Tuesday, January 21

Submission: Daily Bruin should have disclosed authors’ link to Hasbara

On Feb. 25, the Daily Bruin published an op-ed entitled “Divestment promotes anti-Israeli movement,” written by Avinoam Baral, Tammy Rubin and Miriam Eshaghian. Although I personally do not agree with the political viewpoints endorsed by the authors, I find it more problematic that the three are participants in the Hasbara Fellowships program, and that the Daily Bruin failed to publicly disclose this information to its readership.

Co-sponsored by the state of Israel, Hasbara Fellowships are awarded biannually to students on college campuses nationwide, with the stated goal of “empower[ing] a community of pro-Israel university students to have strategic impact for Israel on their campuses.”

Since the program’s initiation in 2001, thousands of Hasbara Fellows have been flown to Israel, where they undergo “intensive Israel activism education,” and subsequently “return to their campuses as strategic thinkers, organizational leaders and innovative advocates, dedicated to the positive portrayal of Israel on campus.” Importantly, the program costs include a $250 refundable deposit, which is returned to the participant only “after two semesters of dedicated Israel activism on campus as a Hasbara Fellow.”

Perhaps the most robust section of the Hasbara website is its “Resources” tab, which includes links to talking points, posters and programming ideas, for intended use by pro-Israel college students. Educational materials include Orientalist and Islamophobic videos, such as one that asks, “What if Arab and Muslim countries became bastions for equal rights and basic liberties, instead of barriers to human development and progress?”

Clearly, the aim of these media is not to educate, but rather, to disseminate anti-Arab and anti-Muslim literature for the broader goals of whitewashing the illegal occupation and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. Such racist and crooked propaganda has already taken root across the UCLA campus, manifesting itself in the deplorable statements that circulated at the Undergraduate Students Association Council meeting on Feb. 25, in which Arab and Muslim communities were targeted through language frighteningly similar to that deployed by the Hasbara website.

While Baral, Rubin and Eshaghian most certainly have their rights to engage with the Hasbara Fellowships program, the Daily Bruin is at fault here for failing to make visible the authors’ shared affiliation. Given that Hasbara candidly intends to make its fellows the spokespeople of Israel on U.S. college campuses, UCLA students reading this article should have been provided a caveat beforehand. The linkage between op-eds such as “Divestment promotes anti-Israeli movement” and Israeli state-sponsored propaganda vehicles such as Hasbara is certain. That Hasbara’s rhetoric of state security, “peace” negotiations and terrorism has become the proverbial smokescreen through which state-sanctioned human rights violations and our complicity with them through UC corporate investments are repeatedly condoned on college campuses such as UCLA’s is another story.

The production, publication and dispersal of knowledge has never been and never will be an innocent enterprise. Thus, while the three authors share the right to articulate their personal viewpoints, it is highly recommended that the Daily Bruin uphold standards of ethical journalism by specifying its authors’ off-campus appointments, especially when these play a clear role in the article at hand. This caliber of transparency is necessary if UCLA students are to exercise any level of critical inquiry as readers of this publication. Finally, it would be in the Daily Bruin’s interest to issue a public apology in the paper and to ensure that this utter lack of transparency does not repeat itself in the future.

Riazi is a member of Students for Justice in Palestine and a fourth-year comparative literature and economics student.


Editor’s note:

The Daily Bruin is happy to run submissions that are critical of its coverage when those criticisms come from a place of legitimate concern, as this one does. We respect the pursuit of fair and constructive campus media that the author of this submission displays.

To that end, we sometimes feel an explanation of our editorial policy is necessary and beneficial. In this case, we received and published a submission from three active members of the pro-Israel community on campus, identifying them by their affiliations with pro-Israel and Jewish groups on campus. We were unaware that these students were members of Hasbara Fellowships a pro-Israel advocacy program from college students – and thank Students for Justice in Palestine for keeping us informed. That identifying information was not included in the note after a submission that explains the author’s attribution and affiliation, which we refer to as a “tagline.”

But after reviewing the call for an apology from members of Students for Justice in Palestine, we have determined that were we to make the same editorial decision again with this new information, we would nonetheless have published the submission with the same format. We believe the tagline currently reflects the authors’ most relevant and local connection to the topic of the submission and therefore stand by the decision.

