Friday, February 28

Submission: Failure to condemn Students for Justice in Palestine reveals administration’s indifference

When students choose UCLA as their next home, they enroll in this reputable institution for a variety of reasons. One thing that separates UCLA from the competition is its bustling hub of successful, student-led organizations and how the campus centers itself around diverse expression, safety and legitimacy.

However, there are times when students’ actions can collectively hinder these campus values. As recently as May, the UCLA administration has reacted in such a way as to diminish these significant challenges of student life – a troubling indifference that continues even now.

On a May evening in Dodd Hall, two student groups, Students Supporting Israel and Bruins For Israel, hosted an event featuring a panel of three men representing three indigenous Middle Eastern communities and their intersecting struggles. This was an event meant to explore the issues of ethnic conflict, indigenous rights, national liberation, colonization of identity and historical revisionism of Kurdish, Armenian and Jewish identities.

But the event devolved into a destructive ruckus when the Students For Justice in Palestine instigated a deliberate attempt to shut it down with megaphones, whistles, loudspeakers and other disruptive devices. What became a well-documented fiasco was the disturbing behavior of some 30 individuals, some of whom were UCLA students, silencing the voices of minority students instead of engaging in positive conversations about the viewpoints they opposed.

The dismay of the Kurdish, Armenian and Israeli student communities, and those who share their heritage, was heightened by the inadequate response of the campus administration in conducting a transparent investigation or employing disciplinary action to address this misconduct. It was only after student panelists released reports and footage to the Daily Bruin and external anti-discrimination organizations, such as the Anti-Defamation League, that the administration felt enough backlash to vaguely condemn the offenses of affiliated SJP disruptors in a submission to The Bruin.

Furthermore, the administration would not hold the disruptors accountable under their provision for evident California law violations, including battery, vandalism, the shutting down of an organized campus event and premeditation to commit the aforementioned offenses, under California Title 11, Sections 403, 415 and 182. Affected student communities were forced to pursue legal action through UCPD to seek justice for these student voices, with an investigation currently pending.

Highlighting the diversity of our own campus means accepting that some student organizations will disagree on certain ideas and expressions of those ideas. Disagreement is a prized contribution in any developing intellectual center. Student-led groups on campus must share the responsibility of building diversity, equity and inclusion – as expected of UCLA’s faculty.

It is distinctly problematic, though, to coordinate coercive efforts to alienate, intimidate or censor students for their identities or because they have disagreeable opinions.

This brings to attention other previous incidents with SJP of UCLA. This includes the featuring of Roger Waters and Omar Barghouti, both controversially known to deny the right of Jews and Israelis to self-determination, labeling them as agents of capital and imperial greed, among other age-old anti-Semitic slanders.

Considering this history of SJP bullying, it’s troubling UCLA has granted SJP of UCLA not only impunity, but also a platform to host the annual National Students for Justice in Palestine Conference, which is set to take place on campus Nov. 16-18. The conference itself is self-reportedly closed to any individual who does not pre-register through an arduous process, which includes, according to an open letter to UCLA by Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), being “verified and vouched for by an SJP.”

Only recently has this conference, which shuts the doors on students with diverse views or backgrounds, been confirmed to uphold UCLA’s policy of requiring closed registration for private conferences be free of university funding. This stark issue was acknowledged three weeks after an inquiry on the policy from the University of California Board of Regents with a letter from Chancellor Gene Block.

Ultimately, UCLA has conducted no investigations, reported no disciplinary actions, announced no postponement and demonstrated little to no opposition to SJP’s actions and its effects on students on this campus. If there is any single message this conveys to Bruins, it is that hate speech, defamation and raucous disruptions are acceptable forms of student organizing.

Indigenous minority voices of the Middle East are a remote fragment of what is discussed in related academia, and the mere assembling of their voices at universities seems to stimulate controversy among students, especially for those who have held related prejudice or entitlement.

With or without administrative action, minority students at UCLA who have not been recognized for their experiences on campus will have to take action to combat intolerance and bigotry. Sadly, magnifying the voices of minority communities will once again have to come centrally from the marginalized students themselves.

Feldman is a third-year political science and Middle Eastern studies student.

