Trending Topics:

LA City Council members denounce student activists over ethics pledge critiquing Israel lobby trips

ActivismIsrael/PalestineUS Politics
on 19 Comments
Los Angeles City Councilmember Bob Blumenfield shaking hands with Jacob Segal of the Southern California Israel Chamber of Commerce. (Photo: Blumenfield.LACity.Org_

Los Angeles City Councilmember Bob Blumenfield shaking hands with Jacob Segal of the Southern California Israel Chamber of Commerce. (Photo: Blumenfield.LACity.Org)

It was a simple idea. Activists at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) recruited student leaders to sign onto a pledge stating they would not go on free trips sponsored by organizations that promote discrimination.

The pledge singled out the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and Hasbara Fellowships–pro-Israel groups that have promoted anti-Muslim sentiment and that have courted student government leaders in California.  The majority of students running for election for UCLA’s undergraduate student government signed the pledge.

But the “ethics pledge,” as student activists labeled it, has roiled the campus, sparking a controversy that has seen pro-Israel groups, UC president Janet Napolitano and UCLA Chancellor Gene Block condemn the pledge, saying that it unfairly targets trips to Israel.

Now, Bob Blumenfield, a pro-Israel Los Angeles City Councilman, is leading an effort to have the city go on the record to denounce the ethics pledge for “intimidating” and “bullying” students.  Blumenfield’s resolution, introduced in late May, is supported by at least five other council members.

The resolution says that it supports administrative actions meant to combat the “intimidation” the pledge represents, and also calls on the “proper law enforcement agencies” to be apprised when appropriate.

UCLA’s Students for Justice in Palestine chapter (SJP)–which along with the Armenian Students Association and Jewish Voice for Peace drafted the “ethics pledge”–fired back at the LA City Councilmembers with a statement saying that the resolution is inaccurate and “is engaging in a completely non-transparent effort to intimidate [students] and dismiss their concerns.” (The Armenian group co-drafted the ethics pledge because the ADL and AIPAC have defeated efforts to recognize the Armenian genocide in favor of cultivating Israeli ties with Turkey.)  SJP members added that “the statement does not rule out trips to Israel – it only raises concerns about associations with external groups of any political persuasion that promote bigotry or discrimination.” 

Israel lobby groups’ practice of taking student leaders on free trips to Israel or to Washington conferences have captured more attention in recent years as divestment votes by student governments spread throughout California. UCLA’s student government voted down a call to divest from U.S. corporations with Israeli military contracts earlier this year, and one of the student government members, Sunny Singh, had been wined and dined in Israel by the ADL.  Singh lost his bid to become student government president to Devin Murphy, a candidate who supported the “ethics pledge” but took a free Israel trip before he signed the statement.

In the aftermath of the failed divestment vote, SJP filed a complaint with the UCLA judicial board, saying that Singh’s and fellow student government member Lauren Rodgers’ free trips to Israel constituted a conflict of interest.  Last month, the judicial board rejected SJP’s complaint by 4-0 (with two abstentions), though the full court decision has yet to be released.

As the court case progressed, pro-Israel groups weighed in to denounce the ethics pledge and activists’ attempts to make free trips an issue, with the campus Hillel going as far to call SJP’s efforts “a new front of anti-Semitism, one which threatens to spread around the country if we don’t stop it now.”

Bob Blumenfield, the author of the City Council resolution denouncing the ethics pledge, is no stranger to getting state and city representatives to denounce SJP activism.  Last year, when Blumenfield was a state assemblyman, he helped organize a letter denouncing the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement on UC campuses.  Blumenfield also sponsored a 2012 California house resolution that denounced BDS and stated that calling Israel an “apartheid state” is anti-Semitic.    And one of his latest pro-Israel actions was announcing an effort to bolster cooperation between LA and Eilat, Israel. 

(H/T Max Blumenthal.)

Alex Kane
About Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist who focuses on Israel/Palestine and civil liberties. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

Other posts by .


