Students Should Work Toward Fostering Climate of Mutual Respect

Last week, the Guardian reported on an insidious and libelous claim regarding a picture involving me wearing a traditional Middle Eastern outfit purchased during my travels in Dubai.  The picture was taken and posted on Facebook by a Muslim female friend who was stunned that I received verbal attacks, even accusations of racism, as a result of the photo.  As someone of Middle Eastern descent and committed to interfaith relations, I apologize if the photo caused offense.

Though I understand the photo could be misinterpreted, I feel the attacks were politically motivated since I am Jewish, serve on A.S. Council and voted against the recent resolution to divest from companies which provide war technology used by the Israeli Defense Forces.  The individuals who verbally attacked me referenced my “actions,” or vote during divestment, in their accusations and appear to be motivated to tarnish my reputation and silence my voice.

This attack echoes last month’s intimidation tactics and false accusations by the Student Affirmative Action Committee, who sent a letter to the administration accusing Professor Shlomo Dubnov, who spoke publically against divestment, of racist rhetoric and verbally attacking a pro-divestment student.  Last week, the UCSD Office of Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination  completed an investigation clearing Dubnov of the allegations, but did not ask the student who accused him, or the Faculty Association which attacked him on their website, to apologize. Why not? When will these methods of intimidation end and when will our Principles of Community be embraced?

Personally, I find disturbing  the events of two weeks ago, when Students for Justice in Palestine held a “Mock Israeli Checkpoint,” where students dressed up as Israeli soldiers frisked other participating students, culminating their theatrics by shouting “Intifada,” (the violent Palestinian uprisings against Israel).  As a Jew, as someone who has family in Israel and knows people who have died in suicide bombings in which these check points were created to stop, I find this to be deeply offensive. Like Amal Dalmar said, “If we as a student body don’t react to events like this, anybody’s culture can be mocked and ridiculed.”

On March 8, UC President Mark Yudof issued a statement proclaiming  “the moral imperative for all UC students, faculty and staff  to foster a climate of tolerance, civility and open-mindedness.” He said attacks that are meant to silence or intimidate those who would express differing opinions is not acceptable.  I agree with President Yudof and am worried about degradation of civil discourse and the increasing harassment and intimidation of pro-Israel and Jewish students and faculty.

Last week, UCSD reached an agreement with Department of Justice and Education to address issues of harassment and discrimination. Our administration should note the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights declared in 2010 that Jewish students are now also protected from harassment and discrimination under Title VI.

 Now is the time for our administration to take action to foster an environment of acceptance and create programs of civility, diversity and dialogue training that student leaders are required to attend.

I am optimistic that UCSD students can engage with one another and create a climate where people can express their viewpoints without being insulted, harassed or threatened. Last Friday, I met with fellow student senator Ruba Akel. Although she and I initially had different perspectives, we came to understand each other’s viewpoints and had a very engaging and productive conversation. We must all maintain a firm commitment  to engage in respectful dialogue and put our cultural differences aside.

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