Media & Opinion
Omar Barghouti at UCLA: No to BDS, no to occupation
BDS is poison and Omar Barghouti is its purveyor.
On Jan. 15, I subjected myself to a tirade of anti-Israel fulminations by BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti. I went to hear him deliver a speech to UCLA students, out of a sense of obligation to the Jewish students whom I serve. I always feel that I must be present when a threatening speaker comes to campus. But given the claims of our local Palestinian students that BDS means only a boycott of the major Western corporations that are implicated in sustaining the West Bank occupation (e.g., Caterpillar) and the fact that many maintain that BDS is a legitimate nonviolent way of protesting Israeli “oppression,” I was also curious to learn how this popular campaign was being promoted.
The damning result was that I was cured of any illusions regarding the moderate intentions of BDS.
BDS is poison and Omar Barghouti is a classic anti-Semite.
What almost all observers — supporters and detractors alike — fail to realize is that what is objectionable about BDS is not only the practice of boycott but the ideology that underlies the movement.
Barghouti was explicit in explaining that the real aim of BDS is the end of Zionism, not just the end of the occupation. He is careful to assert that BDS is agnostic on the question of two states but makes it clear that what he ultimately desires is to uproot the “unjust ideology” that is responsible for the Israeli regime. Barghouti and BDS thus have no constructive vision for the future. There is no articulated aspiration for peace, only a negative desire to destroy the very foundation of the State of Israel. This is just recycled Palestenian rhetoric about the pursuit of justice in the mouth of a sophisticated, smart, Israeli-educated and wiley ideologue. “Justice” is simply a political code word for no compromise. And everyone knows that any peaceful outcome is contingent on mutual compromise.
What was genuinely disturbing and compelled my verbal protest and walkout, however, was Barghouti’s denial of Jewish peoplehood. Teaching that Jews are not a people and appropriating the right to define who we are is an aggressive act of denying Jews the fundamental right of self-definition. It constitutes a delegitimization of my being and of my identity as a Jew. Moreover, that’s why all of Barghouti’s supporters applauded. Because if the Jews are not a historical people, then they have no claim to what we understand to be the natural right of a people — a land of their own. To assert that the idea of a Jewish people is a Zionist fabrication, as Barghouti did, was an overt act of anti-Judaism. As a rule, no group ought to be building up its identity by trampling on the identity of another group. That violates the basic principles of multiculturalism. Barghouti has no room in his heart for me and my people, and he wants to poison the hearts of others.
But if it is so clear that Barghouti’s way is a road to continued conflict, why is there growing sympathy for the BDS movement in liberal circles? Here, a moment of self-examination is in order. For we — and I mean we who love Israel and care about her survival — have spoken out neither forcefully enough nor lovingly against the occupation. We have not made it clear that “for the sake of Zion” and in pursuit of the “freedom, justice, and peace … envisaged by the prophets of Israel” (Israeli Declaration of Independence), we, the Jews, cannot rule over another people. It blatantly undermines the democratic principles upon which Israel was established. In this way, the occupation is even more dangerous than BDS. For BDS is only an external threat that has not yet gained traction in the United States, while the occupation is corrupting from within, having already dulled our Jewish moral sensibility (see, most recently, Ari Shavit’s “My Promised Land”). By failing to explicitly link the embrace of a two-state solution with the end of occupation and by continuing the legal nitpicking over the definition of the term, our community has closed the door to many of those, including some of our friends, who find the status quo deplorable and indefensible, compelling them to be open to an alternative political path.
Indeed, BDS is poison, but so is the occupation. Wisdom, morality, and loyalty to Israel and Judaism demand that we say no to both.
*View the original article by clicking here: The Jewish Journal
Omar Barghouti at UCLA: A speaker who brings hate
Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, is on the road again with his anti-Israel show and its pack of bigotry and lies. On Jan. 15, UCLA’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) hosted him at UCLA for his talk, “International Solidarity With Palestine: Towards a Global Intifada.” An apt title, although he piously insists his movement is nonviolent, he banged the drum for more bloodshed against Israeli Jews, for a fight to the finish that would undo the results of the 1948 war and be Zionism’s death knell. Nothing else would do.
