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Jewish student suing UC Berkeley for civil rights infringement

JTA

March 7, 2011 | 5:30 pm

A student has brought a federal civil rights lawsuit against the University of California, Berkeley, saying the university did not protect her from being attacked because she is Jewish.

Lawyers for Jessica Felber, 20, say the case, filed in U.S. District Court in Oakland, Calif., on March 4 against the university, the regents of the University of California and their ranking officials, is the first of its kind.

Her suit alleges that Husam Zakharia, a fellow student and the head of Students for Justice in Palestine, rammed into her with a metal cart because of the pro-Israel sign she was holding during a pro-Israel demonstration on the Berkeley campus on March 5, 2010.

The rally, organized by the student Zionist groupTikvah, was a counter to anti-Israel events being held that same week as part of Israel Apartheid Week.

Felber was treated for her injuries, and Zakharia was arrested for battery but later released.

The complaint alleges 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.

The complaint further charges that university officials have tolerated “the growing cancer of a dangerous anti-Semitic climate on its campuses” that violates the rights of Jewish and other students “to enjoy a peaceful campus environment free from threats and intimidation.”

The suit calls for damages and a jury trial.

Pro-Israel and anti-Israel students have clashed before on the Berkeley campus. In November 2008, Zakharia was one of three student cited for battery in a physical altercation over displaying the Palestinian flag at a pro-Israel event.

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