ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 145

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US group dispatches mobile ‘antisemite’ billboards to homes of anti-Israel students

Provocative political outfit Accuracy in Media targets neighborhoods of Berkeley Law School organizers whose groups banned Zionist speakers, sparking uproar

Luke Tress is a JTA reporter and a former editor and reporter in New York for The Times of Israel.

A mobile billboard hired by Accuracy in Media accusing Berkeley student leaders of antisemitism, in Texas. (Courtesy/Accuracy in Media)
A mobile billboard hired by Accuracy in Media accusing Berkeley student leaders of antisemitism, in Texas. (Courtesy/Accuracy in Media)

A political activist group last week dispatched mobile billboards to the homes of anti-Israel Berkeley Law School students, accusing them of antisemitism.

The provocative campaign was the latest sally in a high-profile dispute over anti-Zionism on the University of California campus.

The group, Accuracy in Media, said a pair of truck-mounted billboards had “visited” two students at their neighborhoods in Texas while they were home during the university’s winter break.

The signs said “Berkeley Law’s antisemite class of 2023,” with the students’ names and organizations.

The president of Accuracy in Media, Adam Guillette, said the student leaders had tried to keep their names out of the controversy. The group previously named individual students on billboards in Berkeley, then in internet ads, he said.

Sending the billboards to students’ homes in another state was the latest step in the campaign, Guillette added in a statement.

“When I visited Berkeley multiple students told me how scary it was to be a Jew on campus. I’ve experienced antisemitism and I can relate. But rather than keeping our heads down and trying to avoid notice from those who hate us, we must put these antisemites on the defensive,” hesaid. “Accuracy in Media will continue this campaign on and off campus for as long as is necessary.”

The two student groups were among nine at the law school that banned Zionist speakers last year.

The ban led by the campus’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine applied to speakers who support “Zionism, the apartheid state of Israel, and the occupation of Palestine.” It included other anti-Israel measures including a commitment to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

The decision set off an uproar after a prominent pro-Israel commentator published an op-ed saying the university had created “Jew-free zones.”

A number of leading US Jewish groups condemned the school, although some Zionist students have downplayed the controversy, saying the issue was blown out of proportion.

Last month, the federal US Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights said it will investigate claims the law school hasn’t done enough to protect its Jewish students. The university said it will cooperate with the investigation and has strong anti-discrimination policies in place.

The investigation is the latest in a series by the federal office to probe anti-Jewish discrimination on college campuses under civil rights laws.

Accuracy in Media waded into the Berkeley controversy in October when it displayed an image of Adolf Hitler giving a Nazi salute on a mobile billboard near the campus.

“All in favor of banning Jews, raise your right hand,” the billboard said.

A truck emblazoned with an image of Adolf Hitler and the phrase ‘All in favor of banning Jews, raise your right hand,’ drove through Berkeley, California, October 2022, in response to a controversy involving several UC Berkeley Law student groups resolving to bar ‘Zionist’ speakers. (Courtesy of Accuracy in Media)

The sign was intended to oppose antisemitism, but alarmed students and drew criticism from the Anti-Defamation League, Berkeley Hillel and the local Jewish Community Relations Council.

The ADL said of the billboard, “The addition of more antisemitism, like using Hitler imagery to score cheap rhetoric points, only trivializes the memories of the six million.”

Accuracy in Media, based in Washington, DC, says it is “on the front lines of the culture war.” It describes its mission as using “citizen activism and investigative journalism to expose media bias, corruption, and public policy failings.”

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