Los Angeles, CA - March 13, 2014 - On February 25, 2014, Students for Justice in Palestine presented a USAC resolution to divest from 5 transnational corporations that directly enable and benefit from documented human rights violations against Palestinians. During this meeting that lasted over 11 hours, countless individuals- people from 19 identified student organizations and others who came independently, both from UCLA and across southern California- stepped forward for public comment in support of the resolution, exhibiting striking unity in sentiment across diverse communities on campus.
Among the public comments made against the resolution, overtones of racism, xenophobia, pinkwashing, the tokenization of other communities' struggles as justification for human rights violations, and Islamophobia seemed to be the orders of the night. At 12:02 am, an individual speaking against the resolution stated in his public comment that “Israel will exist and continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it as it has obliterated others before it.” Then, continuing in spite of widespread student dissent in response to his blatant Islamophobia, he stated at 12:03 am that “If Israel would put down their arms and disband its military, you would have Israelis made into fish food as they were pushed into the sea by radical Islamic terrorism.”
First and foremost, this comment epitomized a problematic conflation of the identities of Muslim and Palestinian individuals that was rampant during commentary that night. As the two identities are not mutually inclusive, the assertion silenced voices on all sides of the discussion, neglecting the reality of non-Muslim Palestinians and non-Palestinian Muslims. As the Muslim Student Association, we also condemn anti-Semitic behavior in all its forms, as we recognize that Judaism and Zionism are not synonymous, and that even any anti-Zionist sentiment misattributed to the pro-resolution cause should not give way to anti-Semitic rhetoric.
Second, there was no attempt by individuals previously identified as opposing the resolution to conceal reactions in favor of the Islamophobic commentary, which evidences a clear undercurrent of Islamophobia, antagonism, and animosity toward Muslim identifying individuals instead of disagreement solely with the resolution. If operating under a basic definition of respect as “respect[ing] the rights and dignity of others,” as stated in the True Bruin Values, it is unequivocally clear that respect was not present in the space.
As this individual continued his speech, council members and faculty advisors remained silent, allowing him the 2 minutes allotted under the assumption of adherence to the ground rules of a respectful space. A subsequent public comment directly addressed council regarding the issue of their silence, garnering no response from any of them. Free speech is inarguably an integral and invaluable right that we must fight to preserve; at the same time, when hateful and insensitive comments are tossed around at the expense of the alienation and demonization of a community, particularly in an allegedly respectful forum where the subject of religion has absolutely no bearing on the proceedings, we hold our council members to higher standards than passivity. Neither of his blatantly Islamophobic comments were conducive to the cultivation of a positive and inclusive campus climate, or even relevant to the discussion. Instead, it was alienating and hateful to a large community on campus, essentially the equivalent of shouting fire in a crowded theater for its potential to ignite fear and antagonism. Again, neither USAC nor the faculty advisors spoke up, but rather chose to silence individuals voicing dissent. All this begs the question: by what means do we, as students whose voices are supposed to be represented by student government, hold USAC accountable?
There can be no accountability until UCLA takes an institutionalized stance by standardizing a Diversity Requirement, a precedent for which has been set at every other UC. It is the only means by which we can level the playing field and remove uneducated or inexperienced ignorance as a viable excuse for hateful speech. Furthermore, it is important to recognize that UCLA does not exist in a vacuum, so individuals who pass through its walls will likely be influential players on the world stage for our generation. As such, the Muslim Student Association at UCLA calls on its student government, faculty, administration, and Academic Senate for the cultivation of a globally sensitive mindset into its standard curriculum, thereby ensuring that dogmatic preconceptions and hurt feelings do not become the deciding factors of not only campus climate as they are now, but also of future world policy.
The Muslim Students Association at UCLA now calls for:
- Statements of Support from Chancellor Gene Block and Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, Janina Montero, urging the UCLA community to prioritize concerns of positive campus climate and inclusivity for all, at the expense of none.
- Statements of Support from Bruins for Israel and Hillel (as the primary opposition to the resolution) condemning both the problematic and silencing conflation of a Muslim identity with a Palestinian identity, and the Islamophobic rhetoric that was employed as a means by which to bolster the anti-divestment resolution agenda (including the shameless vocalized support and cheers it received in response).
- Administrative pressure and open support for the passage of a Diversity Requirement, specifically from the UCLA Academic Senate, ensuring that social and cultural awareness is incorporated into the campus culture with support on all fronts, particularly academic.
Standing in solidarity with the Palestinians, oppressed peoples everywhere, and working in active support of a true positive campus climate,
The Muslim Student Association | UCLA
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UCLA Student Organizations
IDEAS at UCLA
Incarcerated Youth Tutorial Project | UCLA
Al-Talib Muslim Student Newsmagazine | UCLA
Mentors for Academic & Peer Support | UCLA
University Muslim Medical Association Volunteer Project | UCLA
Academic Mentorship Program | UCLA
Muslim Union | UCLA
Students for Justice in Palestine | UCLA
Pakistani Student Association | UCLA
Queer Alliance | UCLA
Samahang Pilipino | UCLA
United Arab Society | UCLA
Vietnamese Student Union | UCLA
Asian Pacific Coalition | UCLA
Afrikan Student Union | UCLA
UCLA Undergraduate Students Association Council
Lizzy Naameh, USAC General Representative 3 |UCLA
USAC Cultural Affairs Commission | UCLA
USAC Facilities Commission | UCLA
USAC Office of the External Vice President | UCLA
USAC Office of the President | UCLA
Savannah Badalich, USAC Student Wellness Commissioner | UCLA
Omar Arce, USAC Community Service Commissioner | UCLA
Muslim Student Associations
Muslim Student Association West | CA
Muslim Student Association | CSU Fullerton
Muslim Student Association | CSU Northridge
Muslim Student Association | CSU Sacramento
Muslim Student Association | San Jose State University
Muslim Student Association | UC Berkeley
Muslim Student Association | UC Davis
Muslim Student Union | UC Irvine
Muslim Student Association | UC Riverside
Muslim Student Association | UC Santa Cruz
Muslim Student Association | University of the Pacific
Muslim Student Union | University of Southern California
Muslim Student Association | California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
Muslim Student Association | CSU Long Beach
Muslim Student Association | Santa Clara University
Jewish Voice for Peace | Los Angeles
American Muslims for Palestine
Council on American-Islamic Relations | CA
The following individuals and organizations have declined to endorse this statement, the reason being that it puts forth a distinction between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, which they feel does not exist:
Bruins for Israel | UCLA
Hillel | UCLA
Avi Oved, USAC Office of the Internal Vice President | UCLA
MSA has considered their qualm, and we believe that an assertion of Zionism and a Jewish identity being synonymous silences and neglects the reality of Jewish identifying individuals, both on our campus and worldwide, who do not subscribe to Zionist ideology.