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Disruption Erupts at Berkeley Dean’s Dinner Gathering Following Student’s Attempt to Discuss Gaza Conflict

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A dinner gathering, hosted by Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of UC Berkeley’s School of Law, and his spouse to celebrate the achievements of graduating law students, took an unexpected turn when a Palestinian American student sought to address the civilian casualties amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza, which had been ongoing for six months.

According to The Los Angeles Times, the event was held in Chemerinsky’s backyard garden, providing an opportunity for the law students to be acknowledged for their efforts and spend time with the dean, his wife, and law professor Catherine Fisk.

In a widely circulated video, Malak Afaneh, a Palestinian American student, is seen wearing a jean skirt, a white shirt paired with a black-and-white keffiyeh (traditional headdress), and a red hijab (headscarf). She rose from her seat and stood before her fellow students to deliver her speech.

Chemerinsky confirmed that Afaneh was one of the 60 graduating law students invited to the dinner gathering.

During a dinner party hosted by Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of UC Berkeley’s School of Law, and his wife, intended to celebrate graduating law students, a Palestinian American student’s attempt to deliver a speech on civilian casualties during the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza led to chaos.

The event, held in Chemerinsky’s backyard garden, aimed to acknowledge the hard work of the law students and provide them with an opportunity to interact with the dean, his wife, and law professor Catherine Fisk, as reported by The Los Angeles Times.

In a viral video, Malak Afaneh, a Palestinian American student, is seen standing in front of seated students wearing a jean skirt, a white shirt paired with a black-and-white keffiyeh (headdress), and a red hijab (a scarf worn by Muslim women).

Afaneh, one of the 60 graduating law students invited to the dinner party, was interrupted by Chemerinsky, who, along with his wife, told her to leave their house. Fisk even attempted to grab the student’s microphone, insisting that it was not her house and demanding her departure.

The video captured Chemerinsky instructing the Palestinian American student to leave immediately after uttering the words “gathered here,” asserting his ownership of the house and emphasizing her status as his guest.

Throughout the altercation, Fisk’s arm can be seen on Afaneh’s right shoulder, occasionally touching her neck. Fisk directed another student to ensure Afaneh’s departure from their residence.

The confrontation escalated, with Afaneh, Chemerinsky, Fisk, and an unnamed law student engaging in a heated argument. Fisk explicitly told Afaneh that she was unwelcome, while Afaneh responded by suggesting that Fisk call the police, to which Fisk expressed reluctance.

Amid the exchange, Afaneh highlighted the dire situation in Gaza, citing the loss of thousands of lives, while Fisk admitted her inability to prevent such tragedies. Afaneh was physically pulled up a small set of stairs as Fisk attempted to seize the microphone from her.

In an interview, Afaneh accused Fisk of assaulting her and infringing upon her freedom of speech, citing the aggression she faced for greeting in Arabic and wearing a hijab and keffiyeh.

The incident occurred against the backdrop of a surge in antisemitic incidents in US universities following the Israel-Hamas conflict.

In response, Chemerinsky issued a statement, referencing a recent incident where a poster depicting him holding a bloodied knife and fork circulated on social media and bulletin boards in the law school building, condemning it as blatant antisemitism. Despite being deeply offended, he acknowledged the posters as protected speech under the First Amendment but lamented their disturbing nature.

Chemerinsky recounted the events of the dinner party, where approximately 60 students had gathered, and a student began a speech addressing the plight of Palestinians. He and his wife promptly intervened, urging the student to stop and leave, but she persisted. Chemerinsky regretted the disruption caused by a small group of students and vowed to proceed with the dinner parties as scheduled, albeit with security present.

Expressing deep sadness over the incident, Chemerinsky emphasized that his home was not a platform for free speech and warned of consequences for students engaging in disruptive behavior, affirming his commitment to maintaining decorum despite the unfortunate turn of events.

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