Dear members of the UCSA Board,
SJP West is writing to voice serious concerns about the recent developments surrounding the student-regent designate, Avi Oved, and the possibility that he accepted a financial contribution from Adam Milstein during his political campaign in 2013. While Students for Justice in Palestine is an organization with views on Israel/Palestine and divestment that are at odds with those of Oved and his party slate, the issue at hand is not divestment, but the potential violation of transparency and ethicality so integral for a student representative to uphold. The evidence presented to date suggests that a student who will potentially be tasked with representing the entire University of California student body willfully undermined the democratic process by seeking outside funding from an individual with a partisan political agenda. This is profoundly troubling because it sends the message that student political favors are for sale and that the general student body’s needs may be of secondary importance to the desires of such off-campus political donors.
Despite political differences, all students should be able to know that our representatives are only answerable to student concerns and not those of outside entities. Student representatives must be solely accountable to their constituents. It is absolutely essential for these charges to be thoroughly ruled out: how can we hold state and federal leaders to account if we cannot even do the same for our own student leaders? We need to be absolutely certain that the student regent designate’s loyalties lie with UC students first and foremost and not with outside organizations.
Furthermore, we find Milstein’s public displays of racist and Islamophobic sentiment repugnant, and Avi Oved’s potential solicitation of funds from such a donor to be a matter of grave concern. Representing the UC’s diverse student body requires a student regent with a demonstrated commitment to openness and tolerance. Avi Oved’s refusal to distance himself publicly from this exchange suggests an incompatibility with these qualities. Even excluding the substantive content of Mr. Milstein’s beliefs, the possibility that the integrity of student government is being undermined by outside forces to further a particular political agenda is unacceptable and must be investigated thoroughly.
Finally, it is very alarming that Oved refused, for no apparent reason, to join the UCSA’s conference call specifically held for him to answer questions and be accountable to his constituents. In addition to this, his lack of explicit denial of accepting those contributions from Milstein and of the email’s authenticity are also disturbingly telling. Both participation in a conversation about these allegations and an assurance that the contributions did not take place would have been crucial to preserving student trust in their student regent-designate. An investigation is hence paramount to ensure that Oved is the right candidate for this position and that students can trust him to represent them fairly and transparently.
We hope that these allegations will be investigated in as scrupulous a manner as possible. The credibility of our student representation may very well depend on it.
Students for Justice in Palestine West
Jewish Voice for Peace at UCLA
By now, every student has heard the critiques before. We’re lazy. We’re entitled. We don’t want to take our eyes off our Facebooks or our butts off our couches. Yeah, we know.
UCR students have shattered that misconception…
We have been engaged in the world around us, making our voices heard by engaging in electoral politics and protesting when the political system didn’t listen. Nowhere was this more evident than during ASUCR’s recent meeting that discussed divestment. The senate chambers could not accommodate the turnout, so the meeting was moved to UNLH, UCR’s largest lecture hall. Over 150 students spent five hours during a week filled with studying and midterms to debate the merits of divestment. Students held posters high. Students made their case to their elected representatives. In short, students did exactly what participatory democracy expects of its citizens: We participated.
…Let’s not let the energy surrounding divestment be a once-in-a-blue-moon occurrence. The momentum of dialogue and conversation cannot cease with divestment. It must continue forward, with students carrying the banner to advocate for the issues they find important. Students can effect real change. We just have to be tenacious and energetic enough to seek it in the first place.
Stokely Carmichael once said of Dr. Martin Luther King, “His major assumption was that if you are nonviolent, if you suffer, your opponent will see your suffering and will be moved to change his heart. That’s very good. He only made one fallacious assumption: In order for nonviolence to work, your opponent must have a conscience.” In reality, Israel, the United States, the corporations profiting off this occupation and this Associated Students Senate have no conscience.
We cannot ignore the fact that the United States sends Israel eight million dollars a day in military aid, regardless of countless resolutions condemning Israel’s human rights violations. We cannot forget that Palestine has been colonized and that Palestinians are indigenous to Israel and Palestine, including Jewish, Muslim and Christian Palestinians. We are profiting off of companiesthat demolish homes to make room for settlements. There are over four million registered Palestinian refugees. This movement is bigger than UCSB, and it is reaching a pivotal moment.
