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

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Statement Regarding JStreetU

Last month, the Berkeley chapter of JSTreetU failed to gain entrance to the Jewish Student Union. At the meeting, Tikvah argued that JStreetU’s actions have not substantiated their claims of being both pro-Israel and pro-peace. As a committed pro-Israel organization, the Jewish Student Union has the responsibility to ensure that those claiming to represent our community support the Jewish State. Because JStreetU has a history of acting outside of these goals, the organization fell far short of the votes needed to gain the JSU’s support.

A number of recent opinion articles have accused Tikvah of having disproportionate control in the JSU. Tikvah, however, is allotted one vote. That means nine other student leaders, JSU officers, and member student groups were opposed to JStreet's inclusion. Members of organizations as diverse as the Jewish fraternity and the group for Jews in engineering spoke against JStreet. Instead of acknowledging that their actions are not acceptable for the Jewish students on this campus, JStreetU leaders have attempted to paint themselves the victim.

It wasn’t lost on the many students who oppose JStreet that the JSU already has an organization that claims to be a progressive Israel group. Leaders of that organization, Kesher Enoshi, have used their position as a “progressive” voice in the Jewish community to speak in favor of divestment and to organize campus-wide events demonizing Israel. Now, the leaders of that very same organization are requesting that yet another group they lead--one that exists primarily for the purpose of criticizing Israel--be included as part of the pro-Israel umbrella Jewish organization on campus.

As an organization, JStreetU can be judged only by its actions. In its short existence here at Berkeley, those actions include sponsoring speakers such as Assaf Sharon who referred to Israel’s capital as “a symbol of violence.” Nationally, JStreet continues to be “pro-Israel” solely through being critical of Israel. The organization is rarely able to say something positive about the Jewish State while refusing to put any of the onus for the conflict’s perpetuation on Palestinian leadership. Until JStreetU shows us something different, until their support for Israel extends beyond pressuring its leaders to take actions they believe are against its interests, JStreetU cannot be counted as part of a pro-Israel student organization.

But I hope I’m proven wrong about JStreetU here on campus. I hope they serve to be more than an another arm of Kesher Enoshi’s thinly veiled Israel bashing. I hope they live up to their tag-line and take steps that are honestly in support of the Jewish, democratic state. On that day, I’ll save them a seat in the Jewish Student Union.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Moment of Silence

Last Thursday, Palestinian terrorists targeted and killed innocent Israeli civilians in cold blood in a series of attacks in southern Israel. Since then, Palestinian terror groups in Gaza have fired over one hundred and fifty rockets and mortars into Israel, killing and injuring civilians, and sending one million Israelis fleeing to bomb shelters.

The Israel Air Force responded in self defense, killing leaders and members of the terrorist group in the Gaza Strip which orchestrated Thursday's attack, as well as striking weapons production facilities.

Tikvah: Students for Israel mourns for the victims of the attacks, stands in solidarity with the Israeli people in their time of distress, and salutes the Israel Defense Forces for protecting the homeland of the Jewish people.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha'atzmaut 5771/2011

Today is Yom Ha'atzmaut, Israel's Independence Day. Sixty-three years ago, the leaders of the Jewish community in Palestine declared the establishment of a Jewish state, the State of Israel. After two thousand years of exile, the Jewish people were once again sovereign in their own homeland.

The Zionist dream was far from achieved, however. The fledgling Israel still had monumental tasks ahead of it: to build up the state, to absorb immigrants from all over the world, to revive the Jewish people after two thirds of their numbers and the majority of their communities in Europe had been destroyed in the Shoah, and to restore the Jewish nation to an ethos and consciousness of sovereignty.

These goals would have to wait, however, because immediately after declaring independence, Israel was invaded by armies from seven Arab countries, and was forced to fight for its very existence.

Sixty-three years later, Israel has much to be proud of. It has become the center of world Jewry and risen to the top of the ranks among the nations in all measures of political, economic, intellectual, cultural, and social achievements. It has established a sense of self-determination and security for the Jewish people, both in Israel and in the diaspora, which was only a dream the century before. And it has successfully defended itself from repeated Arab invasions as well as terrorist attacks against its civilians.

But on a day when we celebrate what we have accomplished, it is strikingly obvious what we have yet to achieve: peace and security. And not for lack of trying. Israel has been aggressively pursuing peace with its neighbors since 1948 when it announced in its Declaration of Statehood:

"WE EXTEND our hand to all neighbouring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighbourliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land."

Unfortunately, even today, Israel still has to fear for its security. And Jews, because we so deeply desire peace, are often quick to believe that we ourselves have not done enough to achieve it. But the sad reality is, that no matter what we do, we will never have peace until our enemies accept the fact that the Jewish people is indigenous to the Land of Israel, that we have returned to our land and to our sovereignty, and that we are here to stay. There will be peace when our neighbors and the world accept peace on the terms we offered in 1948, peace "with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land."

Unfortunately, even today, the Palestinian Arabs are unwilling to accept this. The terrorist organization and governing body of the Gaza strip, Hamas, believes that "Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it." It also believes that "there is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors." (Hamas Charter) And the Palestinian Authority has just signed a unity deal with Hamas, shattering the facade that it was moderate and dedicated to peace.

Yesterday was Yom Hazikaron, the Israeli day of remembrance for soldiers who have fallen and for victims of terrorist attacks. On this somber day, we reflect on the heavy cost that sixty-three years of war have taken from us: sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers. Every Israeli is aware of this cost, and wants to be free from it. But they understand that surrender is not an option. To surrender means the end of the Jewish state.

When the Zionist leaders of the Jewish community in Palestine called for the creation of a Jewish state and a Jewish army, they knew what the cost would be. The state was not given to the Jewish people on a silver platter, and it persists and thrives by our own sweat and blood. On this Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha'atzmaut, we should be proud of what we have accomplished, dedicated to continue the work, and cognizant that the price is worthwhile, because the martyrs of Israel have not died in vain.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Launch of the Berkeley Institute for Jewish Law and Israeli Law, Economy and Society

Last Wednesday, UC Berkeley saw the formal launch of the new Institute for Jewish Law and Israeli Law, Economy and Society. The Institute is "an interdisciplinary initiative coordinated with a 15-member faculty advisory committee from units across campus, including law, economics, business, political science, history, sociology, and Jewish Studies."

The launch event, held in the Morrison library, was well attended by undergraduate and graduate students, members of the community, professors, and administrators.

The keynote address was given by former Israeli Supreme Court Justice Dalia Dorner. She spoke about the challenges of balancing national security with human rights in Israel. It is often difficult and costly in times of war to preserve the high standard of human rights that Israel does, and Dorner spoke about the role of the Court in that process, and some of the landmark decisions that were made in defense of human rights during her tenure.

There was a great deal of excitement and optimism at the event about the future of the young Institute. Chancellor Birgeneau said that "it will make a measurable contribution to scholarly inquiry and discourse across our campus."

Especially here at Berkeley, where there are so many voices of bias, propaganda, and hatred against Israel, it is meeting a certain and visible need. Professor Bamberger, faculty director of the Institute, commented, "We’re working to support broader discourse on campus around Jewish and Israel-related scholarship." Many hope that this Institute will provide a safe forum for the respectful and honest study of Israel, for the mutual benefit of the State of Israel and the University of California, Berkeley.

Berkeley Institute for Jewish Law and Israeli Law, Economy and Society
New Institute to Expand Jewish and Israel Studies at UC Berkeley