In September, I wrote an opinion column criticizing components of a UC Student Association resolution. The resolution condemns HR 35, and recommends divesting from companies contributing to international human rights violations.
To provide a sense of transparency, I would like to address a concern that has been raised about a trip I went on about a year and a half ago with Hasbara — an organization promoting pro-Israel advocacy — and a letter I recently signed onto that was addressed to the UCSA board.
First, the trip. While I appreciate the opportunity I had to visit Israel, I did not write my column for or because of Hasbara. In fact, I did not even collect a deposit that one gets back if considered an active Hasbara fellow, since I do not consider myself a member.
Before attending, I explicitly asked Hasbara if it was okay for me to go, even though I did not hold all of the same opinions as the organization. The representative replied in the affirmative, so I went.
During the trip, I was constantly the devil’s advocate — as I am in most settings — and was able to hear different perspectives from my own. After Hasbara ended, I went on a few tours, one of which was led by a Palestinian tour guide in Jerusalem, to get other sets of perspectives. Every speaker was different, and every tour I attended was different, but no single trip or tour perfectly aligned with my beliefs.
In an online post in October, Hasbara referenced my column. Before that, a representative from Hasbara emailed me about putting my column on their website, and I explicitly told her not to do so. Upon realizing that I was referred to as a Hasbara fellow, I informed the organization that I do not consider myself as such, since my opinions are my own and do not align with any one organization.
As for the letter I signed, it was intended for the UCSA board in reaction to the resolution. It was signed by dozens of student leaders across the UC system, including multiple ASUC senators. I personally agree with many of the points in the letter, but there are also points I disagree with.
Regardless, I still recognize the right of those in all communities to share any view stated in the letter or elsewhere. This right was ignored by the sloppy procedure UCSA used to approve its resolution — hence my reason for signing on to the document. It is my duty as a former ASUC senator to give voice to beliefs I know many people in my community have by signing this letter, even if I didn’t agree with every point. By being left out of the conversation, communities were marginalized and misrepresented with the passing of a resolution that they didn’t get to defend or oppose.
Just as some who signed onto the UCSA response believe, those who preach boycott, divestment and sanction campaigns on campus have every right to do so. In my opinion, it’s within their First Amendment rights, and HR 35 should not have tried to step on that right. I will fight for students to be able to preach this perspective, even if different from my own.
The UCSA resolution also asks to divest from all companies aiding international human rights violations — a noble cause. However, the bill only mentions one country — Israel — thereby lacking a comprehensive understanding of our campus and the world stage by putting one nation in the hotseat without diverse input. This I do not agree with.
“Hostile rhetoric” is also mentioned in the letter I signed, and that phrase does sometimes mark demonstrations relating to this conflict on all sides of the aisle, but not because of the use of words like occupation. Narratives of Israelis and Palestinians should never be reduced to this label, but harsh words exchanged between students on Sproul Plaza and within the ASUC have definitely reached aggressive levels at times.
Just as many of my peers, I too yearn for a two-state solution, and true security for Palestinian and Israeli nations living side by side. In no way does the status quo appeal to me, as I recognize that the current situation is unsustainable for both the Palestinians and Israelis.
I want a future Palestinian state with freedom of movement and access to basic necessities. The Palestinian economy is in a paralyzed condition and the people within the West Bank and Gaza have very real and painful suffering. I also want an Israel free of terrorism at home and abroad with secure borders. Hopefully this will eventually come true.
Contact Noah Ickowitz at [email protected]