For Barghouti, compromises that bring peace are unacceptable. As he said, if peace did not include the right of an allegedly 8 million diaspora Palestinians and Palestinian refugees living across the Middle East and elsewhere to “return” to Israel (a euphemism since 1949 for destroying Israel by turning Jews into a minority), peace would merely signify the “end of resistance to injustice,” and “contentment” with a “slave situation.”
The event began with SJP laying out ground rules. No videotaping, no disruptive behavior, no loud noises, no standing up and blocking the view of the speakers. These are precisely the tactics that anti-Israel groups, led by SJP and the Muslim Student Union, have used to shout down or silence pro-Israel speakers and which in those cases they defended as “free speech.” It is unlikely that the organizer saw the irony.
A slick, seasoned propagandist who postures as a reasonable academic, Barghouti presented an alternate reality of falsehoods, perverse logic and scrambled principles worthy of the “big lies” perpetrated in 1930s Germany. He had clever, practiced answers to deflect most questions. The audience of approximately 120 people, mostly students who reflected UCLA’s diversity, could come away with only two clear messages: Israeli Jews and their supporters are racist and wantonly evil, and have deprived Palestinians of justice and of their humanity; and being anti-Israel aligns you with the romantic, heroic social justice movements of the past.
Indeed, Barghouti began by claiming that BDS follows the heroic legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela and the anti-apartheid movement, which was now “Palestine’s South Africa moment.” He insisted his calls for boycotts against Israel were akin to the boycotts of apartheid South Africa, conveniently ignoring the fact that they are more akin to the Arab nations’ historic boycotts against Jews. Arab leaders called for boycotts against the Jewish community in pre-state Israel in the 1930s; the Arab League instituted a cultural, economic and diplomatic boycott in 1945 before Israel was even re-established, and have maintained it since, though they relaxed it minimally in the 1990s.
Much of his litany of false accusations he’d presented before, cherry-picking anomalous examples or making up “facts,” such as that Israel steals Palestinian water (it gives Palestinians 30 percent more Israeli water than it even agreed to give in the Oslo Accords), and that checkpoints are choking Palestinians (B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group very sympathetic to the Palestinians, reports there has been free movement in the West Bank for the past few years and the Israeli government reports that only nine checkpoints remain, which are manned only during terrorist alerts). He likes inventing terms to make his accusations seem more sinister. Absurdly claiming Israel is systematically destroying Palestinian education, he accused it of “scholasticide” and omitted the fact that he himself attended graduate school at Tel Aviv University. He praised the American Studies Association’s vote for an academic boycott of Israel, claiming it showed BDS was succeeding, despite the fact that the most prestigious American academic associations and more than 200 major universities unequivocally condemned the resolution as an assault on academic freedom and an unfair singling out of Israel.
But Barghouti didn’t stop there.
He hurled blood libels. Israeli soldiers shoot Palestinian children “for sport.” Indeed, they “provoke” the children, “entice them like mice, and then shoot them” for no reason. Often, it is just because the soldiers are “bored.”
He justified terrorism against Israelis, defending the Palestinians’ right to “resistance by any means, including armed resistance.” When he insisted that the only way to end terrorism was to end the “root cause” — that is Israel’s alleged oppression of Palestinians — the audience erupted into finger snapping, the way college audiences show approval.
He shamelessly told lies. When asked how Israel could be called an apartheid state, given the prominent positions of Israeli Arabs in government and the judiciary, he snapped back that every evil system has its collaborators. He claimed there were even Jews in the Nazi government.
He declared that many large Jewish communities don’t accept a Jewish state and cited a Satmar rabbi for proof. When UCLA Hillel Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller interrupted to protest that the Satmars are only a fringe group that doesn’t represent the vast Jewish community, the organizer reprimanded him and threatened to have him removed. The rabbi stormed out, declaring, “This is anti-Semitic!”
Barghouti repeatedly denied that Jews are one of the indigenous peoples of the region. When an Israeli stood up and said he is a 10th-generation Israeli and indigenous, Barghouti scoffed. “You aren’t indigenous just because you say you are.” He allowed that colonialists could be indigenized but only if they melded and intermarried with the existing society, not if they sought to disenfranchise the real indigenous peoples. The Boers, he explained, described themselves as an indigenous people when they fought British colonialism.
