UCLA Graduate Students Association wants to protect Israel
In a letter sent to the University of California Los Angeles, Palestine Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and the Center for Constitutional Rights demanded the reversal of a policy that prevents the expression of pro-divestment sentiments that might criticize Israel.
The letter was inspired by the UCLA Graduate Students Association’s (GSA) agreement to fund a “Diversity Town Hall” on the condition that the event organizers have “zero connection with ‘Divest from Israel.’” The GSA also threatened to cut monetary support if any event organizers were discovered to have connections with the Israel divestment movement.
The three organizations believe the policy is unconstitutional. They argued that the policy violates the First Amendment rights of on-campus student organizations, and calls for the policy to “be rescinded immediately.”
Palestine Legal’s Liz Jackson described the GSA’s move as “a classic example of the Palestine Exception to free speech.”
The ban triggered a response from the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at UCLA, which released a statement that voiced its displeasure with the GSA’s decision. The SJP remarked that the policy makes implications that could extend beyond Israeli-Palestinian cases, insinuating that funding could be restricted for any organization which holds views that do not align with the GSA’s. The attempt to band other on-campus organizations together against the GSA’s policy came right on the heels of a meeting of the UC Regents, who met November 19 to deliberate the legitimacy of the GSA’s decision.
Though the outcome of the meeting has yet to be revealed, the Regents are likely to disappoint the GSA with their decision. Historically, the Regents have tended to steer away from specific bans and veer towards a broader spectrum of intolerance. Previous efforts to contain and prevent anti-Israel activism on the UC campuses have been curtailed before.
As the calls to abandon ties with Israel escalate, Israel is beginning to feel the pressure. Other than allocating $26 million to counter the BDS movement, their growing desperation has led to baseless lawsuits and deceptive policies on campuses like UCLA.