More than 75 students crowded the meeting room at Kerckhoff on Tuesday night when the Undergraduate Students Association Council passed a humanitarian resolution calling for a cease-fire in the Gaza conflict by a vote of 8-2, with two councilmembers abstaining.
The resolution, titled “A Call for the Immediate End to the Recent Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza,” was sponsored by the UC Gaza Solidarity Coalition and called for “an immediate cessation of hostilities, resumption of the cease-fire and an end to the blockade of humanitarian aid.”
“The coalition began after the Dec. 27 attacks on Gaza when a group of us decided to come together to brainstorm what we can do,” said fourth-year philosophy student Bernice Shaw, a co-author of the resolution and former cultural affairs commissioner.
“We contacted other UC campuses to conjoin our efforts because the UC education system is one of the largest in the nation and we expect to garner widespread national attention,” Shaw added.
According to members of Bruins for Israel who attended the meeting, the resolution failed to acknowledge the humanitarian crisis in southern Israel in addition to the crisis in Gaza. The resolution also did not include a clause about Israel’s right to defend its citizens.
For these reasons, Bruins for Israel did not endorse the final amended resolution.
At one point, it was suggested that the issue was outside the campus community and USAC’s jurisdiction.
USAC President Homaira Hosseini refuted such claims and commended students for wanting to take a stance.
“Saying that council has no right to address this issue is demeaning,” Hosseini said. “Students can take initiative because students have a voice.”
UCLA became the first and only university in the country to pass such a resolution, but other University of California campuses across the state are expected to follow, Shaw said.
“Our goal was to start this resolution at UCLA and hopefully create a domino effect,” she added.
At the time council voted on the resolution, it had received endorsements from 34 student groups on campus including Students for Justice in Palestine, the United Arab Society and the Muslim Student Association.
Bruins for Israel representatives voiced concerns about bias pertaining to the contents of the original resolution.
“Whether on purpose or accidentally, this resolution excludes certain parts of the student body,” said fourth-year biology student Alex Kandel, a member of Bruins for Israel. “Most of the resolution is politically biased.”
The resolution was thought by Bruins for Israel to be one-sided due to language directing blame toward Israel, language later omitted from the final resolution after intense negotiations.
“We shouldn’t be able to tell who wrote the resolution, but this is 100 percent biased and 100 percent unfair,” said Lauren Rosenthal, a third-year English student and member of Bruins for Israel.
Members of Bruins for Israel also stated that they heard about the resolution only two hours before the USAC meeting through an e-mail in which the resolution was not attached.
“More groups should have been notified and earlier,” said first-year computer science student Dana Sadgat, a member of Bruins for Israel. “A resolution this sensitive must have input from the other side.”
The coalition sent out the e-mails 23 hours before the USAC meeting, but Bruins for Israel probably checked their e-mail two hours before,” Shaw said in response to the allegations that the coalition willfully withheld the resolution.
Administrative representatives stepped in as moderators during the heated debate that took place between both sides.
“I find no mention of the random rocket attacks on Israeli towns and villages,” said Rick Tuttle, an administrative representative. “Any reader would look at this and say “˜my gosh.'”
Although there were many who opposed the passing of the resolution, most of the students who attended the meeting were there in support of it.
“It’s unfortunate that it takes such a crisis in Gaza for both sides to have dialogue,” said third-year political science and international development studies student Salomon Hossein. “It’s about time the rocket fire and killings stop from both sides for the sake of innocents caught in between.”
Both sides agreed, however, that open communication was critical in coming to a mutual understanding.
“There can’t be peace without talking,” said fourth-year psychobiology student Ali-Amin Eddebbarh who was among those in attendance.
Representatives from Bruins for Israel said that they were willing to have further dialogue.
“We want dialogue, not debate,” said Shirley Eshaghian, president of Bruins for Israel.
The discussion at the council meeting, moderated by Hosseini, centered between council members, authors of the resolution and general comments from students present.
In order to more effectively deliberate amendments to the resolution, a motion was taken to move the meeting to a quieter setting with representatives from each side to allow for a constructive compromise.
“It was very close,” Nelson said about both sides coming to an agreement to endorse the resolution together.
The large turnout for the USAC meeting did not go unnoticed. The unprecedented number of students in attendance showed the importance the ongoing crisis to UCLA students on campus.
“I’ve been here many years and I’ve never seen this room so full with so many students who are concerned,” said Berky Nelson, an administrative representative.
“The turnout is a testament to the reality of the situation as well as to the move toward peace with a humanitarian resolution,” said fourth-year international development studies student Sabrin Said, among those in attendance.
“Tonight was not about enemies. It was about mutual discussion and understanding,” Nelson said. “I was very proud to see the unity and how everyone handled themselves.”
After Hosseini announced the passing of the resolution, applause was heard from around the room.
In an emotional statement after the final vote, USAC Internal Vice President Evan Shulman said, “I’ve never seen anything like this. It was inspiring. … It was beautiful.”