The UCLA student government passed a resolution on March 3 alleging that the Israeli government is committing “ethnic cleansing” against the Palestinians.
The Journal obtained a copy of the resolution, titled “A Resolution Calling for the UC to Divest from War.” The resolution called for the University of California system to divest from “the war industry” and for “the university to sever itself from companies that engage or aid in the oppression of any people.”
But what Jewish groups and students have taken issue with is that the resolution states that divestment is a legitimate tool to fight against injustice, citing “South African apartheid” and “ethnic cleansing in Palestine by the Israeli government.” The resolution also promotes the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) resolution passed by the UCLA student government in 2014.
“We had no idea this resolution was coming up, and were not alerted by anyone ahead of time,” Aaron Ahdoot, president of Bruins for Israel Public Affairs Committee at UCLA, told the Journal. “The language of the resolution was not released ahead of the council meeting, making it impossible for any of the students to speak out on it.”
He added that the resolution apparently passed with a unanimous vote. “My sense is that many of the councilmembers likely didn’t think much about the impact of the resolution. Palestine was listed among many other conflicts, and with a general consensus that ‘war’ is a bad thing, they weren’t going to oppose it, especially at these meetings that can run many hours long.”
Rabbi Aaron Lerner, Executive Director of Hillel at UCLA, wrote in an email to community members that the resolution “follows the familiar pattern of seeking to delegitimize Israel within broader language. The resolution was deliberately hidden from Jewish students, preventing them from engaging in the debate.”
Lerner argued that pro-Israel students have been largely been victorious in the battles against anti-Israel forces on campus since 2015, pointing to how UCLA Chancellor Gene Block as well as the UC Regents have spoken out against the BDS movement.
“In this context, it’s not surprising that the resolution’s proponents hid it from Jewish and pro-Israel student leaders by not releasing the language ahead of time, preventing us from countering their inaccurate and one-sided rhetoric,” Lerner wrote. “The passage of such a resolution is invalid and antidemocratic.”
“The passage of such a resolution is invalid and antidemocratic.”
He concluded: “We will continue to share our love for our ancestral homeland, and even engage in dialogue about its imperfections. We will not, however, accept vitriolic attempts to delegitimize and destroy the nation we yearned for over the past two millennia.”
Judea Pearl, chancellor professor of Computer Science at UCLA, National Academy of Sciences member and Daniel Pearl Foundation president, said in a statement to the Journal that the resolution “raises an interesting question: Is the use of slanderous and defamatory language against a cherished identity symbol for thousands of students on campus compatible with the norms of respectful discourse that UCLA aspires to set on campus?”
Other Jewish groups also condemned the resolution.
“StandWithUs is extremely disappointed by the passage of this deeply misleading resolution promoting BDS at UCLA,” StandWithUs CEO and Co-Founder Roz Rothstein said in a statement to the Journal. “We condemn BDS activists for pushing this vote secretly behind the backs of Jewish and pro-Israel students in order to avoid an open debate about their hateful agenda. We stand with Jewish and pro-Israel students as they push back against this underhanded attempt to marginalize the Jewish students on campus and delegitimize the only Jewish state in the world. We call on UCLA’s administration to strongly condemn and reject these efforts.”
AMCHA Initiative Director Tammi Rossman-Benjamin similarly said in a statement to the Journal, “Consistent with their relentless campaign of anti-Jewish harassment, intimidation and bullying, SJP [Students for Justice in Palestine] and their fellow travelers are, once again, trying to prevent Jewish and pro-Israel students from expressing their identity and views and fully participating in campus life. This is a blatant violation of the Regents Principles Against Intolerance, which explicitly prohibit behavior that interferes with the ability of an individual or group to assemble, speak and share or hear the opinions of others.” Rossman-Benjamin was among those spearheading the campaign to get the UC Regents to adopt the Principles Against Intolerance.
“Chancellor Block must speak out against this shameful behavior and ensure the rights of Jewish pro-Israel students and all students, to freely express their beliefs and identity, free from the threat of harassment, bullying and intimidation. This is a basic right that must be afforded to every student on a university campus.”
Ricardo Vazquez, Director of Media Relations at UCLA, said in a statement to the Journal, “The UC system, including UCLA, has repeatedly expressed opposition to boycotting, sanctioning or divesting from Israeli institutions and remains firmly committed to that position.”
UCLA SJP, one of the groups that co-sponsored the resolution, celebrated its passage in an Instagram post, calling on the university to divest “from Israeli colonization and occupation of Palestine.”
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The UCLA student government did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment.
UPDATE: On March 5, the UCLA student government sent an apology to Hillel at UCLA over the resolution being “inadvertently hidden from the Jewish community and the public at large” and that the student government will make sure it doesn’t happen again.
“Going forward we hope to work with student leaders in Hillel and in all spaces on campus to ensure that USAC [UCLA Students Association Council] is a safe space for debate and dialogue on important issues on our agendas,” they wrote.