We can no longer be invested in violence, and just as truth and justice has prevailed in the past, so will it at the University of California. This wall will fall and the occupied will rise, with or without this Senate’s validation. The question becomes: What side of history will you be on? My name is Katlen Abu Ata, I am a UCSB student, I am Palestinian and I am a true advocate for peace and justice.
The spring of 2014 semester at San Diego State University was a turning point in student organizing on the campus. The proposal of a divestment bill in January that demanded the university cease its investments in corporations that are complicit in Israeli human rights violations along with a series of other events throughout the semester indicates the galvanization of a new campus left.
The divestment results at San Diego State University’s University Council (16 against, 3 in favor, 3 abstentions) should not come as a surprise. We understood that we were introducing a bill that focused on social justice to a student government that focuses on business, applauding itself as a “corporation.” It is exactly for this reason that we introduced the resolution.
The primary objective of the divestment initiative was to challenge the corporate model of student governance, to educate students on the human rights violations faced by the Palestinian people, and to stimulate the formation of inter-community solidarity amongst students at San Diego State University. In this respect, divestment was a spectacular victory.
On Wednesday, April 2nd, the union that represents Teaching Assistants at UC Santa Cruz (UCSC) went on strike to protest ongoing harassment of campus workers both at UCSC and at other campuses across the state. In the past few months administrators have threatened students who have international visas, unlawfully videotaped protestors, and falsely claimed that legally sanctioned strikes are illegal, thereby intimidating students who would otherwise stand up for their peers’ and TAs’ rights.
Early in the morning on Wednesday, riot police that had been shipped in from Berkeley for the unambiguous purpose of crushing today’s protest cracked down on union members and their undergraduate supporters without legitimate cause. 19 union members and students were arrested. They spent 10 hours in jail on trumped up charges that have not been dropped. On Thursday morning, 2 more students were arrested under the purview of UCSC’s Executive Vice Chancellor, Allison Galloway.
UCSC Committee for Justice in Palestine (CJP) is outraged that UCSC administrators would sanction such a blatant attack on our rights. UC management has stonewalled and blocked every effort, no matter how miniscule, by students and workers to improve their lot, in hopes of stalling and ultimately quashing any attempts by students and workers to take their fates into their own hands. We refuse to be sidetracked by these machinations.
Today has unmasked the UCSC administrators for what they truly are. They will stoop to any level in order to achieve their goals. These goals are clear—the administration wants to intensify its exploitation of workers on campus and decrease educational services to students while extracting more and more profit from them.
As students who have faced repression by the UC administration in the past, we stand in solidarity with workers currently on strike. As members of the UCSC community we are enmeshed in a system that perpetuates the exploitation of students and workers not just here at UCSC but also in the Middle East, due to the University of California’s political and financial policies.
CJP condemns UCSC’s decision to break a legal strike by force. We support our fellow students and TAs in their efforts to secure a better future for themselves.
Another rally will take place Thursday at noon. We strongly urge our allies to come join us on the picket line. It is important to show UCSC and other UCs statewide that intimidation tactics will not deter us.
Committee for Justice in Palestine at UC Santa Cruz
Students for Justice in Palestine at UC San Diego
Students for Justice in Palestine at University of Southern California
Students for Justice in Palestine at UC Berkeley
Students for Justice in Palestine at UC Los Angeles
Students for Justice in Palestine at Cal State University Fullerton
Students for Justice in Palestine at San Diego State University
Students for Justice in Palestine speaks at California State University Board of Trustees Meeting to defend right to criticize Israeli occupation
On Wednesday, January 29, 2014, AMCHA Initiative, StandWithUs, and company took the opportunity to delegitimize the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction (BDS) movement, as well as defame California State University, Northridge (CSUN) Professor David Klein at a CSU Board of Trustees meeting. AMCHA has claimed that he “has inappropriately used university resources on several occasions, including posting anti-Semitic pictures and text on a webpage hosted by CSUN and by using CSUN email for political campaign activity.” (1) Although a letter written by lawyers, Jim Lafferty and Liz Jackson, in September of 2013 provides ample support and clarification that Klein did not violate any CSU policies and was cleared of complaints by the CSUN administration as well as the California Attorney General (2), AMCHA continues the witch-hunt on BDS supporters, such as Klein.
Thanks to mobilization by Jewish Voice for Peace – Los Angeles (JVP – LA), Palestine activists banded together within a matter of a few days to stand up for academic freedom, the BDS movement, and human rights at the CSU Board of Trustees meeting. Representatives from JVP – LA and Students for Justice in Palestine – West (SJP – West), current and former CSU students, and CSU faculty were present to show solidarity with Palestinian civil society’s call for BDS and to protect Professor David Klein’s right to freedom of speech.