Posted In:

19 Responses

  1. Blownaway
    Blownaway
    June 3, 2014, 9:36 am

    A politician against an ethics pledge ? That’s a dog bites man story. I’m sure he’s terrified of a pledge like that hampering his AIPAC sponsored trips

    • ritzl
      ritzl
      June 4, 2014, 9:16 am

      Ya gotta wonder how many of these Councilmen have taken the same free, CoI-generating trips. I hope UCLA SJP asks them that question, and have the sputter buckets at the ready. My guess is all of them.

  2. amigo
    amigo
    June 3, 2014, 9:59 am

    We are the victims so any attempt to condemn our crimes without condemning Syria in the same resolution is bias.

    Zionist logic.

    • Naftush
      Naftush
      June 5, 2014, 2:57 am

      It was a simple idea: sign student onto a pledge stating they would not go on free trips sponsored by organizations that promote discrimination. Then apply the pledge to pro-Israel groups and to them alone.
      You gotta start somewhere, and it’s best of all to end where you started.
      BDS logic.

  3. Hostage
    Hostage
    June 3, 2014, 11:37 am

    with the campus Hillel going as far to call SJP’s efforts “a new front of anti-Semitism, one which threatens to spread around the country if we don’t stop it now.

    Hillel’s motto ought to be “We do more to spread anti-Semitism before 9 am than most people do all day”.

    On a similar note, the Jewish Press (which is one of the largest purveyors of Kahanist agit-prop) asks: “Do ADL Surveys Cause Anti-Semitism?” http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/do-adl-surveys-cause-anti-semitism/2014/05/29/

  4. Zach S
    Zach S
    June 3, 2014, 12:27 pm

    SJP really overreached this time, and it’s no wonder that they are receiving blowback.

    Alex says that the ethics statement demanded students not go on trips that are hosted by groups that are “discriminatory.” But in practice, the only groups targeted were ones that had politics to which SJP was opposed. SJP didn’t do a very good job trying to cover up their blatant McCarthyist attempt to police what students can and cannot do, and now they receiving their more than just desserts.

    Let’s not forget either how SJP tried to get two pro-Israel student senators fired for attending these trips, while ignoring their own candidate for UCLA President, Devin Murphy, who had been on one of the trips as well. Literally the only difference is that SJP knew Murphy shared their political aims. Not surprising, their case was unanimously thrown out.

    Every time SJP tries to police what other people do in the name of values like “conflicts of interest” and “anti-discrimination,” it immediately becomes obvious that they only do it to further their own political gain. Read the comments in the Daily Bruin if you don’t believe me: they have only succeeded in turning the UCLA campus against them. This is is problem with Palestinian solidarity in this day and age: its proponents have no values, only talking points.

    • Hostage
      Hostage
      June 3, 2014, 4:52 pm

      SJP really overreached this time, and it’s no wonder that they are receiving blowback.

      No, they just asked people to pay their own way to Israel and to stop taking freebies from the Israel Lobby. It’s you idiots who are overreacting.

      • Zach S
        Zach S
        June 3, 2014, 5:33 pm

        No, they just asked people to pay their own way to Israel and to stop taking freebies from the Israel Lobby.

        You can try to spin SJP’s misbehavior however you like but the historical record on this is quite clear. Students are allowed to take “freebies” from whomever they want. SJP thinks freebies from the Arab Lobby is perfectly legitimate, and students who they know to be anti-Israel anyway can take them as well. For those of you paying attention at home, that’s called “double standards” and “discrimination,” and it’s no wonder that SJP is receiving blowback for it.

        By the way, we know that when SJP “asks” they really mean “tell,” or else. The historical record on that is quite clear as well.

      • Hostage
        Hostage
        June 4, 2014, 2:21 pm

        No, they just asked people to pay their own way to Israel and to stop taking freebies from the Israel Lobby.

