The picture above is of a sign posted on the door to Ha’Am magazine at UCLA. It features a mock endorsement of the magazine by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. Yosef is the current spiritual leader of the Shas party, the fourth largest political party in Israel. Although he is primarily a religious figure, Yosef also has a public record of racist and eliminationist rhetoric against Palestinians and Arabs:
In 2000, while criticizing Prime Minister Ehud Barak for entering peace talks, Yosef referred to Palsetinians as snakes. He is quoted as asking, “He [Barak] is bringing snakes near us? What kind of peace do you make with a snake?” (1)
In 2001, Yosef called for the annihilation of Arabs, saying ”It is forbidden to be merciful to [Arabs]. You must send missiles to them and annihilate them. They are evil and damnable…The Lord shall return the Arabs’ deeds on their own heads, waste their seed and exterminate them, devastate them and vanish them from this world.” (2)
In 2010, Yosef called for the death of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, saying ”Abu Mazen and all these evil people should perish from this world.” He further said, ”God should strike them with a plague, them and these Palestinians.” (3)
Perhaps some will excuse this by saying his image is being used as a joke, but not taking racism seriously is precisely the problem. It should be unacceptable on our campus for a student magazine to use Rabbi Ovadia Yosef as advertisement, even if in jest. His statements are reminiscent of hate speech that has and continues to be used against minorities in the United States and in other countries, both in his comparisons of racial groups to animals and his calls for their extermination. The quotes above would be clearly unacceptable if used against other populations, but incidents like this remind us that racism against Palestinians and Arabs is still tolerated at UCLA.
A BDS resolution has been offered at the AAAS conference happening this week in Seattle. The resolution should be supported for the following three reasons:
1. The extent of racist exclusion practiced by Israeli academic institutions and the people that comprise them is shocking to anyone who scratches the surface. If a university practiced the same level of racial discrimination in the US it would be boycotted without question. Imagine for a moment that UCLA closed an academic department because too many black students enrolled, or that a university implemented rules that resulted in white students being given preferential access to the dormitories. An American university engaged in such practices would be boycotted and protested without question. These are just examples of how Palestinians are treated by Israeli universities (see example 1 and 2).
2. The degree to which these institutions serve parts of the state which openly violate international law has only grown in recent years. Ariel University, for example, is built on stolen Palestinian land in the West Bank and was recently upgraded from college to university status by the Israeli government (see here for coverage).
3. These universities continue to serve as the research centers for war-making devices and new theories of warfare that openly flaunt international law. One example of the academy’s technical support for violences is Technion, Israel’s Institute of Technology. Technion has developed some of the military equipment that has proved to be most damaging to Palestinians and most instrumental in human rights violations (see here for a review of Technion’s military contributions). An example of the academy’s ideological support for violations of international law is the Dahiya doctrine. this doctrine was developed at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies (see here for more). It calls for the wholesale flattening of a neighborhood as a “message” to the other side (see coverage of the effects of this policy).
Thus to freely engage with these institutions is to give them a normalcy and endorsement they do not deserve, and moreover sends the message that there is no price, even symbolic, to pay for their racism and support for violations of human rights and international law. To have any credibility in the area of human rights and equality, or even academic freedom, AAAS must boycott Israeli academic institutions.
This would mean, for example, not holding joint programs with Israeli universities, but would not mean banning individual Israeli professors from speaking and visiting as individuals. The distinction between individuals and institutions is very important, and reiterated in the boycott’s guidelines.
Everything is still too surreal for me to put into words how I feel right now. In the meantime, here is a video. Please excuse Aboudeh flipping out and shaking the camera. Also, read the press release.
UCLA Sigma Chi Fraternity archive photo.
This is an old photo from UCLA fraternity Sigma Chi, which is just up the street from where a UCLA fraternity member attempted to rape a woman at a party on Friday, March 9th (International Women’s Day, no less). Though the fraternities will insist that this as an unfortunate one-time occurrence, and the university will reiterate its principles of community and commitment to safety until it is blue and gold in the face, the reality is that the fraternity system is a factory of misogyny, which will continue to devalue and commit violence against women until it is made to stop. Of course, misogyny is not restricted to the fraternity system, but it must be pointed out that the ideas championed in this photo serve as the pretext for the violence that occurred Friday night.
UCLA student arrested on suspicion of assault with intent to commit rape at Theta Chi fraternity house
A UCLA student will face charges of assault with intent to commit rape and false imprisonment, after he allegedly tried to choke another student during a party at the Theta Chi fraternity house early Friday morning. He is being held at the Inmate Reception Center in downtown Los Angeles on $200,000 bail, according to university police.
Paul Meyer, a 20-year old student who lives in the Theta Chi fraternity house at 663 Gayley Ave., is scheduled to appear in court for a formal reading of his charges on Tuesday, according to Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department records. He can plead guilty, not guilty or no contest to the charges during the arraignment.
About 2:30 a.m. Friday, Meyer allegedly attempted to choke a female UCLA student who was also attending the party, said Nancy Greenstein, a UCPD spokeswoman. She added that alcohol was available at the party, but police are still investigating whether Meyer or the victim were drinking.
Meyer and the woman knew each other before the incident took place, Greenstein said.
The female student was taken to the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and has since been released, Greenstein said.
Immediately following the incident, Meyer was arrested without a struggle at the house on suspicion of attempted murder, according to a UCLA statement. Meyer is being held on charges of assault with intent to commit rape and false imprisonment, which is unlawful violation of another person’s personal liberty.
Theta Chi officials declined to comment on Friday’s incident. The police investigation is still ongoing and no further details are available at this time, according to a UCLA statement.
In the wake of the Brooklyn College BDS Controversy, many liberals have written in support of the freedom to discuss BDS at universities while simultaneously rejecting the BDS movement themselves. However, I’ve noticed that every time they do so, their rejection is predicated on a mis-representation of the movement and its principles, such that these BDS opponents can manage to retain their liberalism while rejecting a principled and reasonable movement. Below are 5 recent examples of liberals rejecting BDS while severely misrepresenting the movement.
1. Katha Pollitt rejects it as boycott of individuals, offering no proof.
2. Brad DeLong echoes Pollitt’s misrepresentation and claims that BDS is about denying Israelis free speech rights.
4. Todd Gitlin says it is aimed as the mass punishment of Israelis.
5. Claire Potter characterizes it as an undemocratic attack on all associations between individuals.
The BDS call is clear about each of the issues raised by these writers, yet they seem to ignore it in favor of their own judgements about the movement. But while reading these articles is extremely frustrating, there is also reason to be optimistic, as I have yet to see a liberal reject BDS without distorting it. Perhaps this means that those who continue to reject the Palestinian call think that the only way to do so safely is by painting BDS as a monster, or perhaps those who do understand the BDS call are largely accepting it and joining the struggle.