No editorial decision at The Bruin is made carelessly, and every newspaper makes mistakes. We are the first to admit that we do and will always work to resolve errors quickly and openly.

We once again thank our readers who read, analyze and criticize our work.

Eitan Arom

Opinion editor


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Comments are supposed to create a forum for thoughtful, respectful community discussion. Please be nice. View our full comments policy here.

  • Just Stop

    My gosh! Give it a rest. Both sides need to. For all you pro-Israel people, move on. You won.

    For all you anti-Israel loons, stop crying. You will get your little resolution passed one year I’m sure. I think you guys know that it will, but the only thing you want is to say that you were the one who finally
    got the anti-Israel resolution passed. So you guys are in it for yourselves. Also, so what if you get the resolution passed??? HP, Catepillar, Cemex, and General Electric are gigantic companies that
    provide services to millions of people in the real world (not the crybaby liberal university campuses) and will feel nothing. Furthermore, if you pay even a little bit of attention to politics, you would know that the pro-Israel lobby in the U.S Government is losing strength (as shown by AIPAC having to bow to Obama regarding easing of Iran sanctions) and Israel is cognizant of this fact and is increasingly not giving a jack about what the United States has to stay. It also has nukes and a very powerful military.

  • Tammy Rubin

    Hi Laila!

    My apologizes for replying to this article in such a public forum, but I couldn’t seem to find your e-mail address, phone number, or any other contact information given that I’ve never actually met you before.

    Please forgive me for being so short-tempered, but you must understand how I feel after waking up to find that my name and my experiences have been used to try and taint my reputability.

    What I also neglected to leave out of the article you’re referring to was the fact that I went to Jewish day school for 13 years of my life, serve as the director of a small group on campus called the Global Leadership Connection, and was a camps counselor for Unicamp my freshman year.

    But I’ll spare you the details of the rest of my credentials, because my whole point is that they’re literally just that: credentials.

    It’s true. I am a Hasbara Fellow. I went this past Winter break. I’ve also been back 8 times on similar trips, personal trips, tourist trips, etc. not counting the time I lived there for 4 years.

    What I’m NOT is an elected official and therefore shouldn’t have to disclose any of that information, not because it’s a secret but because 1) it’s none of your businesses, 2) I have every right to go on a personal trip in my personal time for my own personal reasons 3) I’m not paid by Hasbara, AIPAC, Hillel or any other organization whose name seems to have been floating around either on Facebook or the Daily Bruin to promote a certain agenda, 4) it has nothing to do with why I chose to co-write that article several weeks ago.

    But enough about why your claims are unfair and unprofessional.

    My opinion about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was not entirely shaped by my last trip. It is, however, a conglomeration of all my others trips to Israel and the West Bank (yes, I’ve been to Ramallah), various conversations I’ve had within my community and with others at UCLA (namely members of SJP), speakers I’ve gone to see, books and articles I’ve read, my schooling (both public and private), my parent’s upbringing, and my own interpretation of all of the aforementioned pieces.

    While I’m here, I also want to address the similar attacks that have been made on USAC Council members who are being accused of being conflicts of interest for their participation in other trips to Israel. While most of the student body hasn’t seen the reality on the ground, I want to commend them for choosing NOT to speak on behalf of a community and going, in their personal time, to visit the region and form an opinion for themselves as opposed to merely trusting information given to them. That is what we all did. Why should that deserve an article with empty rhetoric that only aims to discredit individuals with legitimate perspectives on campus?

    Anyway, this will be my last response to this issue in the comments section of the Daily Bruin. If you’d like to talk about my experiences, I’d love to sit down, bruin to bruin, and have a conversation.

    Best of luck on finals,

    • Just Stop

      You guys do know you can use the directory to find her email, right? Her email is here: [email protected]

    • Patrick

      “legitimate perspectives”… yeeesh.

    • What A Joke

      As the great philosopher Christopher Hitchens, a man who was actually
      against the creation of Israel said, it will be a dark day when any
      criticism of any radical Islamic group (like Hamas, which SJP supports),
      will be branded Anti-Islam or “Islamophobic” as this author of this
      vile criticism has suggested. It is already happening in England, where
      Islamic radicals are spewing hatred against Atheists, Hindus, Jews, etc,
      but if you criticize this then you will be branded an “Islamophobe.” It
      appears that Laila Riazi is doing exactly what Christopher Hitchens
      warned us about. Shame on the Daily Bruin for bowing towards fanatics.

