UCLA Student Government Candidates Sign 'Ethics Statement' Against Israel Trips

According to an article in  UCLA’s student paper The Daily Bruin,  “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.”

UCLA student Gabriel Levine, a former J Street U member who is now a board member of Jewish Voice for Peace, told The Daily Bruin that a number of anti-Israel organizations drafted the "ethics statement" last week. According to the report, trips with American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and Hasbara Fellowships are all prohibited under the agreement.

The proposal was drafted by student members of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), the Armenian Students’ Association and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). JVP and SJP promote the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which targets only the Jewish state of Israel on campuses across the country.  

In February, a  controversy ​erupted on UCLA's campus over SJP's anti-Israel divestment proposal in the student senate, which failed by a vote of 7-5 after a 12-hour-long hearing. The Daily Bruin notes that "four Bruins United councilmembers who were vocally against the resolution had gone on free or sponsored trips to Israel or attended AIPAC conferences." A number of students raised concerned about the potential bias of student councilmembers in favor of Israel as a result of the trips.

Levine confirmed the ethics statement demand on Twitter, saying that the trip "agendas offend."

One student, who did not feel comfortable speaking publicly, told TruthRevolt that the  statement is "unethical" and raised questions of Jewish targeting, alleging "(the ethics statement) makes irresponsible and biased claims about organizations that are associated with the greater Los Angeles Jewish community."  

Roz Rothstein, Executive Director and founder of the pro-Israel group StandWithUs, blasted the initiative via email:

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.

UCLA senior Ryland Lu, who is a member of the Global Human Rights Brigade, defended the ethics statement and communicated to TruthRevolt​ that he believes students should not receive outside trip offers:

To maintain transparency in student government, councilmembers should not be allowed to take trips offered by any outside organizations, which require that they lobby on behalf of a particular policy in exchange: this should especially be the case when said policy involves human rights violations.

When asked to clarify to which human rights violations he was referring, Lu insisted on highlighting, "(Israel's) policies towards the Palestinian people. Policies considered human rights violations by reputed organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch."

Executive Director of the Israel on Campus Coalition, Jacob Baime, was highly critical of the student proposal and told TruthRevolt, “College students should be encouraged to explore and engage the world." Baime added that he hoped that students on campus are "not intimidated by closed-minded zealots with their heads in the sand.”​

Requests for comment from Gabriel Levine were unanswered at the time of publication.

UPDATE: One UCLA student who learned of the ethics statement was highly critical of the campaign:

The slime who did this did it for the simple reason that they are afraid of people seeing the truth and becoming immune to the SJP and JVP BS. These tactics are worthy of Soviet Russia and a disgrace to this school. That anybody doing this would call themselves a "Jewish Voice" let alone for peace is an insult to 2000 years of our ancestors' blood and prayers. Fanatic haters posing as unicorns are destroying this school's reputation and sanity and taking every student's good name down with them, all at the bidding of the AMP and Hatem Bazian.