When Free Choice Begins to be Trampled….in America.”

Hardly a day goes by now where you don’t see some development on the American scene that should give all of us concern.

The latest is an item out of the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) where there was an election earlier this week for representatives to the Undergraduate Students Association Council.  An attempt was made to discredit any candidate who had made any trip under the auspices of AIPAC, the ADL or Hasbara Fellowships.  The campus newspaper, The Daily Bruin, ran the following item which was submitted to them prior to the election:


“We, as UCLA students from various backgrounds and perspectives, ask that elected officials refrain from taking free or sponsored trips with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Anti-Defamation League or Hasbara Fellowships.”

“As many students have experienced this year, AIPAC and ADL have political agendas that marginalize multiple communities on campus. Recently, student government trips to the AIPAC Policy Conference have come under scrutiny because of the organization’s ties to anti-Armenian groups and public figures. Both AIPAC and the ADL (as well as its current president) have histories of Islamophobia. AIPAC has sponsored Islamophobic speakers at its conferences and has also consistently pushed for war with Iran, even while the Barack Obama administration has sought a diplomatic route. AIPAC also marginalizes the Afrikan and Palestinian communities, as the organization has consistently endorsed and protected actions that have violated human rights and international law.”

“Hasbara Fellowships is housed under Aish International, an organization that has helped disseminate Islamophobic materials on campuses and around the country. These materials portray the Muslim community as threats, have incited violence against Muslims and serve to marginalize Muslim students on campus.”

“We further ask that Undergraduate Students Association Council members do not accept free or sponsored trips that marginalize communities on the UCLA campus.”


The statement was jointly written and disseminated by the Armenian Students’ Association, Samahang Pilipino, the Afrikan Student Union, Students for Justice in Palestine, the Muslim Student Association and Jewish Voices for Peace. Representatives of those organizations contacted (USAC) candidates, asking them to sign the statements by Monday, May 5th at 5 p.m.

Now let’s understand this clearly.  Targeted here are student leaders (many of whom are not Jewish) who have had the audacity, in the interest of learning more about certain issues, to accept free trips sponsored by three organizations supported by the Jewish community in the US, and only those organizations,.  There is no problem at all, of course, in taking a trip sponsored by Students for Justice in Palestine or the Muslim Student Association, only those trips sponsored by AIPAC, ADL and Aish are verboten.

In following this story I could not help but be reminded of George Washington’s letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport (Rhode Island) written over 225 years ago when he said:  “For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens.”

Gives to bigotry no sanction…..The UCLA students so concerned about how these three organizations perceive the Armenians, African-Americans and Muslims should be given a civics lesson in what it means to be American and the obligation that all Americans have not to sanction any kind of bigotry.  Their desire to dictate what trips student leadership candidates can take based on nothing more than whether the sponsoring organization is pro-Israel or anti-Israel is, in itself, bigotry of the first degree.  And the fact that the University allowed this to occur shames them as well.


About the Author
Sherwin Pomerantz is a native New Yorker, who lived and worked in Chicago for 20 years before coming to Israel in 1984. An industrial engineer with advanced degrees in mechanical engineering and business, he is President of Atid EDI Ltd., a 33 year old Jerusalem-based economic development consulting firm which, among other things, represents the regional trade and investment interests of a number of US states, Ontario and Hong Kong. A past national president of the Association of Americans & Canadians in Israel, he is also Chairperson of the Israel Board of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies. His articles have appeared in various publications in Israel and the US.