Protesters disrupt an event held by Students Supporting Israel at the University of California, Los Angeles on May 17, 2018. Photo: Screenshot.
Pro-Israel students at the University of California, Los Angeles who called for the suspension of an anti-Zionist group that disrupted their event will meet with administrators on Wednesday.
Students Supporting Israel at UCLA (SSI) issued a list of demands this week after their panel on the Middle East’s indigenous communities — featuring Kurdish, Armenian, and Jewish speakers — was interrupted by members of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and the off-campus Revolutionary Communist Party on Thursday.
The protesters tore down Armenian and Israeli flags, threw SSI materials onto the ground, played loud music, and used bullhorns to chant, “we want 48, we don’t want two states,” and “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” according to video footage. While the group was eventually removed from the room by campus police, they “continued to shout obscenities and bang on the door of the classroom as a means of physically intimidating students,” SSI said in a statement released following the event.
The student club said the protesters engaged in “violent and traumatizing” behavior, and rejected offers “to sit down
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SJP did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A member of the group told the student-run Daily Bruin that the protesters wanted to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the “Nakba” — an Arabic word for “catastrophe” that refers to the displacement of Palestinians during Israel’s 1948 War of Independence — and objected to the event because it did not include Palestinian speakers.
“They say it is for indigenous people, but Palestinians are indigenous and have a right to their land,” Burkan Aranki said.
The incident drew criticism from Rabbi Aaron Lerner, executive director of UCLA’s Hillel chapter, who said on Friday that “intimidation, marginalization, vandalism, emotional and physical attacks, disregard for First Amendment rights, as well as non-compliance with police officers is absolutely unacceptable and a clear violation of True Bruin Values and the student code of conduct.”
Lerner also urged the administration to investigate Thursday’s events. A spokesperson for the university said on Tuesday that it is “carefully reviewing the incident to determine precisely what happened, who among the protestors are affiliated with UCLA, and how to appropriately respond.”
“This incident left many students feeling silenced and intimidated, and it dishonored UCLA’s commitment to the free and robust exchange of ideas,” the spokesperson added.
A petition launched in response to the disruption, which warned that pro-Israel and minority students at UCLA “are continually under attack,” gathered more than 1,500 signatures as of Wednesday.
While SSI said it was not affiliated with the initiative, it separately presented the administration with a list of actions that can secure justice for the pro-Israel community, submitted along with the groups Bruins for Israel and the Bruins for Israel Public Affairs Committee (BIPAC).
The students will meet on Wednesday with administrators to explain their demands, which include penalizing SJP and the students responsible for the violations, “as turning a blind eye to such disruptive behavior will signal to SJP that bullying can continue on campus without any consequences.”
They also called on SJP to apologize to their speakers and group “for their brutal and non-academic behavior.”
The UCLA chapter of Alums for Campus Fairness (ACF), which is dedicated to fighting antisemitism and anti-Zionism on campus, also shared a list of demands with the administration on Tuesday. They called for the school to publicly express regret to SSI and the school’s Jewish community, and commit to protecting all Zionist student organizations, ACF wrote in a letter to UCLA Chancellor Gene Block.
The group, which claims more than 700 members, also criticized public safety officers for waiting nearly seven minutes until they asked the protesters to leave.
“And when they did react, they clearly had no idea of what was happening on either side,” AFC wrote, before requesting increased training for campus police.
The group further called on the administration to follow university guidelines to condemn the actions of the protesters or seek their “suspension/expulsion,” while pursuing legal actions against any non-students involved.
“The end goal,” AFC wrote, “is to decriminalize the victims and publicly tell the University’s population that Jewish Students, regardless of politics, are in fact ‘welcome’ on campus, despite chants to the contrary by protestors.”
Members of Students for Justice in Palestine speak at the “Palestine Without Borders” session at the 2018 United We Dream National Congress. Photo: Youth Empowerment Alliance.
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