(Editor’s note: I had originally put my thoughts on two subjects together as per my usual Monday Morning Thoughts Column, but after some reflection, decided that the topics were diverse enough that I would separate them)
The Israeli-Palestinian issue has reemerged in the community. The ASUCD Senate voted 8-2 with two abstentions to support a resolution that calls for the UC Board of Regents to divest from “corporations that aid in the Israeli occupation of Palestine and illegal settlements in Palestinian territories, violating both international humanitarian law and international human rights.”
The issue is largely symbolic, as Chancellor Katehi was very quick to shoot it down.
Someone asked me over the weekend whether I thought the council would take up the issue and support divestment. I may be speaking out of turn, but I don’t see the council supporting that, and I would advise them, if they were to listen to me on such matters, to avoid the topic like the plague.
It is not that I don’t think it’s an important issue, I just don’t think it is an issue that the council should take up. Those of you who were around in 2009 remember what happened when the Israeli-Palestinian issue came up. The council listened one week to the Palestinian group that had mobilized, and were seemingly willing to consider a resolution.
However, the next week, a more mixed group showed up and council punted the issue to the Human Relations Commission. There was a serious downside to even taking up the issue. The second week, the community group was so large that the item took four hours to hear. That pushed important issues off.
Council listened to City Manager Bill Emlen and investigator Bob Aaronson discuss the infamous fire report in an item that began after midnight and was not decided until nearly 2 am. The council was clearly tired and not as critically aware of the import of such a complicated issue as they should have been, which contributed to what was then a cover up.
I do not support divestment from Israel. I am highly critical of the current Netanyahu regime, and have long supported a two-state solution and an engaged peace process.
At the same time, I don’t think there is a huge takeover of Sharia Law on campus. I am concerned about the tone of the anti-Muslim rhetoric coming from sectors of our nation this year. I see the left’s support of the Palestinians not as support for radical Islam, but rather for humanitarian reasons.
The heightened rhetoric is concerning to me and I am was very dismayed to see the swastika incident at the Jewish fraternity house.
The host of groups from UC Davis, which were very quick to denounce the attack, included: Students for Justice in Palestine at UC Davis; Muslim Student Association at UC Davis; Arab Student Union at UC Davis; Pakistani Student Association at UC Davis; Afghan Student Association at UC Davis; M.E.Ch.A. de UC Davis; Black Student Union at UC Davis; Sikh Cultural Association at UC Davis; S.M.A.R.T. (Students Matter: Activism, Retention, Teamwork) Coalition; Officers of the Davis Unit, UAW 2865; Hannah Kagen-Moore, Davis Unit UAW 2865; Duane Wright, Davis Unit UAW 2865; Mai Sartawi, National Lawyer’s Guild; Claire White, Student National Vice President, National Lawyer’s Guild; Gonzalo Cortes Moreno, Lawyer and Constitutional Law Professor (King Law School); Armando Figueroa, ASUCD President .
Their statement read: “As a coalition of students and campus organizations at UC Davis, we condemn the actions taken sometime during the night of January 31st, 2015 by an unknown person(s) who defaced the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity house, which is a Jewish interest fraternity, with swastikas.
“Just as we condemned the hanging of a noose, the defamation of the Palestinian dove, or calling students ‘terrorists’ based on their physical appearance or beliefs, we equally condemn the display of the swastika. This reminds us that anti-Semitism, along with all other forms of hate, including, but not limited to, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, racism, and misogyny, still exist and are rampant trans-nationally and on our university campuses.”
They add: “We reject any attempts to blame this on any single student community, including the UC Davis Divestment movement. We hope that the university investigates and exercises due diligence in holding those responsible for this hate crime to the fullest extent of the law.”
Some have suggested that the attack should be seen as linked to the UC Davis Divestment movement. Can we rule it out? No, and the timing can’t be seen as merely coincidental.
However, I think we should be careful about going too far with the connection. Suppose a more conservative ASUCD had a contentious vote to support the officers in the Ferguson and Staten Island shootings – if someone then hung a noose in front of the black fraternity, would we automatically blame it on the ASUCD vote?
At the same time, the rhetoric needs to be cooled and an ASUCD Senator proclaiming that “Hamas & Sharia law have taken over UC Davis,” is neither appropriate nor helpful.
That said, let’s not overreact to it because there is no evidence that the statement is actually true. Clearly, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a polarizing flashpoint in our community, as well as in our nation, and unfortunately it will not be going away anytime soon.