Several Jewish students launched a new UCLA chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace, an organization dedicated to stopping Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, this week.
Students formed the new chapter after the Undergraduate Students Association Council voted down a controversial resolution in February calling for UCLA and the University of California to divest from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank.
The group consists of some students who were disillusioned by the views of different Jewish groups on campus during the divestment resolution discussion at the USAC meeting, said Jacob Manheim, a third-year geology student and a member of the board of directors of the new club chapter.
“They were not representative of the diverse views within the Jewish community,” Manheim said.
Jewish Voice for Peace is a national organization that has about 140,000 members worldwide and about 40 groups nationwide, Manheim said.
About six members are part of the new chapter since it became an officially registered student group on Monday.
The organization is all-inclusive, and currently consists of Jewish students who support divestment as well as students involved in human rights organizations. Students in Jewish Voice for Peace are also involved in Students for Justice in Palestine and Amnesty International.
Gabriel Levine, a fifth-year mathematics and economics student and a member of the Jewish Voice for Peace board of directors, said the organization hopes to create a safe space for Jewish students who want to stand in solidarity for Palestinian human rights.
This week, Levine and other members of Jewish Voice for Peace handed out flyers and tabled on Bruin Walk to inform students about the group and campaign for a boycott against the companies Soda Stream and Ahava, a soda and a cosmetics company, respectively.
Both companies have settlements in the West Bank, which group members think violates human rights laws.
Ryland Lu, a fourth-year history and global studies student and former Daily Bruin opinion columnist, joined Jewish Voice for Peace when he heard about the organization’s stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Lu said he wanted to join an organization that would openly support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. Lu attended the USAC divestment meeting in February, which convinced him that UCLA and the UC should divest.
Another goal of Jewish Voice for Peace is to counter the idea of a monolithic Jewish community and take a progressive approach to exploring Jewish identity, Manheim said.
Jewish Voice for Peace has also held reading groups to discuss human rights issues.
Next week, the organization plans to read blogs and articles related to Jewish identity and the history of Jewish involvement in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
Manheim said there has been some informal student pushback against the organization.
Some students on Bruin Walk have approached members of Jewish Voice for Peace at their table and expressed disagreement with their message. However, Manheim said he does not think the conversations have been negative.
“We value that there is more dialogue within the Jewish community about these pressing issues,” Manheim said.
The next meeting for Jewish Voice for Peace will be a mixer to introduce the organization’s policies and goals as well as learn about members and why they are part of the organization. The meeting will be Thursday, April 17 at a location to be determined.