Senator Noah Pearl argues that anti-Zionist rhetoric forced him out of ASUCD
“Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one’s own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.” — John F. Kennedy
Even before joining the Senate table, I had heard of the unfettered toxicity within ASUCD. The countless number of resignations over the past two years are a testament to that. I went into the Fall Quarter election open-minded and excited to give back to the school that I love. I wanted to play an active role in something bigger than myself. I felt confident in my ability to remain focused on my goals and work through the unnecessary, petty politics.
During one meeting, a member of the public asked if we were fascists. At an open forum, signs were held up that associated the Unite! slate with white supremacy, despite the fact that the slate is composed largely of Jews and people of color. During a town-hall discussion about policing, a current member of the Senate table proclaimed that the needs of Jewish students have been prioritized on this campus for far too long, ostracizing a minority group with absolutely no provocation.
As a Jewish student whose ancestors were targeted for extermination by fascist white supremacists, these incidents were disheartening and made me scared for the safety of our campus climate for Jews. Furthermore, as someone who has been the direct target of hate speech from actual white supremacists, these assertions are offensive and inane. The same people spreading these absurd claims would join us in the Mee Room to preach about the importance of inclusion, diversity and creating a safe space for all.
I was thankful when the newly elected president and vice president asked me to run for pro-temp, despite being from the opposing ASUCD slate, and I told them that I appreciated their willingness to work with me. But immediately before the first Senate meeting in spring, the vice president told me that members of the “community” were opposed to me serving as the next pro-temp because I attended the American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference. I questioned the relevance of my outside political activity to my role as pro-temp. She expressed that she would defend me against such accusations, to which I immediately responded, “Well, I am in fact a Zionist.”
I was essentially told that being a “Zionist” means I am a dirty person unworthy of the same respect given to any other student, someone who should not hold this position for the sole reason that I support the state of Israel. I even had to explain the definition of Zionism and how it generally revolves around the right of Jews as an ethno-religious group to establish their own state. I mentioned the thousands of years of persecution and expulsion of Jews from society, culminating with the genocide of two-thirds of the Jewish population of Europe at the hands of white supremacy just 75 years ago, and how this constant threat of extermination is a main proponent of the Zionist desire for a Jewish state.
I expressed outrage over an attempt to prevent a qualified student from holding a certain position due to their ethnic heritage and religious background. The thought of continuing to sit on a table with people who view a foundational aspect of my Jewish identity as a disqualifying factor in my ability to serve in a leadership position was overwhelming. I finally decided that I would no longer take part in an organization which sought to discriminate against me for one of the pillars of my relationship with Judaism.
The first clause outlined in the ASUCD Student Bill of Rights states, “You have the right to be free from discrimination and harassment on the basis of your race, […] ethnicity, religion, national origin […] or political belief in all activities sponsored or conducted by […] ASUCD.” Opposing any and all Zionists from being active members of our campus community for the sole reason that they identify as such violates this right. The vast majority of Jews identify as Zionists, and to discriminate against Zionists as a whole is to discriminate against Jews. I can no longer pretend to be comfortable working around people who claim to uphold tolerance yet attempt to silence those sharing my identity.
It just so happens that this personal political belief is interlocked with my identity as a Jew, but the culture of silencing those who disagree, no matter how unrelated that disagreement is to the mission of ASUCD, persists beyond just Zionism. ASUCD was established to “create and provide services and activities which its membership shall consider important to fulfilling the experience of being a student,” yet more often than not the true purpose of our roles as student representatives is lost among the pursuit of personal agendas.
As a parting thought, I want to make it known that there are a number of truly amazing students and staff who work in ASUCD, including the current president. Many are welcoming to students of all backgrounds, and I commend them for their continued dedication to improving student life.
Written by: Noah Pearl
The writer is a third-year statistics and political science major at UC Davis. He resigned from his position as an ASUCD Senator on April 11, 2019.