He denied that the Jewish people have a right to self-determination. They are not a people, he declaimed, and the United Nations’ principle of the right to self-determination applies only to colonized people who want to acquire their rights. While he insisted that Palestinians must have “the right to have rights,” he denied that the Jewish people had any collective rights.
He claimed that Israel’s fears about terrorism and potential massacres if there were a one-state solution are merely “projections” of what Israelis really want to do to Palestinians. Indeed, according to Barghouti, Israel’s self-defense measures are “routine terrorism.”
When asked what he is doing to bring Hamas, the popular Palestinian fundamentalist movement that oppresses women and minorities and wants to establish a theocracy, to share his supposedly progressive vision, he sidestepped the question. He said BDS can’t deal with every social rights issue. The anti-apartheid movement couldn’t deal with social and economic issues until it succeeded. Similarly, first the occupation must end, then these problems can be addressed. Meanwhile, Hamas violence and its violent ideology are excusable and even justifiable in Barghouti’s worldview.
I have often wondered what Jews or decent people could have done to push back against the anti-Semitic propaganda of 1930s Germany. I don’t know. But I do know that Omar Barghouti follows in that tradition of the “big lies,” the dehumanization of Israelis and incitement that would lead others to justify or excuse those who murder Israeli Jews. Historically, Jewish blood has been cheap too many times. It is critical that people of good will mobilize to protest and discredit the lies, educate the public, and re-educate the students who have been misled by the heady blend of bigotry, idealism and furious outrage that animates extremists like Barghouti.
*View the original article by clicking here: The Jewish Journal
Bruins for Israel hosts debate regarding U.S., Middle East relations
About 60 students gathered on campus Tuesday night to watch a debate between members of Bruin Democrats and Bruin Republicans about the relationship between the United States and Israel.
The debate, hosted by Bruins for Israel, was held to educate the campus about different views of America’s role in the Middle East, said Miriam Eshaghian, a fourth-year psychobiology student and president of Bruins for Israel.
Israel and the U.S. have maintained close ties for decades. However, U.S. military aid to Israel has frequently drawn criticism from groups in the U.S. and abroad.
“When you think about the Middle East conflict, you think about the heated (Israeli-Palestinian) conflict, but that’s only a small fraction of what’s going on in the region,” Eshaghian said.
Alexander Lyons, external vice president of Bruin Democrats and third-year political science student, faced William Chakar, president of Bruin Republicans and third-year molecular biology student, in the debate Tuesday night.
The debaters addressed questions about what they thought the role of the U.S. should be in the current peace negotiations. They also talked about whether or not they think the U.S. has the right to dictate Israeli policies, namely policies which are directly linked to Israeli people’s security. Bruins for Israel also asked the debaters to talk about what they think are the most important reasons for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship.
Chakar said he thinks that the amount of money the U.S. invests in its relationship with Israel is currently where it should be, however, he approves of sequester cuts that trim foreign aid as Israel is in a good position to be self-sufficient. While he said that he thinks the U.S. has a moral obligation to intervene in some international affairs, Chakar said he thinks it should take a “balanced” approach when it comes to intervention in Israeli affairs.
“The U.S. should be moderately interventionist,” Chakar said. “Situations where the U.S. does need to jump in and help out. If we look over at the course of Israel, the U.S. is the key factor in ensuring Israel’s survival.”
Chakar added that he thinks it is important that the United States also establishes strong relationships with Palestine and other Arab nations, and works to promote democracy in the area.
On the Bruin Democrats’ side, Lyons said he thinks that the U.S. should maintain its current financial relationship with Israel, but that it should also increase spending on education in the U.S.
“I think America’s interests are best served in the Middle East by building America here at home,” Lyon said. “We’ve learned difficult lessons of stretching our capacities overseas.”
A major issue of contention between the two debaters focused on President Barack Obama’s foreign policies in the Middle East.
Chakar claimed that Obama’s involvement in Middle Eastern countries was analogous to a student going into a midterm without studying for it. He also criticized Obama by saying that he could not “balance his checkbook” or negotiate with the Republican Party.