    • lulabelle

      Best of luck on finals? Sounds like you’re gritting your teeth through that one! Your comment is thoroughly disingenuous and reeks of your fancy training. You aren’t fooling anyone!!

    • Anon

      i don’t think she was attacking you – she was only pointing out that you’re involved with a program that may have had something to do with the three of you writing the editorial together. which isn’t exactly false is it?
      say you’re a campus ambassador for redbull and you wrote an editorial about the benefits of energy drinks, it might be useful for readers to know your biases. there’s nothing wrong with having biases – laila obviously has her own. so does everyone. i don’t think you have to take it personally

    • mxm123

      Hasbara is commonly known as Israeli propaganda. And Tammy Rubin is pissed that she is identified to be a member of a Israeli propaganda group.

      But in her co-authorship of the “Divestment promotes anti-Israeli movement” tied every goal and objective of the Divestment resolution to BDS. Even though the student resolution never made any claim to be sponsored by BDS. A common tactic used by pro-Israeli apologists.

      Shall we say Hypocrisy or Shall we say Hasbara and Hypocrisy.

      • Elon

        Who uses the word divestment outside the context of BDS? Furthermore, it’s not like the student government could even figuratively sponsor B or S resolutions, so the fact that it was only D proves nothing. It was BDS, and if I were you guys, I would have been proud to admit I wrote a resolution that accurately portrays my true views on the conflict.

        • mxm123

          So BDS has a copy right on the word divestment ? Or is it just another straw man argument to obfuscate the real issues at hand.

          • Elon

            The only obfuscation is your cowardly refusal to acknowledge something for what it actually was and for what you intended it to be.

            Who uses the word divestment outside the context of BDS? You couldn’t give a direct answer, because we both know the answer is no one.

  • Miriam Eshaghian

    Hi Laila!

    It is unfortunate that we need are having this conversation over the comment section, but I feel the need to defend my reputability.

    I would also like to reiterate much of the same point as Tammy. I have never tried to hide or deny my trip with Hasbara. In fact, if we had met I would have told you that I have been to Israel seven times in my life including times with my Jewish Day School, with my family, with Holocaust Survivors, and yes Hasbara.

    Furthermore, with regards to my current affiliations, I am not working for Hasbara or any other Pro-Israel organization. Actually, I am currently a Peer Learning Facilitator in the Academic Advancement Program and an Undergraduate in a Research Lab in the Physiological Sciences department. I have previously held various leadership positions at UCLA.

    To say that my political views are somehow influenced by this trip is not only inaccurate but offensive. I support the current peace process because of my research on the history of conflict. I support current peace negotiations because my parents were Jewish refugees who fled persecution in Iran. My family has endured a difficult past, and all I wish for my family in Israel and their Palestinian neighbors is for them to live in peace. I would appreciate it if you do not categorize me as biased and attempt to delegitimize my history.

    If you have any questions or would like to chat, feel free to email me at [email protected]



    • Just Stop

      If only you knew how to use the UCLA directory. Her email is:
      [email protected]

      Learn how to use the directory.

    • mxm123


      Of course you’re biased and there is nothing wrong with being biased. You co-wrote an entire article without ever mentioning the word “settlements”, while using every excuse to bash BDS . And that is not being biased ?

      Like Peter Bienart states

      “To use the language of democracy to defend Israeli policy in the West Bank is linguistic fraud. Such fraud is necessary because to honestly defend the denial of democratic rights,”

      And that is exactly what your submission represented. Linguistic fraud in the guise of “peace”.

  • Anonymous

    If we’re going to be holding all opinion pieces to the same standard, there should be a submission or at least a re-clarification regarding the fact that Agatha Palma was not described as the “BDS Director” of SJP in her op-ed two weeks ago claiming that the USAC resolution supported “divestment and not BDS as a whole”:

    • Irrelevant

      Unless Agatha is getting paid for her position, your argument is irrelevant.

