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Pro-Israel groups speak out at Board of Regents meeting

By Janet Nguyen

May 16, 2014 2:26 am

At Thursday’s University of California Board of Regents meeting, several pro-Israel organizations voiced concerns about the request by a handful of UCLA student groups that undergraduate student government officers should be barred from accepting expenses-paid trips to Israel with certain lobbying and interest groups.

During a public comment period at the meeting, representatives of various groups, including the AMCHA Initiative and the Zionist Organization of America, expressed disagreement with a recent “joint ethics statement” that calls for Undergraduate Students Association Council members to not attend trips sponsored by groups such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Anti-Defamation League or Hasbara Fellowships.

Some public commenters also criticized an ongoing Judicial Board investigation of two student councilmembers who went on sponsored trips to Israel with Project Interchange and the Anti-Defamation League while in office.

This week, the petition and the Judicial Board hearing garnered the attention of various activist media outlets and numerous pro-Israel lobbying groups, which have released statements condemning the actions.

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, a co-founder of the AMCHA Initiative, said at Thursday’s meeting that she was concerned about the implications of the joint statement, labeling it a form of “vilification.”

The AMCHA Initiative is an organization that aims to combat anti-Semitism, partly by contacting university administrators about incidents that it perceives as prejudiced against Jewish students.

The AMCHA Initiative, along with six other pro-Israel organizations – including StandWithUs and the Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel – recently authored a letter asking UC President Janet Napolitano, the UC Board of Regents and UCLA Chancellor Gene Block to take a stand against recent actions taken by different on-campus organizations, such as Students for Justice in Palestine.

“This is an outrageous and impermissible violation of students’ right to free expression, their right to free association and their fundamental rights to travel and move freely,” the letter states.

Last month, Students for Justice in Palestine filed a petition with the USAC Judicial Board claiming that USAC General Representative Sunny Singh and Financial Supports Commissioner Lauren Rogers engaged in a conflict of interest by voting on a controversial divestment resolution earlier this year.

The resolution, which was voted down in late February at an all-night meeting of the undergraduate student government, asked UCLA and the UC to divest from companies with ties to the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank.

Compiled by Janet Nguyen, Bruin contributor.

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