Tension Surfaces at Pro-Israel Rally at UCLA With Pro-Palestinian Protesters

The event, spearheaded by the Israeli-American Council and several other Jewish organizations, was headlined by ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt and IAC Executive Director Elan Carr.
April 29, 2024
Thousands of pro-Israel counter protesters at Royce Quad at UCLA (Photo by Brian Fishbach)

Thousands of people attended a pro-Israel rally at UCLA’s Dickson Court on April 28 in support of Jewish students, as they came face to face with a pro-Palestinian encampment. The event, spearheaded by the Israeli-American Council and several other Jewish organizations, was headlined by Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt and IAC Executive Director Elan Carr.

There were some tense moments with pro-Palestinian demonstrators. At one point, pro-Israel demonstrators chanted, “Show your face!” at pro-Palestinian protesters who entered the area designated for the pro-Israel rally. Some pro-Palestinian protesters could be seen locking arms and forming a circle inside the pro-Israel protest area. Scuffles reportedly broke out between the two sides.

Reports circulated on social media that a Jewish woman was assaulted by pro-Palestinian protesters and that pro-Israel protesters were pepper-sprayed by pro-Palestinian protesters.

Mary Osako, vice chancellor of strategic communications at UCLA, said in a statement to the Journal, “UCLA has a long history of peaceful protest, and we are heartbroken to report that today, some physical altercations broke out among demonstrators on Royce quad. We have since instituted additional security measures and increased the numbers of our safety team members on site.

“As an institution of higher education, we stand firmly for the idea that even when we disagree, we must still engage respectfully and recognize one another’s humanity. We are dismayed that certain individuals instead chose to jeopardize the physical safety of the community.”

None of the altercations disrupted speeches and a subsequent dance party at the pro-Israel rally continued unabated, as pro-Israel demonstrators waved American and Israeli flags.

“Look at this scene,” Greenblatt declared to the hundreds of pro-Israel rallygoers. “They wear masks, we wear our hearts on our sleeve. They hide behind signs, we wave our flags proudly. Because they know that in the end, they’re evil and their fascism will not win and we know, Am Yisrael Chai.” He then led demonstrators in an “Am Yisrael Chai!” chant.

Entrepreneur Lee Trink (left) plays the shofar while sharing stage with Elan Carr (Photo by Brian Fishbach)

Carr proclaimed that antisemitism is “the very exemplar of hatred for America.” “Don’t we see it clearly today?” Carr asked. “Looked at our enemies there, and look at our enemies here. It’s about destroying, it’s about tearing down, it’s about preventing discussion, it’s about standing against American values. We are here waving American and Israeli flags because we are proud of our country.”

Carr vowed that “antisemitism will not win” and that “we will take back our streets. We will take back our campuses … the future of the United States depends on it. We are at a crossroads: do we want a country filled with light and freedom and love, or do we want a country captured by a cult of death?”

UCLA Hillel Executive Director Dan Gold lauded the Jewish students as being “brilliant” and “resilient … In moments like this, when they’re feeling uneasy, when they see chaos on their campus, when they see lies that are told, and rules that are broken and unchecked, it’s important that they see they have a community that is resilient and brilliant and loud and proud,” he said. “We know that we are on the right side of history.”

Gold added that “this monstrosity behind us” — referencing the encampment — as being “unacceptable” and not being representative of “our community and our university … We will not let our own education be impeded, and we will definitely not let our ability to be Jewish and to be proud Zionists be questioned by anybody,” Gold declared.

Responding to the story that a rabbi at Columbia University urged Jewish students to stay home, Jewish student Eli Tsives shouted from the stage “Here at UCLA, we showed the world something extraordinary: Just this Thursday, when the encampments went up, the Jewish Bruins showed no fear … We stood and rallied with our flags held high and our banners saying, ‘Am Yisrael Chai,’ the people of Israel live!”

He proclaimed that “today, UCLA stands as a beacon of hope to all Jewish students around the world. We have demonstrated that fear has no foothold in our minds against the protesters inside the encampments, whose agenda is fueled with animosity and calls for violence. Our strength and resilience will shine through their bigotry and prove that solidarity and courage will stem the tide against unwarranted hatred.”