SJP – West’s official statement during public comment at the CSU Board of Trustees meetings is as follows:
Students for Justice in Palestine-West would like to thank you for your time today as we urge you to foster an environment tolerant of all speech, including the advocacy of Palestinian rights as well as the boycott of and divestment from corporations that are complicit in Israel’s violations of human rights and international law. Like the students who fought for the boycott of the apartheid regime in South Africa, we are a non-violent movement driven solely by a fundamental belief in universal human rights and their interconnected and unconditional nature.
As an academic institution, the CSU system has a responsibility to recognize and protect the right to education everywhere. In Palestine, access to education is impeded by the brutality of Israeli settlers and soldiers, military checkpoints and the wall, segregated academic institutions, as well as the denial of entry for international academics. As American students, we are deeply concerned for the wellbeing of our Palestinian counterparts. Boycott and Divestment is a means to ensure that all inhabitants of the region, regardless of their religion and ethnicity, live in an equal democratic society.
We applaud American academics who have used their freedom of expression to voice their concerns about the violation of Palestinian human rights, even in the face of coercion and threats.
Along with SJP – West’s statement, 6 others publicly voiced support for academic boycott and freedom, whereas 3 people tried to silence and criminalize that support.
A few days after the CSU Board of Trustees meeting, on Friday, January 31, 2014, CSU Chancellor Tim White issued a statement on behalf of the entire CSU system denouncing Asian American Studies Association, American Studies Association, and Native American Studies Association resolutions endorsing the 2005 call by Palestinian civil society to academically boycott Israel, which is currently being challenged by CSU faculty via petition.
Part of the chancellor’s official statement reads:
“Academic boycotts violate the basic tenets of higher education including academic freedom and scholarly dialog. Boycotts attempt to limit the unfettered creation, discovery and dissemination of knowledge vital to our tripartite mission of research, teaching and service. These characteristics are essential to preparing students with the analytical and critical thinking skills to lead in business, community, educational and civic organizations.”
To paraphrase, according to Chancellor White’s proclamation, academic freedom is important, but what he chooses to ignore are academic restrictions/limitations placed upon Palestinians living under occupation, within and outside of the borders of Israel. Because of these restrictions/limitations, Palestinians are not granted the academic freedom that Chancellor White expresses is part of the “basic tenets of higher education.” Also, contrary to White’s beliefs, an academic boycott of Israel would pressure the state to give equal and just access to education for everyone, which would further academic freedom rather than hinder it.
Despite much effort to stifle critical discussions and actions in relation to Israel by administrators and external organizations, students and faculty continue to push against the current by initiating BDS campaigns and developing Palestine activism on campuses within California (and beyond).
About a month has passed since the CSU Board of Trustees meeting and within that month, a BDS campaign has sprung into action at San Diego State University (SDSU):
Website: SDSU Divest Webpage
Facebook: SJP SDSU
There is no doubt that the BDS movement is growing, is being noticed, and it will not be stopped.
2 National Lawyers Guild, Los Angeles & Center for Constitutional Rights. 22 September 2013. http://palestinelegalsupport.org/download/NLG%20&%20CCR%20Letter%20to%20CSU%20trustees%20re%20Prof.%20Klein%20website.pdf
In October of 2013, a bill supporting “positive investments” and denouncing divestment was presented to the UCLA student government. It was eventually struck down by a 7-5-0 margin, preserving the ability of the council to engage on the question of divestment from companies that profit from the occupation of the Palestinian territories. Below is SJP at UCLA’s press release on the issue, as well as the following links to statements and reference materials:
STUDENTS FOR JUSTICE IN PALESTINE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
OCTOBER 23, 2013
SJPUCLA1 @ GMAIL.COM
ANTI-DIVESTMENT RESOLUTION DEFEATED AT UCLA UNDERGRADUATE STUDENT COUNCIL
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, LOS ANGELES
With 7 votes against and 5 in favor, the UCLA Undergraduate Students Association Council voted last night to defeat a resolution that threatened the ability for students to pursue divestment from companies tied to the Israeli occupation.
The resolution, entitled “A Resolution In Support of Positive Steps Towards an Israeli-Palestinian Peace” framed divestment as a source of tension on campus, while also calling for “positive investment” in a basket of companies loosely affiliated with both Israelis and Palestinians.
