Friday, February 28

Submission: Israeli-Palestinian solution requires cooperation

I have found myself fortunate enough to witness more perspectives on the Israel-Palestine dynamic than most students. I am the external president of the Olive Tree Initiative at UCLA, a conflict analysis and education group. My branch, which focuses on the Israel-Palestine conflict, holds a three-week diplomatic trip to Washington, D.C., Israel, Jordan and the West Bank each summer. We have a packed itinerary and meet with over 80 diplomats, politicians, nongovernmental organizations, religious figures and people on the ground. In addition, I am a campus engagement initiative intern for Hillel, the primary Jewish institution on campus, as well as a board member for Amnesty International at UCLA.

I am not writing on behalf of any of these organizations, but as a concerned individual. I am writing because the respective pro-Palestine and pro-Israel groups on campus actively alienate one another rather than addressing key concerns shared by both parties. Last week, the Undergraduate Students Association Council voted on a resolution that demanded the University of California and UCLA divest from five American companies that profit from the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. While I heard incredibly racist remarks about Palestinians, I also saw genuine fear regarding the true intentions of theBoycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. Although the resolution stated that it was not associated with BDS, that claim certainly was unpersuasive to the pro-Israel community.

The BDS movement is problematic because it does not reject the anti-Semitic statements made on its behalf. Students for Justice in Palestine is even unwilling to reprimand the movement when it goes against their stated position of rejecting “all forms of discrimination and oppression, including racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia.”

Recently, SJP hosted an event with one BDS founder, Omar Barghouti, who remarked to his audiencethat “There were Jews in every main position of power in Nazi Germany. So what? It was still a criminal, genocidal regime.” Although he condemns the Nazi regime, Barghouti’s assertion is a blatant lie and perpetuates the falsehood that Jews are responsible for the Holocaust. Instead of condemning these anti-Semitic remarks, SJP issued a statement rejecting that Barghouti said anything remotely offensive.

A common argument among SJP members is that one individual, even the founder of the movement, does not represent their entire movement. But by their refusal to condemn these anti-Semitic statements from withintheir own community, they are complicit in their perpetuation. As someone whopraises SJP’s commitment toprogressivism and inclusivity, I urge SJP to create a more inclusive environment for Jewish studentsat UCLA, just as they do for so many others. The fight for Palestinian rights should not be an attack on Jewish identity.

Concurrently,the pro-Israel and Jewish communities at UCLA have not made any attempts to seriously address the treatment of Palestinians in the region. Although a few Jewish students are active in the human rights discourse (some of whom spoke in favor of divestment), none of them are representative of the mainstream community that acts as the voice of pro-Israel advocacy on our campus.

As the situation stands, Bruins for Israel only addresses the conflict from the defensive line. If pro-Israel studentstruly want what is best for Israel, they must condemn any action that perpetuates the conflict, even if that means criticizing Israeli policies. As Mark Twain once said, “Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.” Jewish people have long been at the forefront of the movementfor human rights; human rights for Palestinians are no different.

We need dialogue and education, divestment and action. The division between the divestment bill and BDS can only become clear if the resolution not only disassociates, but actively condemns the BDS movement. While one of the greatest fears in the Jewish community is that a divestment bill would empower anti-Semitism, it is still vastly more important that the pro-Israel community prove that it is serious about advocating for both Palestinian and Jewish self-determination and for the freedom of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.

The divestment question should be placed on the spring election ballot for USAC. With elections approaching, this is the most democratic way of communicating what the entire campus wants, rather than 13 councilmembers.

We as a campus should divest from companies that violate Palestinian human rights while denouncing BDS for its failure to reprimand core members for anti-Semitic remarks. Although passing such a resolution would not ensure that the UC Board of Regents will actually divest from these companies, it would send a powerful message that UCLA students with interests on all sides of the conflict are not content with the status quo and that they demand an end to the occupation, an end to illegal settlements in the West Bank, and are committed to peace. Let’s put ourselves on the right side of history.

Winer is a second-year history student.