        You can try to spin SJP’s misbehavior however you like but the historical record on this is quite clear.

        Yes dummy, I’m summarizing the actual contents of the pledge that my group, JVP, asked the student leaders to sign.

        Students are allowed to take “freebies” from whomever they want.

        Yes they are free to do that. But they tend to loose votes in student elections when they do. I suppose that’s really what all of this shreying is really about.

      • Zach S
        Zach S
        June 4, 2014, 2:40 pm

        Yes they are free to do that. But they tend to loose votes in student elections when they do. I suppose that’s really what all of this shreying is really about.

        If you think that, then you really didn’t read and understand the pledge your group “asked” the student leaders to signed. You demanded that they refuse to go on the trips at all, not that they are “free to do so” and lose votes accordingly.

  5. Nevada Ned
    Nevada Ned
    June 3, 2014, 12:56 pm

    Why not require that any US politician who takes a free trip to Israel must register as a agent of a foreign power, under FARA. (Foreign agent registration act).

    If someone offered “free trips to Palestine,” paid for by some Arab group, the LA city council would be singing an ENTIRELY different tune. They’d see an ethics problem.

    • Zach S
      Zach S
      June 4, 2014, 9:02 am

      If someone offered “free trips to Palestine,” paid for by some Arab group, the LA city council would be singing an ENTIRELY different tune. They’d see an ethics problem.

      No, they absolutely would not. Such trips happen all the time. The problem here is not people offering free trips anywhere, the problem is that SJP tried to use brownshirt tactics to force innocent people into not freely using the resources available to them.

      Stop playing the victim and the race card, it isn’t going to work.

      • Hostage
        Hostage
        June 4, 2014, 2:35 pm

        Such trips happen all the time.

        Then name one. The JPAC Committee of California quotes LA Council members and State reps who claim to have visited scenes of destruction and violence in Sderot. How many of them can you name who have actually visited the scenes of Israeli violence in Gaza and the West Bank?

      • Zach S
        Zach S
        June 4, 2014, 2:43 pm

        Here is one:

        http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Queen's+Students+Join+Palestine+Society+for+Trip+to+Israel-Palestine.-a0323940070

        LA Council members and State reps

        Nice try, moving the goalposts like that. I’m talking about student trips, not politicians.

  6. Rusty Pipes
    Rusty Pipes
    June 3, 2014, 1:47 pm

    These six LA city council members have made an additional move to improve their fundraising among Zionist donors for the next election. Do they represent the views and interests of their broader constituents?

  7. The JillyBeans
    The JillyBeans
    June 3, 2014, 3:40 pm

    “Now, Bob Blumenfield, a pro-Israel Los Angeles City Councilman, is leading an effort to have the city go on the record to denounce the ethics pledge for “intimidating” and “bullying” students. Blumenfield’s resolution, introduced in late May, is supported by at least five other council members.”

    Mr Blumenfield has blinders for AIPAC Hillel then it appears. Did not AIPAC and other prominent Jewish organizations bully and intimidate Hillel campus groups for wanting to give equal time? The existence of the Open Hillel groups speaks volumes to who is “bullying” and “intimidating” at the table.

  8. pjdude
    pjdude
    June 3, 2014, 10:09 pm

    it seems to me that anything done to highlight israeli crimes is viewed as “bullying and intimidation” and than the response is to bully and intimidate palestinians and those supporting their basic human rights.

  9. JustJessetr
    JustJessetr
    June 3, 2014, 11:14 pm

    No, no, no. This a victory for BDS because people are talking about it, right? Isn’t that the standard line? Where’s the fireworks?

    • Hostage
      Hostage
      June 4, 2014, 2:40 pm

      No, no, no. This a victory for BDS because people are talking about it, right? Isn’t that the standard line? Where’s the fireworks?

      Of course it was successful. You must not have read the article. That’s why the bought and paid for shills and Zionist apparatchiks on the LA city council are shreying so much about it.

Leave a Reply