UC Santa Barbara students and Associated Students members spoke out against antisemitism during the Senate’s Feb. 1 meeting, which saw the passage of a Senate bill condemning antisemitism and supporting Jewish community members.
The Feb. 1 meeting occurred one day after flyers displaying antisemitic conspiracy theories were spread across Isla Vista and two days after anti-Israel graffiti was found outside an Israeli politics classroom — acts that prompted condemnation from community members, UCSB administrators and other public officials.
The Senate resolution, titled “A Resolution in Support of the Jewish Community and the Condemnation of Antisemitism,” was authored by College of Letters & Sciences Senator and third-year political science and communication double major Tessa Veksler.
“The past 48 hours have been disturbing, exhausting, saddening and shocking. And yet, I’m sitting here before you feeling empowered and emboldened to take greater strides to protect the Jewish community, a community that I am proudly a part of,” Veksler said during the meeting.
The bill condemned the recent acts of antisemitism and called on the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to “formulate a response that will ensure the safety and security of Jewish students on campus.” It also asked the University of California Student Association to meet with representatives from the Jewish community to “better develop a systemwide response to Jew hatred on our campuses.”
“This resolution I have written is the bare minimum — an acknowledgment by our Senate and a push to get the university to do what it should have been doing its entire existence,” Veksler said. “To demonstrate their support and tireless commitment to ensure that Jewish students are part of the conversation, that Jewish students are met with proactive support and engagement and understanding their roots, history and campus experience.”
Several students and Associated Students (A.S.) members spoke during the Senate’s public forum about the impacts that recent events have had on Jewish community members.
Fourth-year political science major and Off-Campus Senator Alexa Grines described the distribution of the antisemitic flyers in Isla Vista as an attack on the Jewish community, passing out the bags of flyers for attendees and Senators to look at.
“This was an attack of far-right-wing antisemitism, not an attack on my beliefs or political ideology, but rather because of my identity, which until these past days, I think we never felt such fear to express,” Grines said. “Now is the time that I call upon all of you. I urge each and every one of you to support me in my communities.”
A.S. Co-Commissioner of Mental Health Ellie Livni spoke about the importance of a safe learning environment for Jewish students in light of the anti-Israel vandalism.
“It is not a coincidence that the Israeli politics classroom was vandalized in between classes to send a message to the Jewish students in the class a day after Holocaust Remembrance Day,” Livni said. “As Jewish students, we deserve the same fundamental right to learn in a safe space without feeling scared to speak up about what we feel constitutes antisemitism.”
A member of the UCSB student group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) said during the public forum that while the street flyers were clearly antisemitic, the chalkboard graffiti was advocating for an oppressed people and that the conflation of anti-Zionism with antisemitism was harmful.
“Saying ‘Free Palestine’ on the whiteboard, on a chalkboard, whatever it is, is not antisemitic. Saying ‘F Israel’ is not antisemitic. I can say ‘F Saudi Arabia’ and that is not Islamophobic,’” she said. “The fact that people here have the audacity to group saying ‘from the river to the sea’ is as antisemitic as flyers posted around I.V. that are clearly antisemitic; that is outrageous. That is absolutely ridiculous and disgusting.”
After her public comment statement, several Senators questioned her opinions and asked for clarification — including Senator Jeff Adler, who asked if she would like to be involved in playing a role in the design of A.S. antisemitism training. She declined, saying that she rejects the current Anti-Defamation League (ADL) definition of antisemitism that is currently instituted by the Senate.
“The Senate uses ADL for their antisemitism training. ADL is clearly anti-Palestinian, anti-native Indigenous rights,” she said. “We have been going over this, saying that we don’t want these trainings, because it’s saying that any pro-Palestine activism is antisemitic, which is absolutely ridiculous.”
The speaker said that despite consistent harassment due to her affiliation with SJP, she would continue to fight for Palestinian rights.
“You’re fighting against one of the largest military powers, one of the largest colonizing powers, one of the largest white supremacist powers. Israel weaponizes a religion to hide behind and maintain their power,” she said.
Fourth-year political science major Yoshi Rashtian pushed back on this view, asserting that the classroom graffiti was an antisemitic act.
“I find it ridiculous a day after [a] Nazi propaganda event, that there are non-Jewish individuals attempting to define what antisemitism is,” Rashtian said. “As a Brown Jew, I view what occurred in Israeli politics class to be antisemitic. This attempted hijacking of what antisemitism is can only be viewed as antisemitic in itself.”
A student speaking during public comment expressed gratitude for the outpouring of support from the campus community in response to the recent acts.
“The response that the community has had to these incidents of antisemitic acts, I believe, is extremely commendable, and I appreciate it. For the most part from this body, I’ve seen an outpour of support, [and] I’ve seen that support in other areas as well.”
Holly Rusch contributed reporting.