Over a hundred students attended the hearings, which lasted until 3am on October 23rd. Over the course of two and a half hours of public comment, over 40 students from a variety of campus communities spoke against the bill, arguing that its claims to support community engagement were hypocritical given the exclusion of SJP from the bill’s writing process; wide ranging criticism by Palestinians of “positive investment,” and criticism of the attempt to bar divestment from public debate. Two council members admitted to having taken free trips to Israel sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League, which has actively opposed divestment bills at the University of California system and campaigned against SJPs.
Council members responded by systematically removing clauses that spoke on behalf of Palestinians or limited their ability to engage in divestment activism. Eventually the bill lost support and failed when put to a vote. Students for Justice in Palestine board member Angélica Becerra commented “I am very happy with tonight’s outcome. It shows great resiliency on the part of SJP and that our community support is very strong.”
Members of SJP expressed hope that efforts to prevent debate around divestment would continue to be unsuccessful, while the statewide campaign against efforts to remove university investments from companies enabling the occupation would continue to gain momentum across the state.
Students for Justice in Palestine at UCLA was founded in 2005 and is a coalition of students working in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle.
In September 2013, UCSD professor Ghassan Zakaria came under fire from the anti-Palestinian group “Stand With Us” for his use of a map that indicated historic Palestine but did not label any part of the territory Israel. Below is a press release issued by SDSU SJP in response to those events, as well as the following other resources. Although the issue is in many ways minor, it is important to document the ongoing attempts to attack Palestine in classrooms across the state, and the ongoing efforts by anti-Palestinian groups to bully university administrators.
4. California Scholars for Academic Freedom Letter to Provost (below JVP letter)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
SDSU Professor Under Pressure for Labeling Palestine as Palestine on a Map
San Diego, CA, September 11 – This week, San Diego State Arabic lecturer Ghassan Zakaria came under pressure after he handed out a map to his students which labelled the territory of Palestine as Palestine and not as Israel.
This was brought to the attention of “Stand with Us” by a student in Zakaria’s class. Stand with Us is a Zionist organization, infamous for supporting Israel’s occupation of Palestine as well as Israel’s apartheid system which violates the human rights of the Palestinian people.
According to 10 News San Diego, Stand with Us then notified its members and encouraged them to write to the Arabic and Islamic Studies’ department chairman and program director, who replied that the map reflects the perspective of the people from the Middle East and North Africa.
The university then issued the following statement after inquiries from Team 10: “While SDSU encourages scholarly debate and discussion of varying opinions, presenting inaccurate information to students in not acceptable. SDSU’s Provost has conferred with the department chair, who spoke with the faculty member. This inaccurate portrayal will not reoccur.”
As a human rights organization and as a diverse group that represents a large number of SDSU students, Students for Justice in Palestine is displeased with the university’s reaction and with the pressure faced by professor Zakaria.
The map not only reflects the opinions of the vast majority of those who inhabit the region which the students are attempting to study, but it is also historically accurate and a valid opinion that must be defended like any other under the principle of academic freedom.
Students for Justice in Palestine has issued a letter to the university provost in defense of professor Zakaria’s academic freedom. The letter has been signed by the Afrikan Student Union, Amnesty International, the Muslim Student Association, the Arab Student Association, Mecha, Acha, Al-Awda and of course Students for Justice in Palestine.
Amnesty International has also submitted its own letter condemning the pressure faced by professor Zakaria. Hilal Haider, president of Amnesty International and a former student of Zakaria states: “The map was specifically crafted for students to know what areas speak Arabic. If it were a standard geographical map, of course Israel would be listed, as well as Palestine.”
Jewish student, Eleña Horvitz also wrote a letter to the provost. She writes: “Zionist interpretation and portrayal of the Middle East does not accurately represent the beliefs and opinions of all Jewish students or the Jewish population as a whole. As a Jewish student, I would like to believe that my university would not readily accept a racist, nationalistic portrayal of Israel but rather that faculty should be allowed to express their perspectives freely without fearing the threat of censorship or losing their jobs.”
SJP describes itself as an organization of diverse students, faculty, staff and community members, organized on democratic principles to promote justice, human rights, liberation and self-determination for the Palestinian people.
Jewish Voice for Peace Letter to Provost
California Scholars for Academic Freedom Letter to Provost