Thursday, August 22

Submission: Despite lack of inclusion, Jewish students still must establish their voices

Last week, the University of California Board of Regents voted on raising nonresident tuition by $978. Our student government rightfully worked to organize a demonstration in response to an action that would exacerbate food and housing insecurity on campus.

Prior to the protest, a list of chants was circulated: 11 revolved around students and unions uniting to combat tuition hikes, one focused on empowering mothers of color in academia and the other two centered on denouncing and delegitimizing Israel.

When Jewish students alerted the organizers that the chants constituted an unfair and inappropriate linkage of issues that would alienate many in the community, they were assured the chants would be removed.

On Wednesday morning, however, Jewish students were greeted with a litany of chants including, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” “No peace on stolen land, justice is our demand!”, and “UC Regents, you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide.”

There is nothing particularly useful in deconstructing these chants. My intention is certainly not to score geopolitical points or belabor the “Israel narrative.” But it is important to note that to many Jewish students, “from the river to the sea” constitutes a demand that Israelis be forcibly thrown into the Mediterranean Sea. I do not believe that all the people shouting this chant were advocating for this, but there is a difference between intent and impact. At the least, the chants accuse part of, if not all of, Israel as being stolen, and demand the end of the Jewish state.

Irrespective of their views on the current administration or geopolitical situation in Israel, the existence of a Jewish state is fundamental to a majority of both American and international Jewry. It is discriminatory for the protest’s organizers to compel Jewish students passionate about college affordability to scream for the delegitimization of their ethnic and religious homeland.

Many Jewish students at this university, including myself, are nonresident, low-income or reliant upon diminishing financial aid to attend this university. For us, participating in the protests would not have been a gesture of solidarity, but a personal obligation. However, it is repulsive to ask Jewish students to enter a space where something that is so intrinsically part of our identities is attacked. It runs contrary to the principle of an inclusive, intersectional protest to ask participants to check their identities at the door.

By no means am I pleading for the abandoning of rhetoric or the dismantling of organizations that criticize Israel. But when we are supporting a common goal, such as college affordability, clogging up the space with dialogue that bullies us out of the conversation amounts to targeting.

My intention is not to contribute to the liturgy of anti-Zionist condemnation. I have no interest in partaking in the annual rehashing of the boycott, sanction, divest argument; neither do I wish to suggest that the Jewish community is a perennial victim of institutionalized anti-Semitism on this campus.

We Jewish students who have been made to feel unsafe or unwelcome on this campus cannot change our identity. But we can change our behavior. Too often after problematic events occur, we have a tendency to look outwards. Of course, voicing our dismay when we feel unwelcome and threatened is our obligation. But in exclusively concentrating on the actions of others, we have lost sight of our own. Repudiating others is hollow and counterproductive when we fail to compliment those efforts with self-reflection.

The reality is, the mainstream Jewish community at UCLA has disengaged from intersectional activism on campus. Instead, we have replaced such activism with lukewarm allyship consigned to belated gestures and social media posts. We must align ourselves unconditionally with those causes that deeply affect our campus community and that we already care strongly about: fighting tuition hikes, vouching for sanctuary status, increasing mental health services, eliminating sexual violence and addressing food insecurity.

We cannot mold the agendas of movements or shape the actions of organizations when we have no seat at the table. It seems futile to make fiery disavowals about the organizers behind the tuition hike protest when we did not reciprocate with equally passionate statements in support of their cause. We cannot eliminate anti-Semitism from these spaces by retroactively asserting ourselves into the conversation.

A central tenet of the Jewish community on campus is its commitment to activism and humanitarianism. If we have disengaged from these activities, it is largely because participation appears to be contingent upon us abandoning our Jewish identity. There are certainly movements and communities on campus entrenched in anti-Semitism that will not welcome Jewish students, to their own detriment. But in the context of issues that are important to many students, we cannot afford to shun intersectional dialogue. If we Jewish students want a voice in protests for affordability or economic equality, we must find it before the protest happens. There is nothing abstract or unattainable about that.

The actions of the organizers, whether out of intention or naivety, should not prompt Jewish students to disengage from these issues. A majority of students committed to fighting tuition hikes understand that the fight for economic and educational justice has little to do with Middle Eastern geopolitics. The individuals Wednesday chose to distract from the timely issue of impeding tuition hikes that were less than 24 hours away, and instead hold a referendum on Zionism that would inevitably alienate many students.

But the Jewish community must define itself by what we choose to do, instead of by the anti-Semitism we experience. Let Wednesday morning serve as a Rorschach test for our community: Our thoughts and actions in response to what we saw should guide and tell us more about our community than anyone else’s.

Schaeffer is a third-year, study of religion and political science student who is active in the Jewish community.

