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Students should sympathize with, not politicize, different identities

By Natalie Delgadillo

April 14, 2015 12:04 a.m.

Over the course of the past few quarters at UCLA, one thing has become abundantly clear: Our campus climate is anything but perfect. Between the politicization of different identities and tokenization of certain experiences, it unfortunately has become increasingly difficult for us as students to have faith in the sincerity of others.

As a member of the Jewish and pro-Israel communities, in just two short quarters, I have experienced much of this firsthand and have served as a prime witness to others’ experiences as well.

Rather than coming together to hear the stories of our fellow Bruins to strive to better understand their communities, experiences and struggles, we play into the polarizing politics, which is undoubtedly to our own detriment.

University campuses should be places where people of different communities, ethnicities, faiths and sexualities come together to better understand each other’s narratives and struggles. Yes, some of our experiences contradict one another’s. Yes, some of our histories don’t match up. But that doesn’t exempt us from taking the time to listen.

On Wednesday, April 15, at 6 p.m. in Boelter Hall, room 5264, Bruins for Israel will be hosting a special, intimate meeting with Israeli superstar and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning advocate, Assi Azar. The following invitation was sent by Azar personally to the LGBTQ community here at UCLA, and I felt it was important to share it with the greater UCLA community:

To the great LGBTQ community at UCLA,

Shalom.

My name is Assi Azar, I am a 36-year-old TV host from Israel. I am a proud Israeli and a proud homosexual. I am also a big civil rights fighter, a great believer in peace and an advocate for equality of rights for all.

I was recently invited to your campus by the pro-Israel group, Bruins for Israel, and expressed to them that I was very determined to invite your community to attend. You can imagine my dismay when I heard that the LGBTQ community at UCLA was not on the best of terms with the pro-Israel community at UCLA, and that’s why I am writing you this letter.

I want to ask something of you, but first, let me tell you a little bit about myself:

I was born in the Israeli city of Holon to a Yemeni family. I served in the Israeli Defense Forces as a commander of a military police training base until 2001.

In 2004, while hosting a popular youth TV show in Israel called “Exit,” I came out in an interview with Israel’s top newspaper. I thought coming out would be the end of my career, as everyone, including my agent, told me. But the exact opposite happened. It was just the beginning of my career, and my life was never the same.

One of the most important parts of my professional career was the documentary I filmed: “Mom and Dad, I Have Something to Tell You,” which deals with the reality that parents face when their child is coming out of the closet.

In October 2009, American magazine “Out” named me as one of the 100 most influential gays and lesbians in the world. These days, I am the host of Israel’s hit TV show “Big Brother,” but none of that matters to me.

What does matter to me is encouraging students like you to be proud of who you are, to be proud of where you come from and where you are going. The most proud moments of my life are moments when I have stood up for the rights of young Israelis and young Palestinians who are struggling with the same struggles I had to deal with growing up. I am currently dedicating myself to raising awareness of homosexuality in the education system of Israel.

I ask of you one thing. Please join me on April 15 at 6 p.m. in Boelter Hall 5264. Come hear my story. Each of us has faced the stigmas associated with our sexuality. Please, do not politicize my identity the same way the world politicizes our sexuality. I’m not here to discuss politics, I’m here to share my story as a proud homosexual Israeli.

However,

If you would like to come and talk politics with me, I would be more than glad to.

If you want to come and talk to me about pinkwashing, I would be more than happy to.

If you want to come and start a dialogue, please join me.

Thank you,

Assi

Arielle Mokhtarzadeh is a first-year undeclared social sciences student and board member of Bruins for Israel. Assi Azar is an Israeli television personality.

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