Zionism is a movement that initially aimed to re-establish, and now aims to develop, the State of Israel as a Jewish homeland.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has impacted communities around the world, and students at UC Santa Cruz are no exception. Student groups representing opposite sides of the issue hosted two events to discuss the conflict on March 7.
One event, promoted as bipartisan and hosted by UCSC College Republicans, College Democrats and Slugs for Israel, brought speaker Neil Lazarus to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Zionism. In response to this event, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) hosted a counterevent, which showed a documentary on pro- Israeli efforts to dox pro-Palestinian and Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions supporters followed by a group discussion.
UCSC College Republicans, College Democrats and Slugs for Israel’s event, “Is There Light At the End of the Tunnel?,” was presented as bipartisan, but saw very few Democrats in attendance. The lecture was focused on the facts behind the Israeli-Palestine conflict, including undertones and information about the Zionist movement.
“I know this event isn’t exactly bipartisan in the opinions being shared, but it is bipartisan in the sense that both UCSC College Republicans and Democrats are coming together,” said Kelly Rubin, member and former president of Slugs for Israel. “They always argue and share differing opinions, but they’re coming together on this one issue in order to discourse. I am ‘pro’ the event.”
Participants, mostly with Slugs for Israel and College Republicans, expressed eagerness to hold a space for healthy political discussion.
A Counter to Zionism
In response to the bipartisan event, SJP hosted a counterevent, “Building Power Through Knowledge,” to educate students on their organization’s platform and viewpoint. The event consisted of a documentary viewing of “The Lobby,” followed by group discussion for newcomers to learn about the conflict from a Palestinian perspective.
“Events like [“Is there Light At the End of the Tunnel?”] held last week make us feel neglected, undermined and enraged,” said SJP member Laila Issa. “An invitation for a Zionist [Neil Lazarus] to speak on campus is a direct undermining of the Palestinian struggle. It legitimizes the Israeli occupation and apartheid that are directly affecting the livelihood and rights of the Palestinians inside and outside of Palestine.”
Issa said the counterevent attracted a good-sized crowd to the Graduate Student Commons. The atmosphere was inviting
as attendees established communal guidelines and settled in for the film.
The SJP event’s group discussion brought up concerns of howZionist doxxing could
impact organization around their mission. Doxxing is the search for and publishing of private or identifying information on the Internet with malicious intent. Attendees brainstormed ways to organize in the face of suppression.
“The pro-Israeli supporters in the film attempted to conflate messages and paint Palestinian-supporters as anti- Semitic, when they are simply advocating for the freedom of a very oppressed group of people,” said SJP event attendee and third-year Efren Lopez. “The event demonstrated how connected this pressure is to things on an international level. To see these microscopic events, such as UC Berkeley’s campus, depicted in the film, is very revealing.”
Political Strains At UCSC
As the documentary “The Lobby” suggested, tension associated with the Israeli occupation of Palestine appears to be affecting “microscopic” aspects of life, including college campuses. Attendees of both events said this tension can be seen on UCSC’s campus as well. The tension is demonstrated by these opposing events, revealing the differences between pro- Israel and pro-Palestinian perspectives.
At the bipartisan event, participants expected backlash from SJP.
“I know that there were people intimidated to come to this event due to the backlash from organizations like SJP, but I am hoping it’ll be a supportive environment and that we will feel safe being in this room together,” said Slugs for Israel member Stav Yativ as the event began.
Efren Lopez, SJP event attendee, explained his confusion with the bipartisanevent.
“It is a little bit shocking that the UCSC College Republicans, College Democrats and Slugs for Israel would come together specifically for that event, without checking the optics of how that would look for other students who probably do not know much about the conflict,” Lopez said. “It is difficult to find unbiased information, and the [bipartisan] event held last Thursday demonstrates that.”
Despite no resolution between the student groups, attendees and group members are dedicated to discussing their opinions, regardless of the opinion’s popularity.