Sole Jewish representative votes no. Hillel at UCLA not explicitly invited to meeting.
One action item reappeared on the weekly agendas for the first three meetings of UCLA’s newly sworn-in student government: a resolution condemning “misinformation” about Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). Many student issues, such as increasing tuition costs, student homelessness, and the lack of student housing, have received far less airtime for the new student government thus far.
The “misinformation” resolution notably included clauses that argued that SJP was the subject of false “accusations…of antisemitism”. The accusations of antisemitism made against SJP came after confirmed speakers to their 2018 national conference had written tweets which asked former President Barack Obama to “just go kill all the Jews” and others which made jokes about the Holocaust. Even still, the student government council voted on May 21 to declare antisemitism allegations against NSJP were false.
Many Jewish students expressed discomfort about the fact that non-Jewish elected representatives introduced a resolution defining and denying antisemitism. Justin Feldman, the president of Students Supporting Israel at UCLA, spoke at the student government meeting, saying in part: “The antisemitism that you are referencing and denying in this resolution is widely condemned by everyone from the chancellors of all UC campuses to, most recently, the German parliament.” “Antisemitic forms of anti-Zionism” are specifically condemned in the University of California’s 2015 Principles Against Intolerance.
When the resolution was first posted on official student government Facebook pages, many Jewish students expressed dismay. Aaron Boudaie, a former student government representative, commented: “The Poway shooting which killed the mother of a Bruin solely because of her Jewishness does not garner a resolution, but the first action of this council is to go after ‘false accusations of antisemitism’?” Boudaie continued: “Who are you to tell anyone what is and is not antisemitic?” Grayson Peters, who currently serves on the North Westwood Neighborhood Council wrote: “White people don’t get to define anti-Blackness…Non-Jews don’t get to say what is and is not antisemitism. Please stop trying.”
The resolution notably calls out four Jews by name either in the resolution text or in the reference list: UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, LA City Councilman Paul Koretz, U.S. Congressman Brad Sherman, and David Horowitz. No non-Jews are mentioned or condemned by the resolution.
At the May 21 student government meeting, the resolution finally received a vote and passed 8-1. All eight “yes” votes were from non-Jewish representatives. The sole “no” vote came from the sole Jewish elected representative, Tara Steinmetz. Right before the vote Steinmetz emotionally appealed to the other representatives: “Just last week, we had a Jewish student berated by a professor who declared Zionism is white supremacy, and the student was left in tears. To ignore how anti-Zionism can cross into antisemitism is problematic.”
A 2018 poll by the Mellman Group found that 92% of American Jews defined themselves as “pro-Israel” and only 3% of American Jews self-described as “anti-Israel”. Steinmetz told Ha’Am News: “Some at the meeting were trying to define Zionism as a dirty word. They use rhetoric that renders them only ‘okay’ with the small minority of Jews who disavow Israel, ignoring the fact that Israel is quite often an inherent part of many Jewish students’ identities. It’s not okay for them to try to be an authority who is a ‘good’ Jew and who is a ‘bad’ Jew.”
It is unclear whether more resolutions relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be brought to the student government in the upcoming academic year. While resolutions relating to Israel and the Palestinians have been a common item on the agenda since 2013, no resolutions relating to any other conflict have been brought up for a vote in that period.