Two provocative trucks, one displaying an image of Adolf Hitler, meant to attack Berkeley’s anti-zionist speakers' policy have instead caused backlash from Jewish groups.
Less than a month after nine student organisations at the University of California at Berkeley adopted a bylaw pledging to not invite speakers that “have expressed and continued to hold views in support of Zionism, the apartheid state of Israel, and the occupation of Palestine”, two provocative trucks arrived on campus to address the controversy.
One of the black box trucks displayed a digital image of Hitler giving a Nazi salute, with the caption “All in favor of banning Jews, raise your right hand”.
Whatever the truck’s intended effect, their presence caused widespread alarm from students and drew condemnation from the local branch of the Anti-Defamation League, Berkeley Hillel and the local Jewish Community Relations Council.
ADL’s San Francisco office tweeted: “The addition of more antisemitism, like using Hitler imagery to score cheap rhetoric points, only trivializes the memories of the six million,”
One student, Grace Stewart, wrote on Instagram that she had seen the “very scary” image on her morning run, while another threw a rock at the truck.
A few clubs at @BerkeleyLaw are doing enough to bring antisemitism to campus. @ADL is working with others to safeguard Jewish students. The addition of more antisemitism, like using Hitler imagery to score cheap rhetoric points, only trivializes the memories of the six million. https://t.co/qp2sXkx4K1— ADL San Francisco (@ADL_SF) October 14, 2022
The trucks were organised by a political advocacy group called Accuracy in Media, a media watchdog with a history of provoking liberals and progressives, and came as part of a larger campaign to combat antisemitism on college campuses, according to the organisation’s founder Adam Guillette.
Mr Guillette told Jweekly: “The amount of hatred, intolerance, and antisemitism is morally outrageous and it’s time for us to (non-violently) fight back.”
As to the criticism that the campaign was disturbing, Mr Guillette said, “the growing antisemitic climate on America’s universities is exceptionally disturbing, and it’s time we stood up to these hateful bullies.”
The pledge to not invite pro-Israel speakers by Berkeley’s student organisations comes as part of an ongoing debate over shifting campus attitudes on Israel and Zionism. The University of Vermont and the University of Southern California have also been the sites of similar campaigns, some of which have become the targets of federal civil rights investigations, with well-known figures such as Sarah Silverman and Barbra Streisand calling the policies antisemitic.
A group of Jewish law students at Berkeley recently published an op-ed in The Daily Beast criticising the school’s “unacceptable tolerance for excluding and demonizing Zionist identities”, pointing to a student-hosted “Palestine 101” session that they said, “fundamentally distorted Zionism”.