Letter: Mohabbat’s stance on divestment is clear, should not be a focus

Dear Editor,

I am writing to express my disappointment in your decision to run Senator Grant Fineman’s hostile and sensationalist op-ed on the first day of ASUC voting. It is incredibly disturbing that something so clearly meant to smear an ASUC Presidential candidate, complete with misinformation and character attacks, would be permitted on the Daily Cal site just as students go to the polls. This left no time for Naweed to respond, point-by-point, to Fineman’s misguided claims before voting opened.

Naweed’s position on divestment is clear — as it should be considering how many times he has been asked about it over the last week. He is supportive of divestment as a tactic, but critical of the larger BDS movement, which includes calls to disestablish Israel (Fineman misleads readers by not making a distinction between the tactic and the movement when he knows better). He would not bring divestment up as ASUC President, but he would stand by his values if it were brought to him by the Senate, while cultivating respectful dialogues. This is clear. What is not clear is why the Daily Cal is permitting Naweed’s critics to position divestment as the defining issue of his candidacy when there is nothing in his record or platforms to warrant this. Is it a coincidence that Naweed, who, if elected, would be the first Muslim ASUC President, is under increased scrutiny on this issue? At this point, I’m not sure.

Considering Fineman’s outspoken criticism of divestment because of its potential for divisiveness, I am disgusted that he would use the issue to score political points in a contentious election (let’s not forget that Fineman publically supports Naweed’s strongest competitor, Pavan Upadhyayula). While I know most voters won’t be fooled by this political stunt, ultimately it is the responsibility of the Daily Cal to ensure fair and respectful discourse around issues it highlights in its Opinion Page. The Daily Cal has neglected their responsibility in this instance, and for that reason I ask that the op-ed be removed and an apology issued to Naweed and the CalSERVE Coalition.

We hope that you will take these concerns seriously and act in a manner consistent with your reputation as a professional-quality news outlet.

— Denim Robert Ohmit,
CalSERVE Elections Coordinator, on behalf of the CalSERVE Coalition

Editor’s Note: The Daily Californian decided to publish SQUELCH! Senator Grant Fineman’s op-ed when it came in Monday because as an elected ASUC senator, Fineman’s criticism of CalSERVE presidential candidate Naweed Mohabbat, an elected official running in this season’s highest and most hotly-contested race, represents a newsworthy incident.  

Divestment from businesses affiliated with the Israeli military is also one the most contentious issues the senate has faced in recent years. A presidential veto on that issue is thus one of the most controversial decisions the ASUC president could have to make. It is the Daily Cal’s purpose to provide voters with the most complete and accurate coverage of the election possible, particularly on issues students have shown themselves to be most passionate about.  Toward that end, we ran Fineman’s op-ed along with a news article examining both Mohabbat and Student Action presidential candidate Pavan Upadhyayula’s stances on divestment.

The Daily Cal also reached out to Mohabbat and the CalSERVE coalition for a counter op-ed. Our decision to publish Fineman’s op-ed does not equate to our endorsement of its message. We do not plan to remove it. If another ASUC senator brings a complaint of equal gravity for the student body against any of the other presidential candidates, we will run that too.

If you have any questions about this decision or any other the Daily Cal makes, please feel free to reach me at [email protected].

— Sarah Burns,
Editor in chief and president