April 1 marked the first-ever Jewish Town Hall for ASUC Elections. As a current ASUC senator representing the Jewish community and an organizer of the event, I thought it was important that my community get educated about the candidates before polls open for voting. The intention of the town hall was to invite the Jewish senate candidates and all the executive candidates — as guests in our community — to share their platforms, goals and visions for office.
During the town hall, CalSERVE presidential nominee Naweed Mohabbat was asked about the ASUC’s stance on divestment from companies that do business with the state of Israel, a stance represented by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. In his response, Mohabbat said, “I just want to state openly here that I don’t support BDS. I don’t think it’s conducive to anyone. I don’t believe in the disestablishment of Israel. I think everyone has the right to feel safe in their own homes. I think if divestment were to be brought up again … I would work towards making sure it doesn’t happen.”
If you listen to Mohabbat’s answer to a similar question at The Daily Californian’s ASUC Elections Forum regarding Israeli divestment, you hear quite a different response: “For me, I do believe in divestment … I myself am pro-human rights and I am peace, but that doesn’t mean I can’t support divestment. Would I support a reversal (of divestment from Israel)? I don’t think I would.”
Although CalSERVE has historically taken hostile stances toward the Jewish community and our values — such as their block vote in favor of Israeli divestment and BDS policies — we invited Mohabbat and CalSERVE’s executive slate because the Jewish community is committed to open dialogue and hearing all opinions. Unfortunately, what we learned from Mohabbat’s contradicting answers at the Jewish town hall and the Daily Cal’s forum is that he is not willing to hear our voices. Rather, he is committed, like the rest of his party, to take office in the ASUC to advance personal agendas. He made it crystal clear to us that he has no interest in representing the UC Berkeley community as a whole and is willing to dishonor our well-intended efforts in the process.
Hearing the contradiction in Mohabbat’s answers leaves many in my community offended. Mohabbat made a mockery of our olive branch. He made a mockery of the Daily Cal’s forum. And, if he wins, he will make a mockery of our entire student body. We invited him into our community to share his vision for the presidency with us and to hear him say the complete opposite answer during the Daily Cal’s forum is deplorable and alarming for a candidate who claims he wants to represent all student voices and all student concerns.
On a broader scale, this incident raises troubling questions concerning Mohabbat’s honesty, his presidential candidacy and the legitimacy of the ideals he claims to stand for. The Middle Eastern, Muslim and South Asian Coalition, which endorsed Naweed last year for senate, gave no endorsement for president this year.
As the polls for voting open this morning, it is critical that we keep our candidates accountable for their words and actions. We must do so by ensuring that dishonest and disingenuous candidates are not given the reins to lead our school.
Grant Fineman is a current ASUC senator.