By Brian Khorshad
The passage of the UC Student Association’s resolution regarding HR 35 bypassed democratic processes and omitted Jewish students from dialogue over legislation directly concerning their community. In doing so, UCSA members turned a discussion about free speech into a democratic debacle.
Last month, the representative body released a resolution rejecting California Assembly bill HR 35, a piece of legislation seeking to quell anti-Semitic activity on college campuses.
The UCSA resolution condemns the state of Israel as a violator of international human rights law, encouraging all institutions of higher education to “cleanse” themselves of investments with the nation. Not only was the process itself undemocratic, but the resolution falls far outside the scope of the UCSA’s stated goals.
To begin with, no representatives of the Jewish campus community attended the meeting. Not until the day of the vote did Arielle Gabai, president of the UC Berkeley Jewish Student Union, even hear of the meeting. Furthermore, the hearing took place on the Sabbath, which happened to fall a day before the Jewish New Year of Rosh Hashanah, impeding members of the Jewish community from attending.
By blatantly omitting the Jewish narrative from dialogue over the resolution, the UCSA failed to garner a truly collective voice on this divisive issue.
Not only did members of Students for Justice in Palestine present their side, but they also received wind of the resolution back in August. In an email cited by the Daily Californian, a member of UC Berkeley’s Students for Justice in Palestine stated that talk of the resolution was avoided to prevent “unwanted lobbying” on the issue.
Subversive behavior like this demonstrates a complete undermining of the democratic process.
The UCSA unfairly sided on an issue that has historically divided campuses. In doing so, it not only marginalized many Jewish students systemwide, but it also delegitimized its own credibility as a representative student organization.
Laden with loaded words and factual errors, the decree is impermissible as a government resolution.
As the document continues, it accuses Israel of being an apartheid state. Yet, Israel has never institutionalized the systematic oppression of any racial group within its borders. In point of fact, Arabs residing in Israel receive human and civil rights not provided to minorities in neighboring Middle Eastern nations.
Arab Israelis have citizenship in the country and also maintain the right to vote in elections. Several members of the Knesset and Israel’s Supreme Court are Arab Israelis. Israel recognizes Arabic as one of the nation’s official languages. Arabic school and newspapers even receive state funding to ensure the cultural vitality of its minority citizens.
The resolution closes by encouraging all institutions of higher learning to divest from countries violating international human rights laws, in effect condemning Israel. For the UCSA, an organization supposedly focused on increasing the “accessibility, affordability and quality of the UC system,” this call to arms does nothing of the sort.
In one action, the UCSA surpassed the scope of its responsibilities while marginalizing students who support Israel. The organization has disenfranchised a considerable portion of its constituency, and the responsibility falls to UC campus representatives to rectify the situation. The UCSA should focus on advocating for students of the University of California, not making schismatic declarations on international relations.
Khorshad is a third-year international development studies student, vice budget review director for the Undergraduate Students Association Council and public relations chair of Bruins for Israel.