Anti-Israel protester launches rant at dinner hosted by Jewish dean of Berkeley

The private dinner for graduating law students was interrupted by a group of anti-Israel students who refused to leave when asked


UC Berkeley law student and anti-Israel protester Malak Afaneh interrupted a private dinner at the home of Berkeley Law dean Erwin Chemerinsky and his wife, law professor Catherine Fisk. (Photo: Screenshot via X)

A private dinner for graduating law students at UC Berkeley, hosted by the dean of Berkeley School of Law on Tuesday night, turned from celebratory to hostile after a pro-Palestinian protester began making a political speech and refused to leave the premises.

Roughly 60 third-year law students attended a dinner at the home of School of Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky and his wife, law school professor Catherine Fisk, in the first of three dinners the couple planned to host for graduating students.

While the guests were eating dinner in the backyard of the couple’s home, the protester, a Berkeley law student and registered guest of the dinner, “stood up with a microphone, stood on the top step in the yard, and began a speech, including about the plight of the Palestinians,” according to a statement released by Chemerinsky on Wednesday.

“My wife and I immediately approached her and asked her to stop and leave. The woman continued. When she continued, there was an attempt to take away her microphone. Repeatedly, we said to her that you are a guest in our home, please stop and leave. About 10 students were clearly with her and ultimately left as a group.”

In a video of the incident the protester, identified as Malak Afaneh, third-year Berkeley law student and co-president of Berkeley Law Students for Justice in Palestine, can be seen addressing the guests with a microphone before Chemerinsky interrupts by shouting: “Please leave. No. Please leave. Please leave.”

Fisk then attempts to grab the microphone from Afaneh while saying, “It is not your house. It is my house. And I want you to leave.”

Afaneh refuses to leave and continues to grip the microphone, the altercation becoming more physical as Fisk says: “This is not your house! It is my house!”

Afaneh stood up to denounce Berkeley’s investment in manufacturers of weapons for Israel, and another protesting student can be seen in the video accusing the couple of doing “nothing” about divestment, to which Chemerinsky replies: “We don’t control the investment.”

The video also shows Chemerinsky speaking to a different student as he pleads for the group to leave: “There is a genocide going on,” the student says. “Then don’t come here!” Chemerinsky replies.

When Fisk threatens to call the police, Afaneh says, “You can call the police,” and Fisk retorts: “I don’t prefer to.”

At another point in the video, which is just under three minutes long, Afaneh says: “Forty thousand people are dying,” to which Fisk replies: “I can’t stop that."

Near the end of the clip, Afaneh can be heard accusing Fisk of assaulting her and “pulling a Muslim woman’s scarf during Ramadan” which she says she will report to the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

According to a report by the Jewish News of Northern California (J.), a Jewish student present at the event said the video shows only a small snippet of the incident. This student said the protesters, including Afaneh, had been disrupting the dinner for “quite a while” before things escalated, and were asked politely by the hosts to leave before the altercation intensified, as shown in the video.

“They did not leave when they were asked the first 20 or 30 times,” the student told J. He said that the protesters finally left after Fisk said that while she was reluctant to call the police, she would do so if needed.

In his statement, Chemerinsky wrote that last week a poster surfaced on social media and bulletins in the law department depicting “a caricature of me holding a bloody knife and fork, with the words in large letters, ‘No dinner with Zionist Chem while Gaza starves.’

“I never thought I would see such blatant antisemitism, with an image that invokes the horrible antisemitic trope of blood libel and that attacks me for no apparent reason other than I am Jewish,” Chemerinsky said.

Berkeley Law Students for Justice in Palestine posted a photo matching this description to its Instagram account on 1 April, calling the dinners hosted by Chemerinsky “the prime example of a normalisation PR event that hopes to distract students from Dean Chem’s complicity and support for the genocide of the Palestinian peoples.”

Chemerinsky added in his statement that “the students responsible for this had the leaders of our student government tell me that if we did not cancel the dinners, they would protest at them.

“I was sad to hear this but made clear that we would not be intimidated and that the dinners would go forward for those who wanted to attend. I said that I assumed that any protest would not be disruptive.”

Chemerinsky said he would not be cancelling the dinners planned for Wednesday and Thursday nights but would be hiring security. He added: “My home is not a forum for free speech.”

“I have spent my career staunchly defending freedom of speech. I have spent my years as dean trying hard to create a warm, inclusive community. I am deeply saddened by these events and take solace that it is just a small number of our students who would behave in such a clearly inappropriate manner.”

Chemerinsky has been contacted for comment.

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