J Street Banned at Berkeley—Yes, Berkeley

By Jeffrey Goldberg

Bradley Burston on the appalling decision by the Berkeley Jewish Student Union to reject J Street's campus division for membership:

What remains unclear is why, when Jews in Berkeley boycott fellow supporters of Israel, they believe that they are doing Israel, or the Jewish people, any good.

Does the Berkeley vote truly reflect the kind of community that Jewish students at the University of California want? An intellectual ghetto, walled off from debate, bricked up against nuance, a trompe l'oeil of democracy, of openness, of communication?

Here in Israel, the war that is closest to us, the war that threatens us most directly, and perhaps, most permanently, is a struggle over exclusion. It is a war which, week by week, vote by vote, uses democracy to diminish democracy. One which, edict by edict, uses the institutions of Judaism to alienate and repel Jews, and the institutions of Zionism to alienate and repel supporters of Israel.

J Street draws many Jews who are troubled by aspects of Israeli policy but are nevertheless sympathetic to the ideals of Zionism. Would the Berkeley Jewish Student Union prefer that they join anti-Zionist organizations? That seems to be the message. I grew up in a Zionist socialist youth movement, Hashomer Hatzair, that was far to the left of where J Street is today. But no one tried to ban our participation in community-wide events. Quite the contrary: The big tent was seen as a good thing. But not anymore, even at Berkeley.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/12/j-street-banned-at-berkeley-yes-berkeley/249638/