“Obama’s handling of Middle East policies have been absolutely horrible,” Chakar said.
In response, Lyon said he thought that Obama’s handling of the U.S.-Israel relationship was the best it could be at the time, though many situations Obama dealt with were not ideal.
At different points of the debate, Chakar and Lyon mentioned the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Both suggested that Israelis and Palestinians reach a two-state solution.
In their closing remarks, the debaters said they wanted a safe and secure Israel, as well as peace in the region.
After the debate, some attendees said that they thought it was interesting.
“I was surprised at how civil the debate was; debates of these nature tend to be contentious,” said Adele Lhrar, a third-year political science major.
*View the original article by clicking here: The Daily Bruin
Submission: Refusing dialogue hinders progress in conflict resolution
Imagine a conversation in which one party starts by saying, “Sure, let’s talk. Just do me a favor: Agree with my positions in advance so that we can go ahead and start.”
Obviously, this makes no sense. One who expects to be heard must also be willing to listen. It’s basic quid pro quo. Gaining some mutual understanding is the only way to work through conflict while valuing the dignity of another.
Yet, this week, Bruin Plaza is occupied by a group which desperately wants your attention but has expressly stated an unwillingness to listen to divergent opinions. Their constitution states: “We (Students for Justice in Palestine) will not participate in collaborative or dialogue projects unless they are ‘based on unambiguous recognition of Palestinian rights and framed within the explicit context of opposition to occupation.’”
To be fair, members of Students for Justice in Palestine and their constitution argue that they believe that dialogue “normalizes” a situation which they feel should never be normalized. However, it’s speaking with others, in fact, that is understood to be normal human behavior.
We believe that college is the opportunity of a lifetime to grow personally, to learn and to tolerate – all while continuing to disagree. Surrounded by more than 40,000 students from more than 100 countries, this is the first opportunity most students have to personally engage individuals from nearly every category of diversity imaginable.
Engaging in conversation and cultivating genuine curiosity, as opposed to insisting upon dogmatic decree or debating, are essential to truly learning about our differences. Realizing that others have information and experiences different from one’s own is fundamental to creating a realistic portrait of our community and fostering a healthy campus climate.
It is true that Students for Justice in Palestine has called for debate. However, debate misses the point. Debate is characterized by contention, controversy and representational argument. It’s a forum for two sides with predetermined conclusions to make their best case, possibly educating the undecided in the process. But debate is not a mutual learning opportunity; only dialogue and listening can fill that purpose.
Conversely, a refusal to talk is a recipe for prejudice and a broken world. Furthermore, mocking dialogue, staging walkouts, delegitimizing causes and people themselves, and hissing or booing a speaker who has the floor are anathema to the university spirit, even when they are effective short-term political tactics.
We use “short-term” because, ultimately, in a society which values truth, these methods will never prevail. Those who believe that they have a monopoly on truth may be believed initially, but very few educated people take them seriously as the more complicated or nuanced “truth” comes to light.
Ironically, right now, Israeli and Palestinian representatives are speaking with each other daily in the pursuit of peace. Thus, we find ourselves confused by another line in SJP’s constitution, which states: “We as students in solidarity with Palestinians” refuse to engage in dialogue.
How can SJP be “in solidarity” with Palestinians, whose Palestinian Authority representatives are deliberately talking with Israelis, by not talking themselves? This begs a larger question for students on both sides of the conflict: Is it really possible to be in solidarity with two highly heterogeneous populations? Perhaps, in reality, none of us can actually represent much more than our own opinion.
It was the spirit of compromise, dialogue and mutual learning that led to an Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, shaking hands with Yasser Arafat, then-leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which launched the peace process more than 20 years ago.
Rabin considered Arafat to be a “terrorist and a murderer.” But to quote Rabin: “You don’t make peace with friends. You make it with very unsavory enemies.” The challenge of life isn’t getting along with friends – it’s learning to value and respect those with whom you disagree.
In the midst of writing this article, two leaders from SJP met with Rabbi Chaim Seidler Feller, an ardent promoter of peace at Hillel at UCLA, for more than two hours. It is our hope that this meeting represents a new openness not yet reflected in SJP’s constitution.
