From our friends at StandWithUs Background: University of California Student Association (UCSA) is a system-wide student organization with representatives from each campus. On Saturday, September 15, a resolution was passed condemning HR 35, a California State Assembly resolution at UC Berkeley. Accusing Israel of “racism,” the UCSA urged the UC Board of Regents to divest from companies aiding Israel in alleged human rights violations. The planning of the initiative was kept secret until the day of. No agenda was published in advance. With no engagement from Jewish and other campus groups, there was no way for opponents of the measure to have their voices heard. Meanwhile, leaders of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) were given an opportunity to convey their message at the meeting.
The UC Student Association (UCSA) board’s resolution on Saturday, September 15th, 2012 called for "all institutions of higher learning" to boycott and divest from companies doing business with Israel. It also denounced official efforts to address anti-Semitism on UC campuses—the UC Campus Climate Report on Jewish Students and California Assembly Resolution HR 35.
"The resolution's attack on legitimate concerns about anti-Israel extremism and anti-Semitism is deeply disturbing, but even more disturbing are the proponents' devious, undemocratic tactics. They essentially ambushed Jewish and other pro-Israel students by using secretive tactics, not notifying anyone who might disagree with the proposed resolution. To further their lack of transparency, they debated it during the weekend of Rosh Hashanah, the holiest days of the Jewish year, when Jewish students were unavailable to object to the anti-Israel resolutions. It's not surprising they reported that no dissenting views were heard. This is a pattern. We've seen anti-Israel extremists use these guerrilla tactics in the past as well to shut down debate and ram through their hostile agenda," said Roz Rothstein, StandWithUs CEO.
The UCSA is supposed to act as the voice of UC students, and the resolution claims it reflects campus-wide sentiment. It does neither. Boycott and divestment resolutions have been defeated on all UC campuses where they were introduced. Worse, the 12-member board went out of its way to shut out and silence pro-Israel students. Arielle Gabai, president of the UC Berkeley Jewish Student Union, stated, "We were told that it was spur of the moment that day, and our campus representative wasn't able to contact us for some reason or another, then we found out in the Daily Cal article that they have been talking about this since August....It's very clear that Jewish students' voices were left out. It was a conscious effort to silence Jewish voices." While Jewish and pro-Israel student groups were excluded from this meeting, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) was asked to make a presentation.
"It is unacceptable that public tax money supports the UCSA when it promotes anti-Israel bigotry and willfully excludes tens of thousands of students who pay dues and whom it is supposed to represent. The anti-Israel extremists' single-minded obsession with undermining Israel in any way possible leads them to manipulate procedural rules, to try to hijack school institutions, and to foment unnecessary bitter divisiveness on campus. This latest ploy both confirms the very problems described in the campus climate report and the assembly resolution and makes it even more imperative for UC to seriously study both documents," concluded Rothstein.
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Read what UC students think about this fiasco here and here.
A very important passage from Noah's article: indicates that the secrecy regarding this meeting was engineered by Students for Justice in Palestine, specifically to prevent opposition.
"The absence of an opposing voice — considering the vote count and attendance — on such a controversial topic strips the body of its legitimacy and transparency. This was not spontaneous, according to UC San Diego External Affairs Vice President Olamide Noah, who said the UCSA board had been working on the resolution since its congress in August. Abbasi’s lack of outside input, not necessarily his choice in voting, undermines the trust promised during his campaign last spring.
An email sent out by Luma Haddad, a member of the Students for Justice in Palestine, to core members in the organization reveals the most shocking part of this lack of transparency. Haddad explains to the members why “there was not much word spread about this in the last few days that led up to the meeting.” She then establishes that this was done “in order to prevent unwanted lobbying/intimidation tactics.”
When an opposing voice is actively neglected from a major debate on legislation, that body and that legislation becomes permanently tainted. Whether or not members of the UCSA board purposely committed this withholding of information is unclear, but the fact that that sentiment explicitly existed by some of its key supporters destroys the democratic process supposedly involved in the vote."