UCLA student Eli Tsives (Photo by Brian Fishbach)

Another student, Arielle Zvingler, the daughter of Israeli immigrants and granddaughter of Holocaust survivors and a fellow at the IAC, said that the Jewish students appreciated the turnout of support on that day. “I am saddened to see that the same Jew-hatred that my family has experienced for generations has become normalized here,” she said. “Jewish students are being ostracized in classrooms and on campus and many friends of mine have felt the need to conceal their identities to avoid discrimination. I am unapologetically proud to be Jewish and to be standing with Israel.”

Zvingler explained that she served as a combat medic instructor and commander in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and that while serving she swore an oath “to extend a helping hand to the wounded and the sick, whether or common or distinguished, friend or foe, to each with respect … Israel has always honored the sanctity of human life, which is a value pervasive in the IDF and in Jewish culture,” she said. “Propaganda has convinced the masses that Zionism is evil and that Jews are evil by proxy. Right here in Royce Quad, we can see the signs that say ‘Death to Zionists’ and comparisons of the IDF to groups such as [the] KKK. Hating Jews has become a trend again, and this time it’s disguised as support for peace.”

She added: “The pattern seems all too familiar, but this time we are no longer Jews with trembling knees, and we will not be silenced.”

California Assembly Democratic Caucus Chair Rick Chavez Zbur, whose district includes UCLA, also spoke; he contended that the antiwar demonstrations against the Vietnam War that he participated in “were very different from what we’re seeing today … I support genuine peace movements, but these rallies, we’re hearing calls for the bombing and burning of Tel Aviv, acts of terrorism and the ethnic cleaning of Jews from Israel. That is not peace,” he said.

Zbur argued that the ongoing Israel-Hamas war could end tomorrow if Hamas simply released all the hostages and “laid down their arms … I want the majority of students who really just want peace to realize they’re being misled and exploited by extremely dangerous groups, groups that absolutely do not share our values, who are capitalizing on this moment to further their real agenda,” he said. “They are not just calling for the end of war, the leaders want to eliminate the one Jewish state. Let me be clear: Hamas is an antisemitic, anti-LGBTQ, misogynistic terror organization. Their stated goal is not just the destruction of the state of Israel, but the death of all Jews.”

He added that he’s “deeply saddened by many protesters’ disregard for the suffering of Jewish and Israeli victims of Oct. 7, many of whom were happy young people just like the students here today. The Nova music festival was not too different from our own Coachella, which many UCLA students attended just last weekend. How can so many be unmoved by the stories of young women brutally raped and mutilated, kids gunned down, families ripped apart, and so many kidnapped and paraded through the streets? Can those who are glorifying and celebrating Hamas on Oct. 7 really see these other people as less human than them?”

Zbur concluded by stating that “your state assemblymember and your state government stands with Jewish students and the Jewish community.”

Left to right – Actress Amanda Markowitz, influencer Elaine Chaya, author Samantha Ettus, entrepreneur Lee Trink were among the thousands gathered at Royce Quad (Photo by Brian Fishbach)

StandWithUs CEO and Co-Founder Roz Rothstein told the crowd that she “was just blocked literally and pushed on this very campus. Where is the administration?”  Rothstein declared that Israel will remain standing “long after” the encampments and protests end, and drew attention to her shirt that stated, “We will dance again.” “Today, we are dancing,” she declared.

The rally concluded with Israeli dance music; a couple of people blew shofars into the microphone during it. Other speakers included Chabad House @ UCLA Rabbi Dovid Gurevich, Jewish Faculty Resilience Group at UCLA Co-Chair Dr. Elina Veytsman and the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles Senior Vice President for Community Engagement Joanna Mendelson.

Beverly Hills Vice Mayor Sharona Nazarian, who attended the rally, told the Journal that “it’s extremely important to stand in solidarity with our students right now. No student should feel threatened to be able to go to school. Every student has a right to be able to go to school freely and not feel afraid.”

Calabasas Mayor Alicia Weintraub, who also attended the rally, told the Journal that “the fact that this area is closed off to the public is truly unspeakable. This campus should be open to everyone, and the fact that they are not letting Jewish people walk through that area to get here is truly abhorrent. And as an alumni, and someone that has supported this university for years, they should be ashamed of themselves.” Weintraub added that she felt safe when she went to school at UCLA, but now “the university has truly gone off the deep end to allow this to continue to occur” as she pointed to the encampment.

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