As joint signatories to this piece and individuals who are members of the staff and student leadership of Hillel at UCLA, Bruins for Israel and J Street U, we warmly welcome the opportunity to expand our knowledge by engaging in conversation and programming with all students on campus. And we welcome SJP’s call for an “honest pursuit of knowledge.” We simply challenge that an “honest pursuit” requires precisely the kind of dialogue and listening we have outlined above.
If you are part of the vast majority of curious or even passionate students on campus willing to have a dignified, transparent and accountable conversation – let’s get started!
*View the original article by clicking here: The Daily Bruin
Submission: USAC decision on conflict is disappointing
Last week, the Undergraduate Students Association Council considered a resolution entitled “A Resolution In Support of Positive Steps Towards an Israeli-Palestinian Peace.” The resolution recognized that “both the Jewish people and the Palestinian people have historical and cultural ties to the land” and “both the Jewish and Palestinian narratives regarding the land are substantial parts of each group’s self-identity.”
In light of the hostile campus environments created by divestment resolutions brought forth at other UC campuses, the resolution called for peaceful and respectful dialogue based on the UCLA principle that “healthy climate is grounded in respect for others, nurtured by dialogue between those of differing perspectives, and is evidenced by a pattern of civil interactions among community members.” Furthermore, the resolution called for positive investments in companies and ventures “that have spent time and resources on efforts to facilitate cooperative interaction between Israelis and Palestinians” in order to further promote and support cross-community collaboration.
The bill did not explicitly recognize Israel’s numerous and continuous attempts for peace, did not explicitly state solidarity with Israelis who have lived through terrorist attacks and did not condemn Palestinian rejection of previous attempts at peace. Nevertheless, I decided to support the bill as a member of the pro-Israel community. I felt that this bill represented a much-needed framework for the pro-Israel community, as activists and members of the larger campus community, to feel safe expressing our identities.
After long conversations and much compromise between council members on the language of the resolution, the final version of this bill stated that USAC respects and supports equally the expression of all voices on this campus regarding this issue. Furthermore, it stated that USAC would support a peacefully negotiated settlement to the conflict in a way that reflects its complex, multifaceted nature and that respects the rights to self-determination of both Palestinians and Israelis in their respective homelands. When the bill came for a vote at nearly 3 a.m., council struck it down: seven against, five in support, zero abstaining.
I am disappointed in the behavior of many of those who attended the meeting that made public comments. Not only did some of them use their time to demonize Israel in a historically inaccurate way, but many of those who stayed throughout the night did not even support the mildest nod toward acceptance of the Israeli narrative and Jewish nationhood and peoplehood.
I was ashamed to call myself a part of the UCLA community when members of the public, as well as a member of the council, called to recognize Hamas as a representative of the Palestinian people despite Hamas being recognized as a terrorist group by the United States, the European Union, Canada and Japan.Furthermore, Hamas is a group whose charter calls for the murder of Jews and the obliteration of Israel.
Rather than plant the seeds of peace and compromise on our campus as modeled by the growing peace talks between elected Israeli and Palestinian leadership, the council rejected the notion that the demonization of any one party involved in conflict is detrimental to the peace cause. The council gave a message to the UCLA community that rather than focus on coexistence and collaboration, both of which the resolution highlighted and sought to create, students should create an unsafe campus climate through the stigmatization of certain UCLA students and affiliates.
I am also extremely disappointed in the behavior of the council members in the room throughout the meeting. USAC claims to commit to the highest standards of respectability and accountability. But how can USAC claim to respect the rights and dignity of others when, as a council, it blatantly refused a resolution that acknowledged the rights of self-determination for both Israelis and Palestinians? With the denial of this resolution, how can council claim to be in support of coexistence and a healthy campus climate?
The council needs to reevaluate the implications of its decisions for all communities. It had the opportunity to foster a diverse and open-minded campus culture where students would feel comfortable expressing and exchanging ideas, while knowing that their governing body acknowledges the legitimacy of their homeland.
