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Submission: Hate speech after divestment resolution only furthers divide

By Miriam Eshaghian

March 18, 2014 12:00 a.m.

Last week, a member of Students for Justice in Palestine published an op-ed in the Daily Bruin titled “Daily Bruin should have disclosed authors’ link to Hasbara.” This frivolous attempt to taint our image, undermine our integrity and portray us as incapable of forming our own opinions is just one example of the radical and hurtful accusations that have been made about members of the Bruin community after the Undergraduate Students Association Council rejected a resolution to divest from five companies.

At the USAC meeting on Feb. 25, lies and distortions of fact through emotionally charged hate speech manipulated the public perception of the Jewish homeland. Beyond the hateful rhetoric continuously spoken at council against Israel, this resolution created a destructive divide in our campus, and it is for this reason that many Jewish students on campus believe it has no place in the UCLA community. We, the Jewish community, condemn hate acts against any community, and do not support any form of bullying. SJP at UCLA intentionally brought forward a resolution that it knew would be divisive after denying pro-Israel students the opportunity to be included in drafting an agreeable one together. For this reason, members of SJP should be held responsible for the cyberbullying toward both the Jewish community and council members that voted against the resolution. Some council members feel uncomfortable simply walking on campus because of the hate mail they received.

The leaders of the Jewish community held themselves to an extremely high standard following the meeting. After the resolution did not pass, we all walked out silently, avoided abusive tones and spiteful attacks on social media, and tried to move forward as a community.

Nevertheless, the hate speech against the Jewish community continues on social media, criticizing the Jewish community for being “racists” and “bigots.” A bingo game was created, mocking the arguments used by the students against divestment as well as mocking efforts by the Jewish community toward productive dialogue. The game contained squares labeled “dialogue” and “why can’t we be friends,belittling efforts aimed at advancing positive discourse. Hateful posts such as these are destructive and should not be tolerated on campus. We do believe there is a place for legitimate criticism of Israel, but these tactics embraced by SJP members are racist and dehumanizing.

Recently, the UCLA Muslim Student Association released a statement claiming members of the pro-Israel community used Islamophobic rhetoric as part of the “anti-divestment resolution agenda.” To be clear, the pro-Israel community’s sole agenda was to stand firmly against the bigoted boycott, divestment and sanctions movement that aims to attack the Jewish right to self-determination in their homeland. As stated in the Bruins Against BDS presentation directly after public comment, we condemn statements that conflate Palestinian and Muslim identities, as well as the labeling of these groups as “terrorists.”

I am infuriated that the current condition of campus climate is being blamed on the Jewish community. We are being held responsible for the aftermath of a resolution my community never brought forward.

As in many points throughout history, the Jews are being used as the scapegoats. Rather than dealing with their frustrations as a result of the failure of the resolution, members of SJP continue to target their anger at the Jewish community. For example, a collage of images mocking our community’s arguments against the resolution was created by a board member of SJP and posted on Facebook under the title “Divestment Collage.” This coping mechanism is highly offensive and insensitive to the concerns of the Jewish community.

It is imperative that these issues get addressed, but placing the blame entirely on the Jewish community will not positively advance the campus climate. The outcome of this resolution caused both sides to retreat back to their respective communities, furthering the divide between each other. We should stop the hatred, the passive-aggressiveness and the attacks on both communities. We do not want to feel marginalized; we do not want one side to feel victory at the expense of the other. UCLA is known for being at the forefront of innovation and this situation should be no different. We can be the first campus to eschew the BDS movement in favor of a completely new movement. We need to be true leaders and come together to push an entirely new and justified approach. Through collaboration and communication, we can begin to move away from polarizing debate and toward productive dialogue.

Eshaghian is a fourth-year psychobiology student and president of Bruins for Israel.

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