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Jewish students file lawsuit against UCLA over anti-Israel encampment on campus

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Three Jewish students filed a civil rights lawsuit against the University of California Board of Regents and university officials, claiming UCLA allowed “antisemitic activists” to prevent Jewish students from walking to classes, offices and the library on campus during anti-Israel demonstrations in April and May.

Two law students and an undergraduate student allege that UCLA allowed a group of students and outside demonstrators to set up an encampment, and that these demonstrators prevented Jewish students and faculty from accessing the heart of campus, according to the complaint.

This comes amid the ongoing war in the Middle East between Hamas terrorists and Israeli forces, which stems from Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks against Israel that led to a retaliatory military response from Israel.

Since Oct. 7, anti-Israel demonstrations have been observed on college campuses across the U.S. and around the world. Other lawsuits have been filed over the campus protests by students claiming their universities failed to keep campuses safe. Schools facing lawsuits include Rutgers University and Columbia University, which this week settled with a Jewish student who brought a lawsuit against the university over an “unsafe educational environment.”

COLLEGES HIT WITH LAWSUITS OVER HANDLING OF ANTI-ISRAEL CAMPUS PROTESTS

Protesters at UCLA wave Palestinian flag

Hundreds of students protest outside the Palestine Solidarity Encampment on the campus of UCLA in Los Angeles on Wednesday, May 1, 2024.  (Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)

The complaint against UCLA said the university allowed protesters to set up an encampment that enforced a “Jew Exclusion Zone,” stopping Jewish students and faculty from accessing the encampment and other parts of campus unless they agreed to disavow Israel’s right to exist. The activists used checkpoints, issued wristbands, built barriers and often locked arms to prevent Jewish students and faculty from passing through.

UCLA’s administration was aware of this for a week without taking action, according to the complaint, which also said UCLA instructed security staff to discourage unapproved students from attempting to cross through the areas blocked by the activists instead of clearing the encampment.

“If masked agitators had excluded any other marginalized group at UCLA, Governor Newsom rightly would have sent in the National Guard immediately,” said Mark Rienzi, president and CEO of Becket, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of the three Jewish students. “But UCLA instead caved to the antisemitic activists and allowed its Jewish students to be segregated from the heart of their own campus. That is a profound and illegal failure of leadership.”

“This is America in 2024—not Germany in 1939. It is disgusting that an elite American university would let itself devolve into a hotbed of antisemitism,” Rienzi continued. “UCLA’s administration should have to answer for allowing the Jew Exclusion Zone and promise that Jews will never again be segregated on campus.”

Protesters wearing face masks

Since Oct. 7, anti-Jewish demonstrations have been observed on college campuses across the U.S. and around the world. (Photo by ETIENNE LAURENT/AFP via Getty Images)

UCLA said in a statement it is aware of the lawsuit and that it will review and respond in due course. The university said it remains committed to supporting the safety and well-being of the entire campus community.

According to the plaintiffs, activists within the encampment “viciously targeted” Jewish students on campus.

Plaintiff Yitzchok Frankel, a law student and father of four, said he faced antisemitic harassment and was forced to abandon his regular routes through campus because of the “Jew Exclusion Zone.”

Demonstrators allegedly repeatedly blocked plaintiff Joshua Ghayoum, a sophomore and history major, from accessing the library and other public spaces, and he claims to have heard chants at the encampment that included “death to Jews.”

UCLA STUDENT TEARS INTO ‘SQUAD’ FOR ‘GLORIFYING’ ANTI-ISRAEL AGITATORS: THEY SHOULD BE ‘ASHAMED’

Sign reads 'death to Zionism' on the UCLA campus

Graffiti at the Powell Library on the UCLA campus where anti-Israel demonstrators erected an encampment on Monday, April 29, 2024, in Los Angeles, California. (Getty Images)

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The third plaintiff, law student Eden Shemuelian, said her final exam studies were severely compromised when she was forced to walk around the encampment and immerse herself in its antisemitic chants and signs to access the law school’s library. 

The students are asking the court to ensure that Jews will never again face this kind of treatment on UCLA’s campus.

Police eventually cleared the UCLA encampment and arrested more than 200 people after a delayed law enforcement response.

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