In America, someone's faith should not be considered when investigating whether someone could be an effective judge, but when UCLA's Undergraduate Students Association interviewed Rachel Beyda, a well-qualified candidate looking for a position on the student court, the questioning began, “Given that you’re a Jewish student and very active in the Jewish community […] how do you see yourself being able to maintain an unbiased view in your position?”
According to HAAM, the UCLA Jewish student's newspaper:
Appointed by USAC [Undergraduate Students Association Council] President Avinoam Baral, she proved herself to be extremely qualified for the position at every step of the interview process. All USAC council members present agreed that she was a perfect fit for the position.
But before they agreed, Beyda faced an onslaught of questions about whether a Jewish woman could serve.
After the first question (above) was asked by council member Fabienne Roth, President Avinoam Baral rejected it, saying, "questioning a candidate’s ability to remain unbiased simply on the basis of her being a member of a particular community is an inappropriate question that we would not feel comfortable asking student members of other communities."
But the line of questioning continued. The College Fix reported, "A second council member, Negeen Sadeghi-Movahed, posed the same question using less obvious terms. A third council member piggy-backed on the previous questions by asking Beyda what she thinks constitutes a conflict of interest."
That question was a not-too-subtle veiled reference to a 2014 student court controversy where the Students for Justice in Palestine wanted two USAC council members barred from voting on a divestment from Israel vote because they had once traveled to the Jewish State.
“Rachel was asked to leave the room for council discussion,” her roommate Rachel Frenklak recounted in The Daily Bruin:
What followed was a disgusting 40 minutes of what can only be described as unequivocal anti-Semitism during which some of our council members resorted to some of the oldest accusations against Jews, including divided loyalties and dishonesty.
All council members swiftly agreed Rachel was amply qualified for the position, but half of the council had strong reservations stemming from Rachel’s Jewish identity. “My issue is, I’m going to be upfront about it, I think she’s pretty great. She’s smart, she like knows her stuff, she’s like probably going to be a really great lawyer. But I’m like not going to pretend this isn’t about conflict of interest. … It’s not her fault … but she’s part of a community that’s very invested in USAC. … Even if she’s the right person for the job,” claimed Roth. Sadeghi-Movahed added, “For some reason, I’m not 100 percent comfortable. I don’t know why. I’ll go through her application again. I’ve been going through it constantly, but I definitely can see that she’s qualified for sure.” Throughout this discussion, Rachel anxiously paced outside, where, she later informed me, she could hear “conflict of interest” being yelled and concluded that it could only be about her being Jewish. Undoubtedly, the Israeli-Palestinan conflict is one of the most contentious issues on our campus. However, Israel was not mentioned during the discussion of Rachel’s appointment, only her affiliation with Jewish organizations, making the extensive deliberation a definitive act of discrimination.
Rachel Beyda's appointment was ultimately approved unanimously but the hard feelings remained. The day after the council meeting, Negeen Sadeghi-Movahed posted an apology on her Facebook page:
When a community feels offended by any behavioral conduct of an individual, especially an elected official, it is the responsibility of the aggressor to acknowledge their faults.
Moreover, I am an individual who prides herself on being sensitive to community issues, it is with much humility that I ask the UCLA community, particularly the Jewish community, to accept my apology for my comments at Tuesday's (February 11th) meeting. As I grow and learn from my mistakes, I look forward to continue learning more about community conditions and the identities of my peers to educate myself further.
This is not an isolated incident; anti-Semitism is a major problem on the UCLA campus, as the recent CBA report below suggests: