Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Anti-Israel Resolution Passed in UCSA

A troubling development has occurred in the University of California Student Association (UCSA), a system-wide student organization with representatives from each campus. On this past Saturday, a resolution was passed condemning HR 35, a California State Assembly resolution. Accusing Israel of “racism,” the UCSA urged the UC Board of Regents to divest from companies aiding Israel in alleged human rights violations. The planning of this initiative was purposely kept secret until the day of the meeting. With no agenda published in advance, and no engagement from anyone in the organization, there was no way for opponents of the measure to have their voices heard. Meanwhile, leaders of Students for Justice in Palestine were given an opportunity to convey their message at the meeting. This represents a coordinated effort to shut out pro-Israel voices from your student government.

Our exclusion was intentional. If present, we would have revealed the libelous nature of this measure. Because the resolution has no basis in reality, it was passed in premeditated secrecy in order to avoid a factual discussion on the issue. The Daily Californian reported: “According to UC San Diego External Affairs Vice President Olamide Noah, the board had been working on the resolution since its congress in August.” What this means is that the discussion on this issue was not spontaneous; we were purposely left out of the conversation. Moreover, the reprehensible timing of passing this resolution the day before the first night of Rosh Hashanah impeded the ability of the Jewish community to mount any sort of immediate response. This timing, and secrecy was no doubt on purpose, and this injustice must be exposed.

The UCSA truly is not an accurate representation of our Berkeley community, or even the rest of the UC System. We need to expose this measure for what it is: an unabashedly deceitful attack on the Jewish State.

The sole representative from UC Berkeley is Shahryar Abbasi, the External Vice-President of the ASUC (email- eavp@asuc.org).

Thursday, June 28, 2012

10 Tips for Zionist Activists

Dear Zionist activists everywhere,

For the last four years I was an active member and leader of Tikvah: Students for Israel. We worked to teach about and advocate for Israel and Zionism on the UC Berkeley campus. That experience helped me grown and learn a lot, and contributed to my decision to make aliya and serve in the IDF.

Since I'm stepping out of the advocacy world, I wanted to take a moment here to write a letter to my colleagues in Tikvah, and to my fellow activists around the globe.

First, and most importantly, thank you for what you do. I know it's hard, whether you're facing hostile anti-Israel activists, a Jewish establishment that doesn't support you, apathy or ignorance about Israel, or financial and practical obstacles to your work. But stay strong, and remember in the moments of difficulty that what you are doing is important, just, meaningful, and worthwhile. Israel, the Jewish people, and the world at large are better off because of your hard work and dedication.

I'd like to leave a few pieces of advice, in the hope that others can learn from my experience and my mistakes:
  1. Know the difference between being Zionist and pro-Israel. Israel is a state, with all the realities and complexities that come with it. Zionism is an idea: pure, simple, and beautiful. Zionism is a movement of national liberation and national renaissance, the idea that the Jewish people should live as a sovereign nation in their homeland. Zionism is the real message; supporting the state of Israel is a natural conclusion of Zionism.
  2. Stay focused on the message of Zionism. The peace process, territorial compromise, democracy, cell phones, and terrorism all have their place in the discussion, but without the foundation of Zionism, none of it will make sense. Explain why Israel is important in the first place, and only then explain the situation and threats it faces. Sometimes the best message is the simple line of Hatikvah: "to be a free people in our land."
  3. Educate yourselves, and educate your peers. Read books, read the Israeli news, discuss and debate issues among yourselves. Know when to use the sound bites, but understand that they are not enough. You will be respected by your audience for your erudition.
  4. Being intellectually honest requires constantly questioning your own beliefs. This is a strength, not a weakness, because the truth is on our side. If you are diligent, educated, and intellectually honest, you will find truth and you will find confidence in your conclusions.
  5. Know when to make compromises and when to stand fast to your beliefs: there is a time for war and a time for peace. Sometimes a compromise is worthwhile to maintain an ally, but if the compromise requested is too great, that alliance is probably not worthwhile anyway.
  6. Remember that most importantly of all, Jews are your target audience. This is true for its own sake, and also because where there is a strong Jewish pro-Israel community, others will hear your message louder.
  7. Sometimes the Jewish establishment makes mistakes. When it does, you must not follow it blindly but you must not give up on it. It is better at fundraising than fighting, and shies away from controversy; don't expect it ever to be good at activism.
  8. Know what works for you. The atmosphere, interests, and values of each campus or community are different. Break out of the mold of middle aged white Jewish men lecturing about the danger from Israel's enemies. Be creative, try new things, and learn from experience.
  9. For those of you on college campuses, four years is a short period of time, and allows for little institutional memory. Discuss what works and what doesn't, and write down the lessons learned. Educate, inspire, and equip younger activists to take your place when you leave.
  10. Remember that what you do is about your personal growth and the growth of your community as much or more as it is about convincing the outside world.
Good luck and success in all of your endeavors.

לחרות ציון
For the freedom of Zion,
Brian Maissy

Monday, March 5, 2012

Upcoming Antisemitic Event at UC Berkeley

This Saturday, Louis Farrakhan will deliver the keynote address of the Afrikan Black Coalition Conference at UC Berkeley. Throughout his career, Farrakhan's hateful rhetoric has targeted Jews, the LGBT community, and Israel. From referring to the Jewish people as "the Synagogue of Satan" or "bloodsuckers" to asserting that "the real anti-Semites are those who came out of Europe and settled in Palestine, and now they call themselves the true Jews," Farrakhan consistently espouses antisemitic conspiracy theories while negating the Jewish people's right to their religion and their land.

Organized by the UC Berkeley Black Student Union, an ASUC sponsored group, Farrakhan’s visit directly attacks Jewish students on this campus. Farrakhan’s hatred cannot be tolerated. It is unfathomable that the BSU has no issue in inviting such an abjectly offensive speaker to campus.

As recently as last week, Farrakhan delivered a speech described by the Anti-Defamation League as “a textbook example” of contemporary antisemitism. According to Abe Foxman, the director of the ADL: “In the past few years Farrakhan has turned his message and the mission of the Nation of Islam into a wide-ranging campaign to demonize and scapegoat Jews.” Just days after declaring, “The government of America is owned lock stock and barrel by those Zionists that love Israel above the United States of America,” Farrakhan will speak on our campus.

But Farrakhan’s bigotry is nothing new, nor reserved solely for Jews. His prejudiced outbursts include such statements as “murder and lying comes easy for white people” and “the Jews don't like Farrakhan, so they call me Hitler. Well, that's a good name. Hitler was a very great man.” Whether accusing Jews of controlling American politics, demonizing Jewish people, or proclaiming his friendship for Moammar Gadhafi, Farrakhan’s ideology serves only to promote hate.

Please take the time to let the BSU and campus leaders know that this event is unacceptable; relevant email addresses are listed below. More information about our response to this event will be forthcoming.

Salih Muhammad, Chair of the Black Student Union
Jonathan Poullard, Dean of Students
Vishalli Loomba, ASUC President