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U.S. civil rights office probing claims of anti-Semitism at UC Berkeley

(JTA) — The civil rights office of the U.S. Department of Education opened an investigation into allegations of anti-Semitism at the University of California, Berkeley.

Two recent graduates of the university filed a complaint charging that campus officials allowed a hostile campus environment for Jewish students to continue unabated by not stopping anti-Israel protests on campus, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The complaint alleges that the campus officials have violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which says that recipients of federal funds are barred from discriminating on the basis of race, color or national origin. In 2010, the U.S. Department of Education extended Title VI to include the protection of Jewish students from anti-Semitism on campuses.

The charges filed in July refer specifically to the annual February "Apartheid Week," saying that the campus event led to an increase in anti-Semitic hate speech, the newspaper reported on Oct. 3.

A complaint filed by the same students was dismissed in December by U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg, who ruled that there was no evidence that university officials violated the Jewish students’ rights.  

In that complaint, the plaintiffs said that they and other Jews were harassed during the annual Apartheid Week event at the university held by Muslim student groups to protest Israeli policies. Seeborg ruled that the conduct of the Muslim students fell under the category of "pure political speech," which is constitutionally protected.

The complaint alleged that the Students for Justice in Palestine and the Muslim Student Association, another pro-Palestinian group on campus, harass and attack Jewish students, and that the university knows about it and has not taken sufficient steps to protect its Jewish students.

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