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  • mxm123

    What Yyone Winer want is BDS and its supporters to become an “Apologize Repent and Go Away” organization. Does she uphold the Hillel and other pro-Israeli organizations to the same standard ? Absolutely not. Never heard of racist statements from Israelis like Avigdor Lieberman and Naftali Bennet.

    Nice way to deflect from the message of the BDS to make the BDS the message. Why because the BDS message is succeeding. Time to kill the messenger and its “inconvenient” message. “Anti-Semitism” is a canard used by pro-Israeli organizations and their shills to avoid any discussion of the Israeli settlement pogrom.

    • Dismantle USAC

      Oh please, both sides suck. There are many Palestinians leaders who call Jews things like pigs, and monkeys, etc. What people like you want is the wiping out of Israel and the killing of Jews, all in the cloak of “human rights”. Disgusting.

      • mxm123

        A poster child example of persons who use strawman arguments to avoid discussion of Israeli apartheid.

  • Larissa Martinez

    From my own point of view, I believe that this has brought up issues that even both organizations don’t touch upon, which is the failure to co-operate and discuss. During both USAC votes, the dialogue and the recent divestment issue, there were a lot of racist and relentless comments made by BOTH sides. We must remember that we are all students of UCLA, and the fact that we may be part of one community does not necessarily define us. Meaning that just because someone is from Palestine doesn’t mean that they are terrorist or if they are Jewish that they are pro-Israel. Yvonne has done something that has yet to be done, educate me on the issues of BOTH organizations. I have seen presentations from both SJP and Bruins for Israel and neither touched upon an actual plan of action of cooperation in order for BOTH groups to have a safe campus climate. In the end, this is my opinion and I already know that many will not agree with what I say but as someone who is not as familiar as Yvonne on the Israel-Palestine conflict, that this is the message that both organizations has failed to convey to me.

    • Dismantle USAC

      I agree. No one should assume that just because someone is from Palestine, doesn’t mean they aren’t Pro-Israel. Just because someone is Jewish doesn’t mean they are anti-Palestine or anti-Muslim.

  • Dismantle USAC

    Conspiracy nut job alert!!

    Dude, get out into the real world. No, Ron Paul is not an Illumanti stooge, and 9/11 was NOT an in inside job.

    What the author should have included is that Hitler found certain Muslims to serve in the Waffen SS because both shared hatred of Jews.

  • Yvonne Lilian

    Thanks for the feedback. I actually did a year-long fellowship at the Holocaust Center in San Francisco a couple years ago, so I’m pretty well versed in Holocaust history.

    I’m not denying that some individual Jews were affiliated with the third Reich. Your reference to Erhard Milch is fine. I am protesting, however, Barghouti’s exact statement: that there were Jews in every main position of power in Nazi Germany. If not a blatant lie, this is at the very least misguiding, racist hyperbole.

    In my fellowship, we learned how Rigg has been criticized by many academics (Hilberg, Cesarani, etc.) as being sensationalistic and unrepresentative. The entire purpose of his work is not to accurately catalogue history, but to write in a way that will sell the most copies.

    In addition, “The subjects of Rigg’s study were not Jewish. With but a few exceptions, they were Jewish neither by their own identity, by Jewish religious law, nor Nazi laws. That is, the very existence of the legal category “Mischling” means that even the Nazis recognized that Jewish ancestry was not always the dominant factor in defining Jewishness. The curiosity of Jews fighting for Nazi Germany, a teaser implied by the book’s title, is therefore misleading. These “Jewish soldiers” were self-identified Germans, many of them Nazi party members, a number of them even “proud” anti-semites. According to Jeremy Noakes’s 1989 seminal essay (upon which Rigg bases his work), less than 10 percent of first degree “Mischlinge” and only 1.2 percent of second degree “Mischlinge” considered themselves Jewish.[1] It is disappointing that Rigg does not explore the nature of their identity beyond Nazi legal definitions. While acknowledging that the term “Mischling” itself is derogatory, Rigg himself consistently uses it throughout his book. The use of the term, especially without quotation marks, strikes me not only as glaring but also as an uncritical ascription of identity” (

    I think the strongest argument against Rigg is self-definition. If the ‘mischling’ actually considered themselves Jewish then Barghouti’s claim would be correct. While a few Jews were in the Nazi Germany military, ‘every main position of power’ demeans from the overall experience and systematic oppression of being a Jew during the Holocaust.

