UCLA students regret resolutions procedure, marginalizing language on Israel

NOTE: In an article posted in this space on Nov. 29, 2012, statements of regret and quotes from a press release erroneously were attributed to the board of directors of the University of California Student Association’s (UCSA). Here is an updated and corrected article from jns.org:

UCLA representatives to the University of California Student Association board of directors on Nov. 20 expressed regret for several aspects of a UCSA resolution two months earlier that condemned HR35 — a unanimously passed State Assembly resolution urging California schools to squelch nascent anti-Semitism and crack down on anti-Israel demonstrations.

The UCLA representatives wrote in an email that they were “unaware that the resolution would be presented by members of U.C. Berkeley’s Students for Justice in Palestine” and also unaware of “the confidential e-mail communication happening between members of SJP.” The UCLA representatives, whose email was posted on the “Bruins for Israel Facebook page, said they agreed that such procedure “undermines the democratic process.”

“This issue has prompted the board to re-evaluate its procedures and guidelines regarding the co-sponsoring of resolutions by third-party organizations,” the UCLA representatives said.

The UCLA representatives recognized the “negative impact that the resolution’s language had on the Jewish community and our campus climate” through the inclusion of phrases such as “illegal occupation” when referring to Israel. The UCSA resolution’s language “blurred the lines between advocating for free speech and taking a stance on the Israeli-Palestinian issue,” according to the UCLA representatives.

The resolution the UCSA passed two months earlier supports the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement and condemns HR 35, a state Assembly resolution urging California schools to crack down on anti-Semitism and anti-Israel demonstrations. The student resolution, which was passed Sept. 15, charges Israel with “racism” and claims HR 35 conflates “speech critical of Israeli policies with anti-Semitism,” calling it a “serious attack on academic freedom and faculty.” It also says HR 35 “unfairly and falsely smear[s] as ‘anti-Semites’ those who do human rights advocacy focusing on Israel’s illegal occupation.” The student resolution also recognizes the legitimacy of BDS actions “as important social movement tools.”

Jewish groups lashed out at the UCSA resolution, both for its content and the fact it was presented and voted upon on a Saturday, with no advance warning so that Jewish students could attend the meeting. Regarding the scheduling of the discussion and vote on Shabbat, the board said it was not done “with the intention of excluding Jewish students from the conversation,” but rather because of scheduling constraints.  — jns.org