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StandWithUs Statement re: Letter Asking University of California - Los Angeles (UCLA) Student Government Candidates Not to Take Sponsored Trips to Israel
May 9, 2014

"BDS activists are trying to intimidate student leaders and prevent them from learning about Israel. This is bigoted -- because only Israel is being targeted. It is absurd because student senators are not expected to vote on foreign policy issues. It is also hypocritical because if applied fairly, candidates would also be forced to completely disassociate themselves from the BDS Movement. They would not be allowed to attend divestment training sessions, SJP conferences, or pro-BDS events in general, because BDS promotes hatred and marginalizes so many students on campus." - Roz Rothstein, CEO, StandWithUs

Below is the original article explaining the issue presented in the statement above.

The Daily Bruin
Amanda Schallert

May 6, 2014

The majority of candidates running for undergraduate student government officer positions this week have promised to not go on free or sponsored trips with certain pro-Israel lobbying organizations and non-student centered external groups if they are elected.

All candidates running with the FIRED UP! and LET'S ACT! slates and none running with Bruins United have signed the Joint Statement on Undergraduate Students Association Council Ethics, which asks for council members to refrain from taking free or sponsored trips with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, the Anti-Defamation League or Hasbara Fellowships.

The statement permits council members to collaborate with certain student-run organizations, namely the University of California Students Association and U.S. Students Association.

Members of Jewish Voice for Peace, the Armenian Students' Association and Students for Justice in Palestine drafted the statement last week, said Gabriel Levine, a fifth-year math and economics student and a board member for Jewish Voice for Peace.

Members of the Muslim Students Association, the Afrikan Student Union and Samahang Pilipino also expressed support for the statement, Levine said.

Multiple Bruins United council members have gone on trips with the Anti-Defamation League or attended AIPAC conferences this year, sparking concern from some student group leaders who viewed council members' affiliations as conflicts of interest.

Council members' involvement with pro-Israel Jewish groups were largely brought to the spotlight and questioned because USAC voted on a controversial resolution in February that called for UCLA and the University of California to divest from companies that profit from the Israeli military's occupation of Gaza and the West Bank.

Members of the Armenian Students' Association and Students for Justice in Palestine were strong supporters of the resolution, which failed to pass after an almost 12-hour-long meeting.

Jewish Voice for Peace formed after the divestment resolution meeting and also supports divestment.

Four Bruins United council members who were vocally against the resolution had gone on free or sponsored trips to Israel or attended AIPAC conferences.

The USAC bylaws say that a conflict of interest occurs when a USAC member receives “improper benefits,” such as money or other gifts and advantages, because of their elected position. Elected members of USAC are prohibited from having an “unauthorized financial interest or obligation which might cause divided loyalty,” and the bylaws advise that USAC members avoid the perception of conflicts of interest.

Some council members and USAC candidates said they do not think the USAC bylaws prohibit affiliations with outside groups.

Avinoam Baral, the Bruins United candidate for internal vice president and the current chief of staff for the Internal Vice President's office, said he did not sign on to the statement because he thinks that council members should have the freedom to associate with different organizations and to educate themselves about different topics through trips as long as they are not violating the USAC bylaws or constitution.

Baral said he went on a trip to Israel covered by Hasbara Fellowships during winter quarter as an educational experience.

Sunny Singh, the Bruins United candidate for president and a current general representative, said he did not sign the statement because he thinks that councilmembers should be held to the USAC bylaws and the USAC constitution and allowed to take advantage of educational resources.

Singh, who went on a free trip to Israel with the Anti-Defamation League over the summer, and current Financial Supports Commissioner Lauren Rogers are currently part of a Judicial Board case meant to review their votes on the divestment resolution. Members of Students for Justice in Palestine filed the Judicial Board complaint against Singh and Rogers, who went on a free trip to Israel during winter break with Project Interchange, which is part of the American Jewish Committee.

Singh and Rogers have said their actions did not constitute a conflict of interest because they did not receive financial benefits for their votes on the divestment resolution and are not obligated to act in any way because of the trips.

Still, Singh said he would not go on another trip with a pro-Israel organization if elected because he does not want to alienate any students. He added that he did not know that his trip with the Anti-Defamation League would spark backlash and concern from students this year.

“I want to make sure that I can be accessible and approachable to all students,” Singh said.

In addition to Bruins United members, independent candidates did not sign onto the statement.

Greg Kalfayan, the independent candidate for Campus Events commissioner, said he does not anticipate going on a trip with any organization mentioned in the statement, but he did not want to sign onto a blanket statement that would stop him from affiliating with external groups.

Other independent candidates could not be reached for comment.

Terrell Morris, a first-year English student, said he thinks council members have a right to go on trips with external organizations to learn about different issues they want to pursue.

Julie Escobar, a fourth-year human biology and society student, said she thinks an all-expense-paid trip only presents one side of the issue.

“Unless they devote the same time and energy looking at the other side, then it's not the same,” she added.

The deadline to sign the statement was 5 p.m. Monday, Levine said.

Contributing reports by Kendal Mitchell, Bruin contributor.

Read the original article here.

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