The lengthy public comment period at last week's USAC meeting presented the undeserved impression that the resolution calling on the university to divest from five companies abetting Israel's occupation of the Palestinian Territories offended the campus "Jewish" community and representing a strike by an "anti-semitic" BDS movement.
Such rhetoric not only ignored the fact that this resolution made no mention whatsoever of the BDS movement but denies the voice of Jewish students like myself who support the resolution as a means of opposing an Occupation illegal under international law and harmful to both Palestinians and Israelis.
However the message voiced played by our campus's most prominent Jewish institution, Hillel, in fighting the resolution. In an email sent out the on the day of the meeting, Hillel's Student Board called on Jewish students to "join our community in voting NO" the resolution, erroneously tying it to a "BDS movement" aiming to "delegitimize and demonize the Jewish, Democratic state of Israel." (https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?pli=1#inbox/1446a40b64faeb3f)
The same e-mail furthermore recommended that students check out the Facebook page of Bruins against BDS, a group led by Hillel student leaders that also made use of Hillel facilities for a meetings.
This overt opposition to Tuesday’s resolution reflects considerably on the “Israel Guidelines” laid out by Hillel at UCLA’s parent organization, Hillel International, which state that Hillel will not partner or affiliate with groups or individuals who “support boycotts, divestment and/or Sanctions against Israel” or who “delegitimize” or “demonize” the state of Israel. (http://www.hillel.org/jewish/hillel-israel/hillel-israel-guidelines)
These guidelines have been used by Hillels at Harvard and Brandeis (respectively) to refuse to host former Speaker of the Knesset Avraham Burg (for giving a talk co-sponsored by the Palestine Solidarity Committee, (http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2013/11/26/hillel-speaker-open-policy/#)) and to deny membership to Jewish Voice for Peace (a Jewish organization that supports Boycott Divestment and Sanctions, http://www.thejewishweek.com/news/national-news/brandeis-hillel-again-rejects-membership-bid-jewish-voice-peace).
In this light, Hillel at UCLA’s mobilization of opposition to the late divestment resolution should be seen as especially stringent given the steps taken by the authors of the resolution to dissociate it from the BDS movement and focus only on the most pressing issue of corporations aiding Israel’s violations of human rights and international law in the Occupied Territories. (http://dailybruin.com/2014/02/24/submission-resolution-supports-divestment-not-bds-as-a-whole/)
Given the willingness of Hillel at UCLA to accommodate Jews of various denominations and levels of observance, it disheartens me that it should take such a strong stance against a measure that prominent Jews and Israelis feel necessary to end Israel’s occupation and bring long-lasting peace to the Middle East.
It should be added that I have been a regular attendee of Hillel’s Shabbat and High Holiday services since I have been a Freshman appreciating the warmth of community and Jewish learning that I have received there. In light of Hillel’s failure to incorporate my opinions in drawing its stance on divestment, I vow not to attend events held at or sponsored by Hillel until the day I graduate.