Photo credit: Miriam Bribiesca/Daily Bruin
As a Jewish student on this campus, I maintain serious reservations regarding the candidacy of Divya Sharma, who is running for Academic Affairs Commissioner (AAC) in the USAC elections occurring this week. These reservations stem from his demonstrated ambivalence towards the issue of BDS — the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction companies allegedly engaged in human rights violations in the State of Israel. Many in the Jewish community agree that BDS is a mechanism for anti-Semitism on college campuses because it delegitimizes and demonizes the State of Israel. While human rights abuses are sadly pervasive throughout the world, the issue of BDS — in the form of non-binding resolutions adopted by university student governments across the country — alarmingly focuses exclusively on Israel and ignores these other moral dilemmas.
Sharma’s platforms advocate for the university to adopt 15 Sanctuary Campus demands, brought forth in March by the Student Labor Advocacy Project at UCLA. Calling for ‘ethical investments,’ the eleventh demand orders the university to “ensure [it] is not invested in corporations that profit from colonialism, occupation, violence and racism committed by Israel in Palestine; de-shelve products on campus belonging to corporations that profit from Israel’s human rights abuses against Palestinians; make a public statement or press release condemning Israeli apartheid given that Palestinian students have a right to feel protected by the University.”
When promoting his platforms on Facebook, Sharma called for “mobilizing against unethical government practices”, which echoes the original demand’s call for BDS. Curiously, Sharma later removed this part of his platform.
In fairness, when a student released a personal Facebook post accusing Sharma of supporting the BDS movement, Sharma said he is “not running on that platform.” Many questions, however, remain.
Why did it take a Daily Bruin opinion piece (which was edited to remove his support of BDS); a phone conversation with a current member of the Bruins for Israel board (per Jay Joelson, a former Bruins for Israel board member); and the aforementioned Facebook post by a member of the Jewish community for Sharma to clarify his stance, when he had been openly endorsing this platform for weeks before?
Indeed, if Sharma does not support BDS, what prevented him from providing a clear answer when Danny Siegel — our current USAC president and a member of the Jewish community himself — asked Sharma whether or not he would support BDS at the council table? Instead of responding with conviction, Sharma claimed Siegel posed a ‘loaded question’ and further refused to take a stand by stating he would abstain on a BDS vote at the council table.
The facebook platform offered Sharma the opportunity to articulate his thoughts clearly and on the record before the Jewish and pro-Israel community regarding his stance on BDS. He has since ignored the offer.
As a member of UCLA’s Jewish community, I know of the vitriol and divisiveness that BDS has brought to our campus before my arrival – and how it has hurt my friends and community so dearly. From 12-hour long debates with hurling ad-hominem attacks, to a manifestation at the council table when a candidate for judicial board was questioned for her relationship with Israel as a Jew, it deeply concerns me that a candidate for our student government will not take a moral stand. Sharma had the opportunity to clarify his position, but instead left us with more questions than answers. I for one will be not be voting Divya Sharma for AAC, and would encourage others who care about keeping the hate and division of BDS out of our student government to do the same.
Jordan Nakdimon is a second year Political Science student.