This week’s Historical Ha’Am article criticizes the hatred espoused by 1996 UCLA students toward Zionism and, arguably, Judaism. Selecting this as a Historical Ha’Am article was difficult because as UCLA students, we are proud of our university and struggle with acknowledging its flaws and its mistakes. But we are also Jewish, and this article exemplifies the deep-rooted challenges our fellow Jewish Bruins have faced on this very campus. While facing reality – including the reality of the past – is incredibly difficult, it’s an essential part of effecting change, and so we must strive to remember the past and how far we have come rather than burying the history that makes us uncomfortable. With that in mind, please step back in time with us to March of 1996, to just another day at UCLA.
“It was just another day, and my roommate and I were strolling down Bruin Walk, hoping that we would not be heckled by some ultra-confused Dianetics-reading Jew for Jesus. I quickly reached for a Daily Bruin on my way through the crowd, wondering who they were going to bash today. Will it be the U.C. Board of Regents for voting down Affirmative Action? No, the staff of the Daily Bruin had instead chosen to attack Zionism. Why? Because it’s okay to attack Zionism, as long as you are not ‘Anti-Jewish.’
A little further down Bruin Walk we heard the loud cries of a gathering in Westwood Plaza. Would you know it, the Muslim Union was holding an anti-oppression rally, supported by the African Student Union, MEChA and Samahang Philipino. Another one. Yes, for those of you who were here at UCLA two years ago, you might recognize some of the symptoms.
As we approached this sea of ‘oppressed people,’ I noticed security guards dressed in black, strategically placed around the area, distinguishable by the white bands around their arms. I smirked when I saw one up on the third floor of the plaza building communicating with the others via walkie-talkies. It was just another day at UCLA.
We stopped to listen, because when someone is directing rhetoric toward you, it’s only polite to do so. We were hoping that this time, unlike during the last rally, we would see some progress in the ideals surrounding oppression and peace. We have come a long way in the Middle East, with peace coming closer every day. The speakers who were not students were very optimistic, and did not place any blame on groups or individuals. It was instead our fellow students who spoke out in an antagonistic free-for-all, calling Zionism “The great oppressor of the Post-World War II Period.” It has been amazing to see the progress that has been made between Arabs and Israelis in the past couple of years. However, these students have so much invested in their hatred that they will never admit to positive progress, because admitting to progress would deflate the intensity of their platform. Still, just another day at UCLA.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch (Israel), a bomb exploded near a bus station in Jerusalem, killing 25 innocent people and injuring 80 others. Hamas, an Islamic terrorist group, claimed responsibility. The initial response of the Jewish leadership on campus was to hold an anti-terrorism rally in order to relieve their feeelings of utter disgust and frustration. Instead, the Jewish community came together to memorialize those who fell victim to this terrorist attack, making it a point not to mix blood and politics. But is there a need for such a rally? Is it time for the Jewish community of UCLA to stand up and defend its integrity? This is a question that each of us must ask ourselves, keeping in mind what we hope to accomplish.
Don’t get us wrong. We are not saying that UCLA is a breeding ground for hatred and anti-semitism. But like so many other graduating seniors, we were disappointed that on this great multi-cultural campus such as ours there is little tolerance for the beliefs of others. Think about this. There is conflict between the nation of Israel and its surrounding neighbors. The conflict is taking place thousands of miles away. Why, then, is it necessary to take that conflict and place it in the middle of Westwood Plaza? One of the security guards was staring down a group of Jewish students eating at Taco Bell, like they were going to finish their 7-layer burritos, then get on a plane and go back to their posts in the Israeli Army. A university is an academic institution, not a playground for spewing unfounded rhetoric. But hey, it was just another day at UCLA.”
-Jared Black and Joe Levin, March 1996