  • Aaron Lerner

    If the author wants to help the Daily Bruin be the best paper it can be, she should encourage it to never, ever publish ad hominem attacks on students or anyone else. And if it really will insist on allowing itself to be a message board for cyber-bullying – at least it should ask the subject of the bullying for a quote?! Is the argument here that because a website which these students don’t control from an organization they don’t work for contains some links to other material someone doesn’t like – that de-legitimizes them and their positions and warrants mention in a DB article?! Start Googling ‘BDS’ or reading through Electronicintifada to see if the pro-BDS author holds herself to the same standard. The blatant anti-semitism represented pro-BDS political cartoons, burnt effigies, burnt American flags, bloody imagery, and cyber-bullying you will find before you even begin to scratch the surface and watch the youtube videos will forever taint the cause and its supporters.

    • mxm123

      Absolutely. We should turn the Daily Bruin into an AIPAC newsletter. Thanks for the most excellent feedback.

      • What A Joke

        Typical foolish progressive.

        • mxm123

          Typical Hasbara.

    • mike a

      I guess BDS is finally acving its purpuse and having an effect n the apartied state and supporters. as for “anti semitism”, that cow has been over milked and ran dry long ago.

  • rodney

    Can’t we all just get along?

    • What A Joke

      Peace will come to the Middle East, when the Palestinians love their own families more than they hate Jews.

      • mxm123

        Is that why Israel steals their land ?

        • What A Joke

          Oh be quiet. Judaism is older than Islam and Jews were there first.

          • mxm123

            Not at the time of the creation of Israel.

  • Alon

    I think this article is a great segue into a fantastic opportunity for my fellow Bruins!:
    FREE 10-DAY TRIP TO ISRAEL!!!!!! Party in Tel-Aviv, float in the Dead Sea, and eat endless amounts of hummus and falafel!!! PM for more info 😉 haha

  • berkeleyboy75

    The association of the authors with Hasbara is relevant if the propaganda used in the article was provided by Hasbara (Israel) or if other financial support was provided by Hasbara (Israel) either in the present or the past. To clarify, look at it from the other side, would it be have been required that a pro-Palestinian writer who had received financial aid and or training from the PLO or Hamas be identified as such? I think that is the double standard at play here.

    • Elon

      No, if the PLO had paid for the other side to take a trip to the West Bank, it would not be relevant. What would be relevant are the student organizations the writers are representing and their viewpoints.

  • Masada

    Do SJP members disclose the fact that SJP is an official member of an off-campus, anti-Israel propaganda group called the US Campaign to End the Occupation every time they write an article? They don’t huh? Enough with the hypocrisy, double standards and outright BS. It’s embarassing.

    • Irrelevant

      Unless members of SJP who wrote articles are getting paid, your argument is irrelevant.

      • Masada

        The authors of the pro-Israel article aren’t getting paid either, so according to your logic the original op-ed itself is irrelevant. And SJPs absolutely have access to funding from outside groups. This illusion SJP likes to sell of themselves as this little grassroots group vs. big bad pro-Israel students who are actually fronts for someone else is not only false, but hypocritical, condescending, and often offensive.

        • Irrelevant

          As Hasabra fellows there is definitely monetary incentive. There’s a $250 refundable deposit that is refunded after 2 years of Israel activism on their campus. That’s not counting the trips they get.

          • Masada

            Getting a deposit refunded cannot be described as “getting paid”, so your original comment is still invalid. Anti-Israel groups also organize trips to Israel and the Territories, and they also provide all kinds of services and benefits to anti-Israel students that cost money. The reality is that both sides have significant off-campus support systems and infrastructure that they can rely on and go to for various resources. Each side has their strengths and weaknesses. But SJP avoids disclosing their off-campus ties at all costs, while hypocritically pointing fingers at pro-Israel students. That’s what’s bullshit about this article and this whole debate. Time to grow up and stop playing stupid games.

          • Irrelevant

            The deposit is definitely a monetary incentive.

          • Masada

            Your implication that they’re doing pro-Israel activism or writing pro-Israel articles for the money holds absolutely no water. The only reason someone would give Hasbara a $250 deposit is if they were already committed to being a pro-Israel activist in the first place. The incentive for the organization is to make sure they’re helping students who are truly committed to the cause, and the incentive for the student is to be accountable. Care to address my actual argument?

        • What A Joke

          SJP is a terrorist organization that is funded by Saudi oil money. This Saudi oil money is the same money that propagates the radical Wahhabi Islam philosophy that calls for the strict repression of womens’ rights, and the killing of anyone who isn’t Muslim. It is the same money that is being used to fund mosques where Wahhabi Islam is being propagated. The Tsarnaevs who did the Boston bombings attended such mosques.