Small world. In July of last year, we wrote here about Hatem Bazian, a lecturer in UC Berkeley’s Department of Ethnic Studies whose CV is, in addition, crowded with Islam-related activities: he’s the co-founder and provost of something called Zaytuna College for Muslim Studies; the founder of Students for Justice in Palestine; the founder of Berkeley’s Center for the Study of Documentation of Islamophobia; and so on. He’s called for an intifada in the U.S., refused to condemn terrorism, and quoted with approval a line from the Hadith calling for the murder of Jews.
Then, last April, we posted an account of Yvette Felarca, who is a Berkeley middle-school teacher by day and a violent “anti-fascist” radical during her free time. Our tale of Felarca’s adventures – including a riot that succeeded in shutting down a planned speech at the UC Berkeley by Milo Yiannopoulos – led us to a fellow by the name of Jesse Arreguin, who happens to be the mayor of Berkeley. Instead of criticizing the violence, Arreguin chose to criticize Yiannopoulos, whom he called (falsely) a “white nationalist.” Within the days that followed, it emerged that Arreguin was a member of the Facebook page of Felarca’s extremist group, By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), which the FBI and State Department consider a terrorist organization; that Arreguin and Felarca were Facebook friends; and that he had a pet cat named Che.
Recently, Bazian and Arreguin made the news – this time together. In November, Bazian was named to the Peace and Justice Commission of the city of Berkeley; and Arreguin, despite holding political views that are of the sort which usually imply anti-Semitism, opposed the appointment because of Bazian’s “anti-Semitic statements and actions.” Arreguin expressed frustration over the fact that he doesn’t have the power to prevent the appointment, which was the stratagem of City Council member Cheryl Davila.
Having recalled Arreguin’s appalling support for BAMN’s destructiveness, we were frankly surprised by the intensity of his opposition to Bazian on the grounds of anti-Semitism. Arreguin pointed out a couple of crude anti-Semitic cartoons that Bazian retweeted last year, resulting in criticism by the UC Berkeley administration – that move surprised us, too – and an apology by Bazian.
Why did Davila pick Bazian, of all people, for that commission? Apparently because, for her, his anti-Semitism isn’t a bug but a feature. As it turns out, this isn’t the first time that Davila has used her position to promote anti-Semitic ideas. In November of last year, she dismissed Transportation Commissioner Ben Gerhardstein “after he declined to state a position on whether Berkeley should divest from companies that do business with Israel.” According to a series of emails between Gerhardstein and Davila, she had indicated to him that his views on Israel and Palestine were important to her, despite their obvious irrelevance to the duties of his job; that, in fact, she was asking a number of potential commissioners about their opinions on the issue; and that she wanted a commission on which everyone supported divestment from Israel. Far from disputing any of these charges, Davila made a public statement that seemed to suggest she was fully within her rights to enforce an Israeli-Palestinian test on Berkeley commissioners and charged that anyone who made a big deal out of this action on her part was part of “the ongoing suppression campaigns to smear anyone who supports Palestine.”