Teachers, parents fight Israel lobby smears against Berkeley schools

Two major Israel lobby organizations have joined forces to file a federal complaint against the Berkeley Unified School District in California, alleging that administrators have ignored “severe and persistent” targeting of Jewish students over the last six months of Israel’s genocide in Gaza.

The Louis D. Brandeis Center and the Anti-Defamation League, two right-wing anti-Palestinian lobby organizations masquerading as civil rights groups, have long filed legal complaints to the US Department of Education claiming that Palestine solidarity activism on US campuses is a threat to Jewish students – but it is the first time since 7 October that such a complaint has been filed against a K-12 school district.

Parents and teachers are fighting the smears and the lobby groups’ legal complaint head-on.

Students, for their part, have organized several walk-outs and rallies in support of Palestinian liberation.

Berkeley Unified School District Jewish Parents for Collective Liberation released a statement condemning the complaint and urging school district officials to protect their students and educators.

“We reject the false conflation between antisemitism and criticism of the state of Israel and its military assault on Palestinians. Jewish safety and Palestinian freedom are intertwined. The danger of antisemitism comes from white nationalism, not from those who support Palestinian human rights and freedom,” the group states.

Christina Harb, a Palestinian American middle school teacher, and Liz Jackson, a former and founding staff attorney with Palestine Legal and a parent of children in Berkeley schools, joined me to talk about the complaint and how educators are pushing back.

They talked about the rhetoric that some Israel-aligned parents are using to try and silence activism around opposing the genocide in Gaza, and how Berkeley school district officials have handled the complaint so far.

Watch the interview above or listen via SoundCloud below.

Video production by Tamara Nassar

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Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).