NEW YORK (JTA) – A recent altercation has heightened concern about violence between supporters of Israel and the Palestinians at a California university.
The altercation occurred last week at the University of California, Berkeley during a performance by the Israeli rap artist Kosha Dillz.
Reports of the incident differ on who provoked the violence. According to one account, published on the Web site of the left-wing San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center, several pro-Israel students shouted racial epithets and violently tried to remove a pro-Palestinian banner draped near the stage during the performance. They attacked several Arab students, the report said.
But the right-wing Arutz Sheva site said the Arab students struck first, punching a pro-Israel student in the head as he tried to remove the banner. Both accounts acknowledge that the pro-Israel students prevailed in the fight.
The Daily Californian, the student newspaper, reported that two Palestinian students and a Jewish alumnus were cited with battery.
Yehuda HaKohen, the director of the Zionist Freedom Alliance, the student group that organized the event, told Israel National News that he opposed students attempting to remove the banner but nevertheless saw value in the incident.
"Even though I wanted to avoid the altercation, I recognize the value in anti-Israel activists getting put in their place by the very students they so often try to bully into silence," HaKohen said.
HaKohen added, "ZFA might not have started the violence but we definitely finished it. I hope Husam [Zakharia, a member of Students for Justice in Palestine] and his crew think twice next time they want to get physical with any of our students.”
According to its Web site, ZFA is a pro-Israel activist network that believes in an "assertive Zionist activism … that would proudly champion Israel’s national rights."
California universities have been among the most incendiary campuses in the country on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Pro-Israel students have long complained about intimidation and acts of violence at the University of California campus in Irvine, though others on that campus say the situation is not as bad as reported.