In May, the eruption of brutality toward Palestinian civilians from Israel Defense Forces in both Palestine and Israel-occupied Palestine caught international attention. In response, UC Santa Cruz’s Muslim Student Association (MSA) sought to get Student Union Assembly (SUA) to issue a statement in support of Palestine.
After five and a half hours of back-and-forth discussion over two SUA meetings, MSA’s statement passed on June 1.
The proposed statement from MSA was presented by Mohammad Alam, Mayeena Ulkarim, and Hilal Morrar and supported by SUA Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion Saxon Stahl. This statement condemned the Israeli government’s forced evictions of Palestinians from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem and the bombing from Israeli military forces, and reaffirmed its unwavering support for Palestinian community members.
“We felt this was the bare minimum we could do for the Palestinian people,” said MSA officers Mayeena Ulkarim and Hilal Morrar in an email. “It would be a disservice to our communities if we could not have SUA take a stance against the crimes against humanity in Palestine.”
A second statement was presented for discussion by Gal Elkayam, Donna Harel, and Daniel Halpern-DeVries at the May 25 meeting. Halpern-DeVries is a voting SUA member as the Crown College representative. Though the second statement mentions Sheikh Jarrah and attacks on Al-Aqsa, MSA members criticized it for not explicitly naming the Israel Defense Forces or Israeli government.
This statement did not pass on June 1, but did play a hand in the SUA adding a stipulation in its vote for the MSA statement. The stipulation was that SUA would compose and release a separate statement condemning antisemitism before June 30.
May 25: Presenting the Statements
The MSA brought its proposed statement to the SUA meeting on May 25, with the vote on the statement being tabled just after midnight to be further discussed the next week.
Before the meeting, MSA members reached out to other students and organizations, encouraging supporters to show up in solidarity. At the beginning of MSA’s speaking time at the SUA meeting, attendance jumped from 60 participants to 190.
Due to the scale of the ongoing atrocities in Palestine, presenters stressed a strong sense of urgency to act in solidarity with Palestinian students and movements.
“In 2015, BDS [Boycott, Divest, Sanctions] was passed in the SUA in the name of students and justice and for that same reason, this statement must be passed today,” Ulkarim said in the May 25 meeting before reading the statement.
Public discussion on the two statements lasted in total nearly three and a half hours, with input from both presenters and community members. Students, faculty members, and even alumni joined in on public comments, with a myriad of opposing viewpoints. Some were staunchly pro-Palestine, some advocated explicitly condemning violence on both sides, and others felt that any condemnation of Israel as a whole was antisemitic on its own.
Just before 9:20 p.m., the meeting was Zoombombed. The Zoombomber interrupted student Donna Harel multiple times while they were speaking. Though details were not confirmed, at least one individual also said they received hateful Zoom private chat messages with racial and ethnic slurs. The meeting then went into a recess. To help prevent further conflict during the meeting, the chat function was turned off for the public, and participant’s ability to unmute themselves was revoked.
Eventually, the SUA tabled the rest of the agenda for the night. The vote on whether or not to pass a statement was ultimately tabled as well because there were too few voting members of SUA present to constitute a quorum. At the close of the meeting, there were still 130 people in attendance.
City on a Hill Press reached out to co-presenter of the second statement Gal Elkayam for comment and did not receive a response.
June 1: Revisiting the Statements
After a week, students once again met in the SUA Zoom room on June 1. Even before it was time for the agenda item, the atmosphere felt different as students recalled the events of the last meeting.
“I was disappointed to see the outcome of last week’s meeting turn out the way it did,” said Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion Saxon Stahl in an email. “I’m certain at tonight’s meeting that measures have been put into place to prevent another Zoom bombing from occurring so the space is safe, productive, and inclusive from here on out.”
To prevent a repeat Zoombombing, all individuals present had to RSVP prior to the meeting with a UCSC email address, and attendees were not granted the ability to unmute their own microphones.
Ahead of the anticipated agenda item, Parliamentarian Anna Romstad turned off public Zoom comments and private messages to anyone other than the host and co-host of the meeting.
Romstad read and presented two additional statements anonymously submitted to the SUA regarding the crisis in Palestine, with one proposed as an amendment to the original MSA statement. Public discussion once again resumed.
During this time, Miranda Mueller spoke on behalf of a group of anti-Zionist Jewish students on campus and voiced their support of the original MSA statement without any amendments.
“We feel it would be counterproductive to try and create a dual resolution that both affirms solidarity with Palestinians and condemns antisemitism,” Mueller said during the meeting. “We demand that the SUA pass the first statement immediately.”
SUA member Antonio Calbo-Jackson said that it would be feasible to pass a separate statement in solidarity with Jewish students and condemning antisemitism, and motioned to pass MSA’s original statement.
Stahl then suggested adding a stipulation to Calbo-Jackson’s motion for MSA’s statement — if passed, the SUA would be legally bound to release a separate statement condemning antisemitism before the end of the current term on June 30.
While the SUA’s vote on adopting the stipulation was taking place, however, Romstad realized that the voting body had fallen below quorum. In order to get a quorum, Romstad called a recess. A little over ten minutes later, the motion to adopt the stipulation was once again called into question, passing with 12 votes in favor, 3 in opposition.
Voting members then moved into a vote on the formal passage of MSA’s statement with Stahl’s stipulation. As votes were being counted, voting member Daniel Halpern-DeVries left the meeting, and Romstad notified attendees that they were again short of quorum.
After another recess, SUA went into vote again, and MSA’s statement passed with 14 supporting votes.
While the statement’s passing was celebrated, MSA members made a note to thank the individuals and organizations that came to support them. Ultimately, it was a coalitional effort in support of Palestinian liberation that drove the statement to be passed.
“We came out of this with beautiful relationships with organizations who supported our statement and came out in solidarity,” Ulkarim said in an email. “A relationship between organizations firmly rooted in justice and love for humanity above all else.”