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Pro-Israel groups react to criticism of USAC officials’ free trip

By Jessica Doumit

May 12, 2014 2:07 a.m.

Several pro-Israel lobbying organizations recently released statements claiming that on-campus student groups are unfairly targeting Israel by criticizing two undergraduate student government officials who went on free trips to Israel while in office.

The Anti-Defamation League and StandWithUs, pro-Israel organizations that aim to combat anti-Semitism, also criticized groups who called for Undergraduate Students Association Council candidates not to take free or sponsored trips with non-student centered groups in their statements.

“This effort is just another strategy to delegitimize Israel and reflects how far the anti-Israel movement is willing to go in order to stifle voices that support the Jewish state,” the Anti-Defamation League’s statement says.

In April, Students for Justice in Palestine requested that the USAC Judicial Board review two councilmembers’ votes on a controversial divestment resolution, which called for UCLA and the University of California to divest from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank.

Students for Justice in Palestine members asserted that USAC General Representative Sunny Singh and USAC Financial Supports Commissioner Lauren Rogers engaged in a conflict of interest by voting on the divestment resolution when they had gone on free trips to Israel while in office.

In response, the Anti-Defamation League’s Pacific Southwest Regional Director Amanda Susskind released a statement on May 9 saying that the trips can provide students with educational experiences. Susskind said the councilmembers did not engage in a conflict of interest and that accusations raised against them are false.

The Anti-Defamation League’s statement also criticized a Joint Statement on USAC Ethics, which members of Jewish Voice for Peace, the Armenian Students’ Association, Students for Justice in Palestine, the Muslim Students Association, the Afrikan Student Union and Samahang Pilipino support.

The joint ethics statement asked for councilmembers to refrain from taking any free or sponsored trips with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, the Anti-Defamation League, Hasbara Fellowships or any non-student centered external groups.

StandWithUs, an organization that supports Israel and aims to fight anti-Semitism, also released a statement regarding the ethics statement.

Roz Rothstein, the CEO of StandWithUs, said in the statement that individuals who support Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, a global economic and political movement to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine, are targeting student leaders and attempting to limit their understanding of Israel.

Rothstein added in the statement that if the joint ethics agreement was applied correctly, candidates should also refrain from associating with the BDS movement.

“(Candidates should) not be allowed to attend divestment training sessions, (Students for Justice in Palestine) conferences, or pro-BDS events in general, because BDS promotes hatred and marginalizes so many students on campus,” Rothstein said.

The Judicial Board’s hearing for Singh and Rogers will be held Thursday from 6-9 p.m. and is open to the public.

Compiled by Jessica Doumit, Bruin contributor.

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