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  • HeresLookingAtYou

    As an alumnus of UCLA, I am ashamed of my school. I’ve seen more and more instances of anti-Semitism being ignored by the administration. The discrimination against Rachel Beyda joining student council; the attacks on and harrassment of Milan Chatterjee for taking a (a neutral!) stance on BDS; the vandalism of Jews’ doorways; the constant bullying of Jewish students on campus — these have been met with sickening silence by the Chancellor. Shame on him and his cowardice.

    • Justice Not Propaganda

      Your feelings of being ashamed are a good first step. Now make sure that when they send you their annual pledge request you refrain from sending anything – even one penny – and even more importantly that you send back the pledge card with a note that makes clear that you are withholding your support as a protest against the administration’s indifference to anti-semitism and its unwillingness to protect the university’s Jewish population.

  • Heartbroken

    This was so beautifully written and expressed! As an alumnus and neighbor of the school, I’ve been heart broken watching the lack of responsibility from our admin, and care for our Jewish students. 3 of my siblings and me went to UCLA. We’re a Bruin family. But unfortunately, given the current climate I think our legacy will stop with us :/

    • Tony Burtois

      I’m more optimistic. I think we can come together and say no to bigotry and racism, whether perpetuated by our government or the Israeli government. We should support our Palestinian brother and sisters in their struggle for freedom.

      • Gal

        And you don’t think it’s possible to support Palestinians without engaging in hate speech against Jews and Israelis? Without SJP’s tactics of shutting down free speech or intimidation? Without taking away the voices of indigenous peoples of the Middle East?

        • Tony Burtois

          Gal – I agree that with you that hate speech should be condemned and has no place in the discussion. But criticism of Israel for its racist policies towards the Palestinians is not hate speech, it is required speech for all those who care about justice.

          • Gal

            I wasn’t referring to criticism of Israel, I was referring to hate speech from SJP and it’s members that was mentioned and linked to in this article. What policy are you referring to that is racist?

          • Justice Not Propaganda

            Gal, save your breath. Clearly Tony has no interest in pursuing reasonable legitimate debate. He’s only concerned with spreading vile anti-Israel propaganda. The only question is whether he’s an evil terrorist-supporter who refuses the Jews’ right to self-determination in their ancestral homeland out of pure anti-semitism or if he’s just an ignorant fool who has been duped into being a tool for the racist terrorist-supporters.

      • ModernMaccabi

        Do you support the nearly 100 years of violence, terror and cold-blooded murder carried out by Arabs/Palestinians against innocent Jewish/Israeli civilians — many of whom were immigrants and refugees?

  • Tony Burtois

    Students protests of apartheid in South Africa resulted in change. Students protesting apartheid in Israel will result in change too. Those like Mr. Feldman who support ethnostates and apartheid, of course, want to squelch the voices of dissent. I’m proud of Ookla.

    • Justice Not Propaganda

      Thanks, Tony, for showing everyone who’s reading the comments that you have no clue what apartheid is and that you promote the terrorist agenda of those trying to destroy Israel. For only someone who’s completely ignorant would suggest that Israel – where all are treated equally regardless of religion, nationality, sexual orientation, etc. – engages in apartheid.

    • ModernMaccabi

      There is no “Apartheid” in Israel. Arab and other minority citizens vote, serve in government, on courts, in the army, as police officers and in all other facets of the country. It is nothing like South Africa. This is another example of how SJP and their ilk spread lies and false propaganda against Israel and Israelis.

  • Deck Hughes

    Jewish students and organizations are also culpable for this. If we do not speak out against this kind of open hatred, no one will do it for us. All it will do is send a signal to anti Semites everywhere that it is easy to openly hate Jews. MLK said it to blacks in the 1950s—-civil rights is an issue that is your problem, not others. My only point is the Jewish establishment owns this and if we do not stay vigilant, this will snowball to other campuses.

    • garyfouse

      You are correct. I taught part-time at UC Irvine for 18 years and saw first hand the anti-semitism brought forth by the MSU and SJP. Sadly, organizations like Hillel, the Jewish Federation of OC and ADL were missing in action-even denying the problem. Worse yet, the Fed and Hillel retaliated against Jewish students who had the nerve to speak out about what was happening on campus.

  • garyfouse

    SJP is nothing more than a collection of brown shirts. They have a policy of disrupting pro-Israel events as shown over and over again across the country. They should be banned from every campus in America. Of course we know that the UCLA administration is weak and cowardly.

  • ModernMaccabi

    SJP is a hate group that propagates lies about Israelis, Israel and Jews in general.