    Bringing it back to Barghouti, let’s look at the context in which he said his statement. He compared that there are arabs in the knesset, but that doesn’t relieve arabs from the systematic oppression against them (true). But by creating a parallel that Jews were in all the highest positions of Nazi Germany, he is 1. Inaccurate, because they weren’t in all the highest positions 2. When the information is manipulated this way, it shifts the blame from the Nazis to the Jews. This is anti-semitic.

    I had to cut down on this op-ed from 1200 to 800 words, so I apologize that I was not able to go into further detail.

  • garyfouse

    First of all, the statement is at best misleading, but more accurately demonstrably false and absurd on its face. Shortly after Hitler came to power, Jews were removed from government and the universities. I don’t know what main position of power he is talking about (Nazi Party, SA, SS, Gestapo?). In the comment thread, one reader defends Barghouti’s comment by referencing German Field Marshal Erhard Milch, whose father was Jewish. That is true as to Milch, who managed to serve in the German Army in the Third Reich as well as a few other “Mischlinge”. To use Milch, however, to defend Barghouti’s claim is preposterous. There were different degrees of Mischlinge depending on family background with varying degrees of discrimination under the Nazi racial laws. To the Nazis, it was about race, not religion. The Nazis considered the Jews a an inferior race. Even full Jews who had converted to Christianity were considered Jews and sent off to the death camps.

    And in case Barghouti was thinking of Alfred Rosenberg, he was not a Jew in spite of his name.

    As to concentration camp guards, was he referring to the Kapos, who were prisoners who were put to work by the actual guards to help supervise other prisoners? These included Jewish Kapos at death camps like Auschwitz. Those were eventually killed as well after a few weeks or months.

    Omar Barghouti is a dissembler, albeit a clever one at that. He poses as a human rights activist, but is anything but. What he is working for is the destruction of the Jewish state of Israel. When you consider these misstatements you must wonder what else he is misstating.

  • garyfouse

    As a part-time teacher at UC Irvine, I have witnessed first-hand the atmosphere of intimidation that the anti-Israel week of events brings to our campus in regards to many Jewish students. I also feel that the Olive Tree Initiative is slanted to the Palestinian narrative and view with alarm the fact that many of the Palestinian tour guides have ties to the International Solidarity Movement (George S and George N Rishmawi among others.)

    What I want to highlight, however, is that this issue has helped bring about a resurgence in world-wide anti-Semitism that is once again bringing back the old canards about Jews-aside from the question of Israel itself. The focal point of this resurgence is on our university campuses. Some of the speakers who have come to UCI have crossed the line from anti-Israel (and anti-American) speech into downright anti-Jewish speech. (Amir Abdel Malik Ali, Mohammed al Asi and Abdul Alim Musa). In 2001, Al Asi told the audience, “You can take the Jew out of the ghetto, but you can’t take the ghetto out of the Jew.” In 2008, the so-called Apartheid Wall had a drawn caricature of Ariel Sharon in the style of Julius Streicher’s Der Stuermer, the anti-Semitic Nazi newspaper of the Third Reich. I am not a Jew, but I know my history and I see the 1930s in Europe repeating itself. Ask any Jew who lives in Europe today (what few there are). They are leaving by the tens of thousands. Does anybody care?

    If you are neutral students, do you not ask why so much time, energy and resources have to be spent by university student governments on this BDS issue? Why is this Israeli-Palestinian issue the number one issue of contention on campuses everywhere? Why is there no call for divestment from Syria, Sudan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia etc.? Do you ever wonder who pays for people like Omar Barghouti to literally travel the world with their propaganda? Maybe you should ask some of these leftist professors who use the classroom as their soapbox to try and tell you what you should believe about the world.

    There are so many human rights abuses going on around the world. Are you aware of what is happening to the Christians in the Middle East as we speak? Yet it seems everyone is silent.

    Barghouti is a skillful propagandist ( I have heard him twice) who uses all the human rights buzzwords. Yet he represents a hateful side that will never accept any Jewish presence in the Middle East.