After being caught off guard by a resolution condemning a measure that would combat anti-Semitism on California state campuses, pro-Israel students at the University of California-Berkeley have responded by highlighting what they call the resolution’s undemocratic nature.
The 12-member University of California Student Association (UCSA) on Sept. 15 registered two abstentions and 10 votes in condemnation of HR35—a unanimously passed State Assembly resolution urging California schools to squelch nascent anti-Semitism and crack down on anti-Israel demonstrations. HR35 also said Israel should not be called a “racist” state.
The UCSA, however, said HR35 “is written to unfairly and falsely smear as ‘anti-Semites’ those who do human rights advocacy focusing on Israel’s illegal occupation, alleging that the UC faculty and staff involved in such work are motivated by anti-Semitism rather than by the political ideals of equality and respect for universal human rights they affirm, ideals UCSA and most California students share.” UCSA also called for the University of California Board of Regents to divest from companies doing business with Israel due to their alleged human rights violations.
Ariel Fridman, vice president of UC Berkeley’s Tikvah Students for Israel and an Emerson Fellow for pro-Israel advocacy and education group StandWithUs, told JNS.org that Jewish students learned of the UCSA resolution a mere half-hour before Rosh Hashanah and were “completely blindsided” by it.
“Most students don’t even know that the UCSA exists,” Fridman said in a phone interview. “It was completely not on our radar. So for them to have a meeting and a resolution pass without any of our knowledge took us by complete surprise. They didn’t have an agenda published, there wasn’t really any information or outreach to anybody.”
UCSA’s credibility is damaged by the fact that it acted “without any community involvement,” Fridman added.
Due to Rosh Hashanah observance, the Tivkah group was not initially able to take unified action against the UCSA resolution, according to Fridman. But since Rosh Hashanah, Tikvah has mobilized students to write op-eds responding to the resolution and countered a Sept. 20 anti-HR35 rally organized by Students for Justice in Palestine.
Roz Rothstein, CEO of StandWithUs, criticized the UCSA resolution’s “devious, undemocratic tactics.”
“They essentially ambushed Jewish and other pro-Israel students by using secretive tactics, not notifying anyone who might disagree with the proposed resolution,” Rothstein said in a statement.