Congressman Brad Sherman is a Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives, representing California’s 30th Congressional District. Congressman Sherman is Jewish, a member of Encino’s Valley Beth Shalom synagogue, and a strong advocate for Israel. As a Congressman, he serves on the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade.
In response to the upcoming National Students for Justice in Palestine (NSJP) Conference, which will be hosted at UCLA, Congressman Sherman wrote a letter to UCLA Chancellor Gene Block in which he expressed his concern that the NSJP Conference might constitute a violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits “discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin.”
On supporting Israel
There is only one state in the world that anyone is trying to abolish. Nobody’s trying to expel the Hungarians from Central Europe, nobody’s screaming that Uruguay shouldn’t exist, but the people of Israel have had to deal with several wars that were designed to abolish their country, whether that be 1948 or 1967. So thank God Israel survived and it is, I think, clearly anti-Semitic to call for the abolition of the one Jewish state unless your organization is dedicated to the abolition of all nation-states. There used to be anarchists, about 150 years ago, who advocated that, but I don’t know anybody who’s advocating it now.
And if you look carefully at the positions of Students for Justice in Palestine, they are dedicated to the abolition of Israel and the ethnic cleansing of the Middle East. They hide that by saying they want to liberate “occupied territories,” and then “occupied territories” becomes every square inch of Israel. They have not taken the position that Israel has a right to exist anywhere, at least anywhere in the Middle East.
So we have this conference. It’s odd to see SJP demand a chance to have a nice, peaceful conference at UCLA when it’s my understanding that, just last May, they disrupted a conference of Students Supporting Israel. Why a group that prevents others from having a conference is being allowed to have a conference, apparently subsidized by the taxpayers of California in the sense that it’s free facilities, I need to talk to the Chancellor about it.
On how pro-Israel and Jewish students should respond
Well, the key thing is not to respond, to get information out to the 95 percent of the students on campus who are neither Students Supporting Israel nor Students for Justice in Palestine. I don’t think the key to creating a pro-Israel campus is necessarily focusing just on what SJP is doing or what other anti-Semites are doing. My letter kinda says it all – if you’ve got room, I’d publish the letter.
But, you know, it wouldn’t hurt to talk to the Chancellor and say, “Hey, why is a group allowed to use the facilities when they organized an effort to prevent others from using the facilities?” I’m told that no student fee money will be used for this conference, but it’s even more than student fee money. You’ve got taxpayer money! Those buildings were built by taxpayers, now they’re being given for a while to SJP for free, or very little.
That being said, there are a few that have taken an anti-Israel position, and I don’t object when folks criticize the Israeli government, I’ve never met an Israeli who hasn’t. And I myself do not support these outpost settlements that are on the one hand illegal under Israeli law but on the other hand seem to be recognized de-facto even if they’re illegal de-jure. So it’s just fine to criticize the Israeli government.
On bipartisan support for Israel
Israel has only one other friend in the world, and that’s Guatemala, and if only one party were to support Israel, then Israel would have only half of a friend. And that isn’t sufficient. Over the first 70 years of the Israeli state, both Democrats and Republicans have been in control in Washington, and I assure that in the next 70 years, we’ll go back and forth. There are elements in the Republican Party who are trying to drive a wedge between Israel and Democrats, and it may meet their short-term political objectives, but it’s one of the most dangerous things that can be done to the state of Israel. And so I invite everyone, regardless of where they stand on all the other issues that confront our country, to work to make sure that both parties are pro-Israel.
On the embassy move
Well, clearly, moving the embassy could have been differently. It was something that should have been done about 70 years ago. I had legislation in the 1990s to say that we would build an embassy in Jerusalem before we built one in Berlin. That legislation did not pass, but it is instructive that, when the German people told us that they had moved their capital from Bonn to Berlin, we built a new embassy in the place that they said was their capital. And if we were willing to do that for the Germans, we should have been willing to do that for Israel.
Hamas-led demonstrations were going to go on independent of moving the embassy; they were there because it was 70 years since the Jewish state.
On the cessation of $200 million aid to the UN’s Program for Humanitarian Aid to Palestine (UNRWA)
As to aid to the Palestinians, I think the U.S. should do its part, but if we can’t rely on some agencies to do it in the right way, then we have to fund other agencies instead. And the agencies that we were funding have not been as careful as they should be in making sure that their aid does not benefit terrorists.