To many within the pro-Israel community, the denial of this resolution affirmed that our student government does not support Israel’s right to self-determination. To me, the rejection of this bill sends the message that USAC is not in support of respectful dialogue and peace. Last week’s council meeting made me feel uncomfortable sharing part of my identity with my own representative government, with whom I expect to be able to identify and share my concerns.
*View the original article by clicking here: The Daily Bruin
Dialogue dies: USAC disappoints, rejects peaceful discussion of Israeli-Palestinian conflict
This past Tuesday, after more than seven hours of deliberation and debate, USAC voted down a resolution (5-7-0) brought forth by Internal Vice President Avi Oved and sponsored by General Representative Sunny Singh and Academic Affairs Commissioner Darren Ramalho. The resolution called for something that should be inherent and unnecessary to ask for in a healthy campus climate: support for a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Arab conflict solely through considering legislation that represents the conflict’s “complex, multi-faceted nature” and the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians. The resolution also asked for the council’s further consideration of “financially sound” investments in various companies whose corporate policies and resources encourage economic growth and cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians.
The resolution was revolutionary in that — unlike the measures that opponents of the resolution and supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement call for, which stipulate resisting Israel’s “occupation” of Israeli lands partially populated by Arabs by any means possible — it assumed no sweeping declarations and no impossible (and ultimately ineffectual) calls to action. Instead, it simply proposed the following: to give due consideration to the conflict as a whole when faced with any resolution concerning this conflict. In the words of Tammy Rubin, Public Relations Director of Bruins for Israel, during the public forum segment of the meeting, “This resolution doesn’t stop BDS from coming. Rather, it forces both communities to think twice before blaming their fellow students for a conflict that even world leaders grapple with today.”
Among three hours of public comments, what stood out the most was not only the various (and often paradoxical, when compared to what ideas were being advocated) identities of the speakers, but also the stark contrast between the attitudes of supporters and opponents of the bills.
While those who supported the bill voiced their desire to work together for dialogue and investment in coexistence and — most importantly — strove to emphasize the recognition of hardship and loss on both sides, opponents refused to acknowledge any Israeli suffering or to even consider another side. Of course, this attitude makes sense to the educated listener — according to their constitution, Students for Justice in Palestine explicitly refuses to participate in any dialogue without the acceptance of every one of their numerous conditions, as detailed in Section 2, Guiding Principles. This is not a compromise, but the definition of aggressive coercion. The constitution states, “To that end, we as students in solidarity with Palestinians refrain from participating in projects that normalize the occupation. Specifically, we will not participate in collaborative or dialogue projects unless they are ‘based on unambiguous recognition of Palestinian rights and framed within the explicit context of opposition to occupation and other forms of Israeli oppression of the Palestinians.’”
Many representatives of minority groups (Mecha, ASU, etc.) talked about their own experiences of being oppressed — comments which not only seemed irrelevant to the present situation, as many of these representatives openly admitted to knowing little about the conflict in question, but also heavily implied a false equivalency between the “oppressions” of different groups, with different histories, in different regions and under vastly different circumstances.
“The Jews know a little something about oppression, the Holocaust was a mere 65 years ago,” said Rubin. But, unlike other commenters, she stressed: “Our suffering however is no less or more important than anyone else’s; a life is a life.” A few of these self-proclaimed champions of human rights also chose to ignore all (and numerous) Palestinian human rights violations, while alleging Israel human rights violations without evidence.
USAC President John Joanino was astoundingly ineffective at maintaining the level of respect necessary to conduct a public forum. While supporters of the resolution were cut off early by jeers from their opponents, opponents of the resolution, with whom Joanino visibly sympathized and only faintly attempted to control, received more than their allotted two minutes of speaking time.
Although opponents of the resolution claimed that dialogue was already present on campus, the public forum dynamic made it apparent that this was not the case. Opponents of the resolution sabotaged the free speech they allegedly supported, by categorically refusing to acknowledge the other side through interrupting, ridiculing, and cutting off the pro-resolution students. Many anti-resolution students advocated that the public forum was the necessary dialogue, though by disrespecting the other side, they undermined the principles of respect and mutual understanding that they claimed to already hold.
