(November 14, 2018 / JNS) The chancellor at the University of California, Los Angeles, said on Tuesday that the annual National Students for Justice in Palestine conference will be allowed to occur on campus despite his “fundamental disagreements” with the group.
Gene Block acknowledged criticisms raised over “anti-Semitic statements made by some SJP members around the country,” which were expressed in a Los Angeles City Council resolution last week that called for the conference’s scrapping.
“The attempt to ostracize Israeli thinkers and to declare off-limits even discussion with Israeli academics runs contrary to the values of inclusion, debate and discussion that are crucial to any university,” Block wrote in an op-ed published on Monday.
That sentiment was previously echoed by Democratic California congressman Brad Sherman: “A public university should not allow any organization to implement a litmus test for event participants on their campus based on an applicant’s beliefs, religion or national origin.”
He added that “this includes protecting students from anti-Semitism and preventing discrimination against most Jews in admissions to a conference held on campus. It remains an awkward reality that our constitutional system, and democracy’s commitment to open debate, demand that Americans allow speech we may oppose and even defend the rights of those who might not defend ours.”
Block’s remarks were applauded by the president of the UCLA student group Bruins for Israel, Darion Ouliguian for “upholding the rights of all students.”
Ouliguian called on SJP’s umbrella organization and its UCLA branch to separate “between legitimate criticisms of Israel and anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism, and to not allow your conference to become a space full of hate, but rather a space that encourages education on this topic.”
“I call on my personal friends in SJP to be reminded of our relationship, of the humanity of a Zionist,” he said. “Allow that to take root so that we may be able to build each other up in our endeavors.”