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New Billboards About Antisemitism Sparks Debate in Berkeley

Several new billboards in Berkeley meant to raise awareness about antisemitism are also raising new debate, with some saying the message is only further dividing the community.

The new billboards are spread throughout eight different parts of Berkeley and are hard to miss.

The red signs come with a message directed to UC Berkeley’s School of Law. It reads: “You don’t need to go to law school to know anti-Zionism is antisemitism.”

The billboards was posted by the nonprofit group “JewBelong” as a response to a student group. At the law school, they recently voted to ban “pro-Israel” and “Zionist” speakers from giving lectures on campus.

The non-profit co-founder Archie Gottesman hopes the message challenges students and the community to fight against antisemitism.

“To be out there with this really hateful rule is incredibly scary, it’s scary for jews and scary for people, who are not Jewish, who want to have freedom of speech,” Gottesman said.

Jessica Pearlman, who identifies as Jewish, said she hopes the message will start a conversation.

“I think people really think they are absolutely two different things and that they are never mistaken for another and I think it’s important to see those two phrases together,” she said.

But the billboards appear to be fuel for another debate as one billboard has already been vandalized with someone spray painted the words “Free Palestine.”

Some UC Berkeley students are concerned the billboards are creating more conflict on campus.

“I know plenty of people who are Jewish and antizionist, so that logically, I don’t know. It’s frustrating to see right wing groups capitalizing on things on Berkeley’s campus,” said UC Berkley student Enrique Marisol.

In a statement the dean at UC Berkeley law said that following: “It’s nonsense to say the school is promoting antisemitism.” They explained that “student groups have the first amendment right to choose speakers based on their viewpoints. I condemn the bylaw, but groups have the right to have it.”

The student group, who initially voted to ban certain speakers did not return NBC Bay Area’s call for comment.

Source: NBC Bay Area

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