On Tuesday, Mar. 10, UCLA’s Undergraduate Students Association Council voted on a resolution condemning anti-Semitism. The resolution was drafted by leaders in the Jewish Bruin community, and gained support via signatures from 17 organizations across campus — including Hillel at UCLA, Chabad at UCLA, the Jewish Awareness Movement at UCLA, Ha’Am, and Alpha Epsilon Pi (Xi Deuteron), to name but a few. The official USAC sponsors were President Avinoam Baral, Financial Support Commissioner Heather Rosen, General Representative 3 Fabienne Roth, Transfer Student Representative Negeen Sadeghi-Movahed, General Representative 1 Manjot Singh, and General Representative 2 Sofia Moreno Haq. After an hour and a half of public comments and 20 minutes of council deliberation, the resolution passed with a vote of 12-0-0.
Exactly one month has passed since Feb. 10, the evening that Roth, Sadeghi-Movahed, Singh, and Haq all initially voted to reject Rachel Beyda’s appointment to the Judicial Board after a 40-minute conversation questioning if Beyda’s Jewish identity created a unique conflict of interest — a conversation which local, national, and international news outlets are labeling anti-Semitic. The growing hostility toward Jewish students on several UC campuses, coupled with this gross act of discrimination, motivated leaders in UCLA’s Jewish community to bring a resolution condemning anti-Semitism to the USAC table.
Tuesday’s meeting was held in a venue far too small for the around 100 UCLA students who attended to deliver public comments — the vast majority of whom lent their support to the resolution.
First-year student Arielle Mokhtarzadeh commented, “If you are going to vote anything but ‘yes’ tonight, I want you to look into the eyes of the 40 Jewish students in this room and think about the 50 more standing outside this room when you do it.”
The students softly snapped in response, daring any of the council members to protest.
“Anti-Semitism exists on our campus whether we like to admit it or not. This resolution is an opportunity for us to combat not just anti-Semitic instances of rhetoric, […] but the seed of the anti-Semitic notion that you would ever conflate somebody’s personal identity — their ethnic heritage — to their political viewpoint,” said Tessa Nath, editor-in-chief of Ha’Am.
Some commentators felt that while positive, the resolution should not allow council members to get off the hook for their anti-Semitic actions.
First-year economics major Liat Menna said, “On one side, holding this meeting suggests that UCLA allowed anti-Semitism to exist in the first place. Not only is it singling out a minority, but it is also letting its bullies get an easy way out of an apology for the Rachel Beyda scandal.”
Several state and city officials also announced their public support of the resolution.
Richard Bloom, California State Assemblymember of District 50, declared in a press statement: “As a concerned citizen and an elected official, I have witnessed the troubling rise in anti-semitism at UC, nationwide and internationally over the past number of years. Anti-semitism, like racism and sexism is insidious. We must stand in solidarity against all forms of intolerance.”
Los Angeles City Councilmember for the 3rd Council District, Bob Blumenfield, wrote, “It is imperative that student council members be leaders for fair treatment and a positive campus climate for every person. I am no stranger to passionate disagreement, but there is no place for racist behavior in our schools. UCLA has a proud history of embracing different cultures, not marginalizing them. We need more dialogue on campus, not more isolation.”
While the resolution did pass unanimously, there was some pushback regarding specific phrasing on the topic of criticizing Israel. USAC Student Wellness Commissioner Savannah Badalich expressed her concerns regarding the restrictions it would place upon the parameters of acceptable criticism of the state of Israel. This sentiment was echoed by a Students for Justice in Palestine representative, who stated that while she feels it is important to host open discussions regarding discrimination and bigotry, it would be wrong to include any clause that addresses Israel.
In response to these qualms about the resolution, Gil Bar-Or, president of J Street at UCLA, addressed the council during his public comment by quoting the Working Definition of Anti-Semitism: “Criticisms of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.” The essential wording in the resolution stresses the importance of criticizing Israel using the same standards to which all other countries are held.
Roth — the only council member charged with anti-Semitic rhetoric who did not prepare a formal statement — acknowledged the legitimacy of student concerns about the language pertaining to anti-Semitism and Israel. She admitted that the clause sufficiently addressed the issue, and stated that she is looking forward to voting in its favor so long as the council made clear that SJP and other organizations would not be prevented from organizing as a result.
In spite of the resolution’s passing, not every council member felt that they should be held responsible for recent events. Haq stated that while she supports the resolution (and voted in its favor), “It is unfortunate that the media has misconstrued things that were said.”
Singh said that he sympathizes with the cause because he too has felt oppression for being Sikh.
The only council member to genuinely apologize for her actions remains Sadeghi-Movahed, saying “I have apologized repeatedly, and I will apologize again today. […] I hope the Jewish community will accept my acknowledgement of my personal faults. […] I fully support this resolution.”
After the resolution passed, this morning Congressman Ted W. Lieu announced, “I applaud the UCLA student government for passing a resolution condemning all forms of anti-Semitism. As a society we need to recognize anti-Semitism, condemn it, and eliminate it. Not only is anti-Semitism abhorrent, but it violates federal law. We have seen a number of recent incidents on college campuses, and it is incumbent on students, faculty, administrators, and elected officials to stand up to such hate. Each and every student, whether at UCLA or any other university, deserves fair and equal treatment. When it comes to intolerance, we must embrace a zero tolerance policy — particularly at our centers of learning and inquiry.”
UC President Janet Napolitano and Board of Regents Chairman Bruce D. Varner released a similar statement, saying: “Anti-Semitic incidents such as these, as well as bigotry directed against any members of the UC community because of their faith, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, will not be tolerated. They deserve our condemnation. We applaud the UCLA and UC Berkeley student governments for unanimously passing resolutions condemning anti-Semitism.
All of us bear responsibility for preserving and strengthening the University of California’s bedrock values of respect, inclusion and civility. Doing so requires the constant attention and the enduring commitment of every member of our community, every day, everywhere.”
In short, at 8:40 p.m. on Tuesday night, UCLA’s student government passed a resolution condemning anti-Semitism — a month after wholeheartedly embracing it.