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Shani Shahmoon: Resolution important in deconstructing anti-Semitic rhetoric

By Shani Shahmoon

March 13, 2015 12:30 pm

While many students on this campus pride themselves on their ethnicity and religion, I find myself stigmatized for my background.

This Tuesday, “A Resolution Condemning Anti-Semitism” was presented to the Undergraduate Students Association Council to help bring an end to the discrimination of the Jewish community at UCLA. It’s no surprise, though, that this resolution quickly became politicized and questioned for its clauses regarding criticism of Israel and its government.

Let’s be clear: This resolution is not aimed at denying the right of UCLA students to criticize the Israeli government. Almost an entire page of the five-page resolution is devoted to that right, by aiming to create a structure for respectful disagreement on the topic of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But the most important part of the resolution aims to reconstruct an environment in which the identities of Jews are no longer politicized because of this international conflict.

I am a first-generation Iraqi-Israeli-American Jew. Both my parents are children of pogrom or Holocaust survivors who found themselves finally free of genocide in the Jewish state of Israel. I was raised in southern Nevada, where none of my background seemed to follow me, as my community was neither political nor religious.

Matters changed as soon as I started my first year at UCLA.

First year, when I tried to get involved in non-Jewish organizations on campus, my mother insisted I leave my Jewish Star of David necklace at home. She told me it would limit my opportunities. But I never once considered my faith a deterrent to my success until last February, when the issue of divestment came up.

Last year, USAC and hundreds of UCLA students sat in Ackerman Grand Ballroom for nearly 12 hours as emotional and offensive public comments were spewed on either side of the issue regarding divesting from companies that do business with Israel. The resolution did not pass.

Despite it not passing, I found myself extremely uncomfortable walking to Shabbat dinners at Hillel, the center for Jewish life on campus. I was hesitant to apply to the Daily Bruin, fearing my ethnicity would lower my chances of getting accepted. I nearly questioned my entire future of pursuing journalism, fearing my Jewish last name would label me as incapable of being unbiased.

None of this is true, but divestment put me, along with several other Jewish students, in this place of discomfort, regardless of our political affiliations. Divestment began to put Jewish students in a pro-Israel box, mixing up religion with politics, and leading to the growth of anti-Semitism at UCLA.

Following the passing of a divestment resolution at UCLA, contentions grew between the majority of the Jewish population and the pro-divestment population. Jewish students were stigmatized for their assumed political perspectives. A particular example is the case of second-year economics student Rachel Beyda and the concerns raised against her appointment to the USAC Judicial Board, given her religious affiliation.

This resolution passed by council Tuesday aims to deconstruct the anti-Semitic rhetoric formed around the majority of the Jewish community because of their perceived political beliefs. It aims to protect qualified students, like Beyda, from being denied positions in student organizations because of their religious beliefs. It aims to denounce the vandalism of a Jewish fraternity house with graffiti of large swastikas the day after the passing of a divestment resolution at UC Davis. It aims to re-establish the security of being Jewish and a Bruin.

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Shani Shahmoon | Opinion columnist
Shani Shahmoon is an opinion columnist and a member of the Daily Bruin Editorial Board. She writes about student activism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and mental health issues.
Shani Shahmoon is an opinion columnist and a member of the Daily Bruin Editorial Board. She writes about student activism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and mental health issues.
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