UCLA Chancellor Slams Anti-Israel Pledge

BDS-in_UCLAUCLA Chancellor Gene Block spoke out firmly against measures that would bar those elected to UCLA’s student government from taking part in trips sponsored by certain pro-Israel organizations.

Prior to the recent student council elections, various pro-Palestinian groups asked candidates to sign a pledge that they would not take educational trips to Israel sponsored by AIPAC, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), and Hasbara Fellowships.

“I am troubled that the pledge sought to delegitimize educational trips offered by some organizations but not others,” Block wrote in an email to students and faculty, Haaretz reported.

“I am troubled that the pledge can reasonably be seen as trying to eliminate selected viewpoints from the discussion,” he continued. “If we shut out perspectives, if we silence voices, if we allow innuendo to substitute for reasoned exchange of ideas, if we listen only to those who already share our assumptions, truth gets lost, our intellectual climate is impoverished and our community is diminished.”

Most of the candidates who won seats on the council did not sign the pledge. However, it created a stigma around the trips, giving the impression that the trips are unethical for students to take if they are in the student government.

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Critics of the pledge, like Jonathon Tobin, claim that its purpose is not only to make it harder for pro-Israel candidates to join the council, thereby weakening opponents of divestment measures, but also to shame those students who would consider participating in pro-Israel trips.

BDS advocates are, after all, not interested in an open discussion about their ideology, which proposes that the one Jewish state in the world—which is a democracy—should be singled out for discriminatory treatment that is not afforded any other country, including the most egregious human-rights offenders. The last thing they want is for more kids—especially Jewish students who seek to learn more about their faith and people—to be equipped to answer their lies with the truth.

Block’s statement could help relieve some of the stigma that’s been created by the pledge. But it’s certainly a long way from the end of the fight at UCLA.

Just last week, student government judicial board heard two separate complaints against members of the student council who had participated in tours of Israel sponsored by pro-Israel organizations. The complaints were filed the by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), which had co-sponsored an earlier motion to divest from Israel. The divestment measure failed by a vote of 7-5.

But according to the SJP complaints, the two students who had gone to Israel under the auspices of pro-Israel organizations should not have voted on divestment.

According to the Legal Insurrection blog, which has been following developments at UCLA closely, the complaints are meant to increase the stigma on students connected to pro-Israel organizations.

Now, everyone seeking office who goes on a trip to Israel or is associated with a pro-Israel organization may be accused of having a conflict of interest boxing them out of key positions that vote on divestment matters.

SJP is building a chilling effect, showing that those who stand in their way will be subject to long hours of debate, protest, and even “legal” hearings.  Some may not agree with SJP, but consider it not worth the trouble to stand in their way.

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