected political speech and dismissed the case against the university.
Seeborg said the university did not have any obligation to intervene in any dispute where a private individual on campus was allegedly interfering with another’s constitutional rights. He instead appeared to indicate that the incident was an outcome of Felber’s counter protest.
Felber and another Jewish student claimed the University did not do enough to prevent the harassment which included the Muslim group conducting checkpoints around the campus. Students were asked if they were Jewish while passing the checkpoints.
“The incident in which Felber was assaulted with a shopping cart, for example, did not occur in the context of her educational pursuit,” Seeborg stated. “Rather, that event occurred when she, as one person attempting to exercise free speech rights in a public forum, was allegedly attacked by another person who likewise was participating in a public protest in a public forum.”
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Seeborg said that much of the conduct involved “pure political speech” that is constitutionally protected even if it “contained language that plaintiffs believe was inflammatory, offensive or untrue.”
Seeborg said some courts have allowed public colleges to outlaw harassing speech and conduct that interferes with students’ rights, but schools have no legal duty to do so. The Muslim organizations receive campus funding on the same basis as other groups, the judge said, and any attempt to withdraw it would raise “serious First Amendment issues.”
The Huffington Post adds:
The suit also alleged this attack was part of a pattern of behavior during Apartheid Week, during which Jewish students were spit on and Israel’s government was equated to that of Nazi Germany.
While the university has previously disciplined some of the event’s participants and even had Husam Zakharia, the student who hit Felber with the shopping cart, arrested in connection with the incident, Felber (who graduated last year) has accused university President Mark Yudof, who is Jewish, of allowing an anti-Semitic environment to flourish on campus.
“SJP and Zakharia have been involved in other incidents on campus to incite violence against and intimidate Jewish and other students,” stated the lawsuit. “Defendants knew of this history of incitement and intimidation yet took no reasonable step to adequately control Zakharia or other student members of the SPJ.”
Jihad Watch founder Robert Spencer said the judge’s decision affirms that Muslims assaulting Jewish students is now protected speech.
“This is an outrageous decision. The Muslim students were trying to silence the freedom of speech of the Jewish students. The judge says this is a ruling in favor of free speech, but actually the freedom of speech was being infringed and the judge is saying that is ok to protect the freedom of speech of the Muslim students. Don’t the Jewish students have freedom of speech as well?”