News

UCal regents decide divestment isn’t anti-Semitic, except for Feinstein’s husband

Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr

Here’s some news on the historic appointment yesterday of Sadia Saifuddin, a Muslim, as the student member of the University of California board of regents, despite the fact that Saifuddin supported a resolution for Berkeley to divest from three companies “committing human rights violations in the Palestinian territories.”

The LA Times has a great editorial describing Saifuddin’s position as the third rail of university politics and taking on the assertion that she’s an anti-Semite. 

Oh, for goodness’ sake, will this never stop? There’s no indication that Saifuddin is an anti-Semite, despite her criticism of Israel, her involvement with the Muslim Students Assn. or her condemnation of anti-Islamic “hate speech.”

(More excerpts below.)

Next, here’s an audio–with photos– of the debate by the UC regents yesterday, in which three powerful Jewish regents differ on the hysterical claims (from the likes of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and David Horowitz) that Saifuddin is an anti-Semite. Regents Bonnie Reiss, a former Schwarzenegger aide, and Sherry Lansing, the former studio exec, affirm that she is not; but Richard Blum, the financier who’s the husband of California Senator Dianne Feinstein, isn’t so sure.

Nominating Saifuddin, Reiss addresses the “passion” elicited by Saifuddin’s support for Palestinian human rights. And counting herself among those who “passionately support Israel,” Reiss affirms that the UC president and the board of regents are against divestment.

Reiss raises the allegation that divestment is “connected to anti-Semitism”–

As an American Jew I have experienced anti-Semitism too often in my life. I have great respect for the views expressed by those concerned about this appointment.

before she disavows it.

“Very eloquently stated, my feelings as well,” says Sherry Lansing, the studio exec. “We disagree with Sadia’s position on divestment, but we do so respectfully.”

Then Blum holds forth, and describes his extensive contacts with the Muslim world, and why he’s not convinced that Saifuddin’s position is not anti-Semitic.

So I spend a lot of time with the Muslim community, and my concern is that I’ve also in the last few days… gotten an unbelievable amount of emails, phone calls and what have you from people in the Jewish community that I respect. I mean there’s certain ones that will always holler anti-semitism if the light turns against them as they’re crossing the street. I’m disregarding those. But there is real genuine concern. What I’m concerned about is on the issue of the boycott, it’s very divisive. I don’t care if Sadia wants to or if anybody else wants to take that position. I just think that when you want to be the student representative, you have to represent all the students. If you want to be in favor of North Korea taking over Berkeley or vice versa, God bless…. [But] there are a lot of people that are just never going to turn around on this because of this issue…

I am not going to vote for Sadia, but I’m not going to vote against her… I am concerned… I have spent a lot of time in the Gulf, we have clients there, I go to Saudi Arabia, and nobody really speaks about the boycott anymore.

Look, I’m against– I’m no fan of Netanyahu, I think the building of settlements in the West Bank is wrong, but if you want to list countries that have human rights issues that we ought to not trade with, you have probably 100 countries that are worse than Israel, so I got a problem with all this.

So settlements are wrong, but a divestment resolution targeting companies that serve the occupation is the same as a resolution for North Korea to take over Berkeley? 

Here is more from the LA Times editorial

Earlier this year, she cosponsored a nonbinding resolution in the student Senate calling on the UC system to divest from companies that do business with the Israeli military.

Unfortunately for her, that’s the third rail of UC politics. When her nomination came before the regents on Wednesday, she was opposed by a number of pro-Israel groups, including StandWithUs and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and by conservative activist David Horowitz, who wrote in an open letter: “If she were confirmed, it would set a dangerous precedent to encourage anti-Semitism on campus, which is already a big problem in the UC system.”

Regent Richard Blum, who abstained, said he believed Saifuddin was too divisive a figure and that a student representative should “represent all the students.”

Oh, for goodness’ sake, will this never stop? There’s no indication that Saifuddin is an anti-Semite, despite her criticism of Israel, her involvement with the Muslim Students Assn. or her condemnation of anti-Islamic “hate speech.” On the board, she says, she hopes to focus on financial aid reform and “bringing students together.”

Besides, what does it mean to “represent all the students”? No one can represent 220,000 students on every single issue. The regents were absolutely right to approve Saifuddin, which they did unanimously (except for Blum’s abstention).

It’s important to recognize, however, that this is part of a bigger, long-standing cultural clash on UC campuses. At UC Irvine, 11 Muslim students were arrested, charged and tried in court for repeatedly interrupting a speech by the Israeli ambassador in 2010. At Berkeley last year, Jewish students claimed they were the victims of a “pervasive hostile environment.” At UCLA, supporters and critics of Israel shouted at one another at a symposium a few years ago.

The LA Times is wise to reference the larger battle. Big stakes. Outgoing Israeli ambassador Michael Oren in the New York Times today speaks of this battle in stating why it is urgent to resolve the conflict:

There are other reasons to solve the Palestinian problem: we have to look at Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state. I am particularly focused on the erosion of Israel’s legitimacy, particularly among elites in the press, on certain university campuses. I’m acutely aware of that.

At least he knows about the erosion of Israel’s legitimacy. Richard Blum doesn’t have a clue, and he’s married to a powerful U.S. Senator. And of course Blum and Feinstein are far more representative of American attitudes than Sadia Saifuddin is.

Nonetheless, the Saifuddin moment is huge, it shows a dramatic cultural change that is going to transform the US relationship to the Middle East.

Even in a York, Pennsylvania, high school change is coming:

Despite some initial apprehension, the Northern York School Board voted unanimously to allow a Palestinian exchange student to attend classes there this coming school year.

The board took the action Thursday night after a number of people, most voicing support for 15-year-old Rami Amjad Yahya, addressed the board.

“I think there is a great opportunity for this student from Palestine to share his experience here,” said Fred Smeltzer of Spring Grove.

There’s a lot of ignorance in York:

Board Member Michael Barndt and Board Vice President Greg Hlatky said they were concerned about Yahya’s background because of a statement he made on his application. He said he hails from the “occupied territory of Ramallah,” rather than from the “West Bank,” where conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has existed for decades.

Not all that different from Richard Blum’s ignorance, though.

13 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

No way American student protest will become something not easily handled by the US government of Israel (unless a war with Iran ensues and US males are drafted when it grows to regional war, than world-wide war, and US males are penalized for not registering for the draft, which, currently,… Read more »

“Look, I’m against– I’m no fan of Netanyahu, I think the building of settlements in the West Bank is wrong, but if you want to list countries that have human rights issues that we ought to not trade with, you have probably 100 countries that are worse than Israel, so… Read more »

wow, did you hear that incredible applause after the vote! (11:04-11:34 in the video) i wish they had turned the camera to the audience so i could see the standing ovation. i burst into tears at the sound of it. amazing.

Listen to minute 6, when he bloviates about how captain concerned global citizen really understands the plight of Muslims. He fits perfectly with the rest of the neocon poseurs. (some of my best friends are muslims) I’ve never heard Senator Feinstein’s husband speak. Wow is he a big macher. credits… Read more »

“divestment resolution targeting companies that serve the occupation is the same as a resolution for North Korea to take over Berkeley?” Good point. There are people who hate Child Protective Services and see them as a kind of North Korea because CPS acts like a dictatorship and does not let… Read more »