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  • Furkan Yalcin

    UCLA Radio did an episode on Israel Palestine, check it out!

  • concerned

    Intersectional Zionism isn’t prevalent because zionism as it exists today is an imperialist act. There’s nothing intersectional about allowing apartheid and occupation to exist. Support for the Israeli state is antithetical to intersectional values because it is materially violent. This is why it is currently supported by neo-nazis. Anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism and conflation of the two is merely a right-wing concerted effort to excuse occupation by oppression. The reason why Israel treats non-white Jewish citizens like second-class citizens is because Israel is nothing more than another white supremacist settler state.

    • EYJ

      You make an excellent point. Question is, how is this statement you just made, related to tuition increase at UCLA?

      • Tasha Simpson

        And, can we disagree about Israel and join together to fight tuition increases?

      • concerned

        I can understand how solidarity may be difficult to understand given intersectionality is a foreign concept to many zionists. I’ll break it down for you. Just as tuition is being hiked up against the consent of students, so is the use of our tuition being used to support those who profit off of human rights abuses in Palestine against the consent of students. The idea of tuition increase and practice of how it is spent is not a separate issue. They’re different, yes, but they interact enough so that those who oppose tuition increase can and should also oppose the malpractice in how tuition is spent: investing in an illegal, apartheid state. To call these struggles separate is exactly why zionism is not compatible with intersectionality.

        Also, no supporters for Palestine view the chant “From the River to the Sea” is a call to throw Israelis into the sea. That’s plain fabrication.

        • Harry

          Concerned, thanks for the explanation on intersectionality. Now I understand: intersectionality means: blame the Jews. Tuition hike; blame the Jews. You don’t like the weather; blame the Jews. And yes, anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism, and the refusal to admit it is merely a Jew-hating effort to excuse that hatred. They’re both based on lies, one against Jews, one against the Jewish state. All Israeli citizens have equal rights. If you’re looking for apartheid in the Middle East, cast your gaze toward the countries surrounding Israel. Examples: Palestinians in Lebanon are denied citizenship, access to certain jobs, and can only live in certain areas. The Copts in Egypt are second-class citizens. And how is it that the gender-apartheid in all of the nations surrounding Israel is never mentioned? It’s a capital crime for a Palestinian to sell land to a Jew in PA-controlled areas.

          Palestinians are being oppressed by their leaders, dictators who have grown rich from skimming from the billions in international funding. I believe Abbas and Haniyah are both in the 11th or 12th year of the four year terms they were elected to.

          By the way, who was this “stolen land” stolen from? And what exactly does the “from the river to the sea” chant refer to?

    • Carly

      52% of Jews in Israel identify as non-white (of African, Middle Eastern/Mizrahi, or Sephardic descent). Additionally, as the Dreyfus affair, Holocaust, and so many other events both past and present have shown us, even Ashkenazi or “white-presenting” Jews are not white enough to be free from discrimination, harassment, and genocide. Non-white Jews and non-Jews live freely and equally as protected under the law in Israel — not to mention their quality of living and rights far surpass their Middle Eastern counterparts. BTW the majority of non-white Jews found refuge in Israel after being FORCED out of their homelands in the Middle East and Africa and were, in fact, second class citizens in places like Yemen, Libya, Iran, Iraq, and so many others. Know your facts. Your statement above is just wrong and misguided. Have you ever actually been to Israel and talked to the diverse demographic of people that make up the Israeli state?

      • concerned

        No I haven’t been to Israel, settler. Your “diverse” makeup still doesn’t excuse existence on stolen land. I have, however, had the great misfortune of interacting with white nationalists who passionately defend Israel.

        • Man with Axe

          Stolen land. Now that’s funny. What countries are populated only by the indigenous people?

          Who did the Palestinian Arabs steal it from? They were not the original inhabitants. When Jews settled there prior to 1948 did they steal the individual parcels of land, or buy them from the legal owners? When the UN partitioned the British mandate did the Arabs accept the ruling or did they invade and try to wipe out the Jews? When the Arabs invaded in 1967 and tried to wipe out the Jews again did they expect that losing that war would have no consequences? Since then have the Arabs tried to peacefully resolve the problems or have they committed uncountable acts of terroristic murder and rocket attacks on Jews?

    • Ifueko Osarogiagbon


  • Tasha Simpson

    Thank you for this much needed article. It’s ludicrous that some would attempt to hijack every issue by demanding an anti-Israel stance on everything from sexual assault on campus to tuition increases.

  • p kitty

    Great article
    Thanks Jackie

  • Otto von Bismark

    congrats Jackie. this is what happens when you support an ideology like intersectionality that defines the world by race.; it eventually turns on *you*. you have effectively cucked yourself. as a fellow Jew, I hope you’ll re-think this strategy before you bring misery on the rest of us, but I doubt it.