The resolution was a valiant effort to improve campus climate and create a safe space for all students, regardless of political opinions — but it might have been foolish to hope for support of a change in discourse from those who inherently oppose true dialogue on the subject.
*View the original article by clicking here: Ha’am UCLA’s Jewish Newsmagazine
USAC members, students debate controversial resolution
More than 100 students attended the undergraduate student government meeting Tuesday night to protest or voice their support for a resolution in support of a peaceful campus approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and investments in specific companies – a clause that angered many Palestinian students who support divestments.
As of press time, the Undergraduate Students Association Council had not voted on the resolution, though multiple councilmembers had expressed disapproval of the resolution’s text and the council had amended it multiple times.
Internal Vice President Avi Oved wrote the resolution, titled “A Resolution In Support of Positive Steps Towards an Israeli-Palestinian Peace.” The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a regional dispute about the occupation of the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian West Bank by the Israeli military.
The majority of students who participated in more than two hours of public comments at the meeting said they opposed parts of the resolution and thought it was divisive, despite its claim to promote a peaceful approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Rasha Howlader, a fourth-year electrical engineering student and member of Students for Justice in Palestine, said she opposed the resolution because she thinks it did not include the views of Palestinian students, many of whom support divestments, she said.
“Why weren’t actual Palestinian desires and demands accounted for (in this resolution?)” she asked. “(The conflict) goes beyond hurt feelings on a college campus and goes on to affect actual Palestinians’ lives.”
Other students who said they supported the resolution claimed that it would promote positive dialogue on campus, while allowing USAC to remain neutral on the issue.
“This resolution facilitates the opportunity for students to promote peace,” said Miriam Eshaghian, a fourth-year psychobiology student and the president of the student group Bruins for Israel.
The resolution brought to council Tuesday calls for USAC to solely consider legislation that represents the “complex, multi-faceted nature” of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and recognizes the rights of both groups. Oved said he wrote the resolution to encourage positive dialogue on campus and that the resolution does not call for USAC to take a side on the conflict or to speak on behalf of Israelis or Palestinians.
The resolution also asks the council to support investments by the Associated Students UCLA and the UCLA Fund in companies such as Sadara Ventures, Al-Bawader, Cisco Systems Inc., Microsoft Corp., Intel Corp. and Google Inc., since it claims that those companies have used their resources to promote cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians through their support of both groups’ economic growth.
Some of the students who opposed the resolution protested that it called for USAC to support investments in specific companies. The students said they supported divestment instead, and that, by supporting investment, councilmembers who voted for the resolution would be silencing the Palestinian community on campus and taking the option of divestment off the table for the future.
Students who said they were against the resolution also expressed anger that they were not included in the writing of the resolution. They said that if the resolution was meant to create dialogue, they should have been reached out to before the resolution was brought to council.
Oved said that he did not reach out to groups on either side of the conflict because the resolution addressed an issue personal to him and the resolution was not intended to speak on behalf of any campus group.
Some students from the region talked about hearing bullets and losing their friends and about continuing to have nightmares about the conflict and the violence that accompanies it.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has drawn large crowds to USAC meetings before. Last spring, more than 100 students also attended a meeting where council was set to vote on a controversial resolution about divestment.
At press time, council members were going through the resolution line by line and discussing their concerns, including clauses about the University of California Board of Regents and divestment.
*View the original article by clicking here: The Daily Bruin
Student Perspective on BFI Retreat
BFI’s first retreat of the year couldn’t deliver a better first impression on me. Going into it, I was honestly just looking to have a kickback weekend and hopefully learn what BFI is all about. I’m glad to say that my expectations were exceed above and beyond anything I could imagine. From the car ride up to Lake Arrowhead and all the way to the end, I felt like BFI created such a perfect social environment to share personal experiences about Israel that not a single moment of it felt forced. It was easy getting to know everyone and by the end, I felt I received both a relaxing weekend and a meaningful one all at once which is something rare and quite unique. All I have to say is that Bruins for Israel does have a great public statement on the surface but it’s what you uncover below the surface that will truly wow you.
-Tal Bendavid, Junior
Welcome to the Bruins for Israel blog
Check back again later for new posts!