UCLA alumni, students, LA officials address antisemitism concerns amid recent protests

The American Jewish Committee and Los Angeles officials addressed concerns of antisemitism in light of the recent Pro-Palestinian protests at UCLA during a press conference Friday.

UCLA alumni, students and other LA officials spoke of the "rising tide of antisemitic threats and intimidation" happening on the Westwood campus and across Southern California.

"Any human being who purports to believe in kindness or any progressive values should be outraged at the blatant target hate of a minority group. The only reason you would not be bothered by such hatred is if you believe that kindness and progressive values should not apply to Jews as they do to everyone else,' said UCLA alumni and actor Jonah Platt in Friday's press conference. "That is the textbook definition of antisemitism."

Another speaker, Five for Fighting singer and UCLA alumni John Ondrasik called on UCLA Chancellor Gene Block to enforce better campus safety policies.

"I am disgusted, I am ashamed," said Ondrasik in Friday's press conference.

As detailed in Governor Gavin Newsom’s "Golden State Plan for Countering Antisemitism," Friday's briefing highlighted strategies for addressing hate and antisemitism on campus, as well as mitigating the increasingly toxic and hostile campus climate for Jewish students, officials said.

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"For the Jewish students: I am so sorry you have to deal with this," said Ondrasik. "I'm not Jewish, you don't have to be Jewish to have a brain to condemn the evil that is Hamas."

UCLA student and Vice President of Bruins for Israel Gabby Lasry claimed the Pro-Palestine encampment on campus was not open to all, but rather required wristbands for entry. Such wristbands were denied to certain students, she said.

But for Lasry, she found the rhetoric used at UCLA's Pro-Palestine protest, like "death to Zionists," deeply concerning.

"Anti-Zionism is antisemitism. Zionism is the right for the Jewish people to self-determinate in their homeland - the land of Israel. When you agree to the self-determination of one people, but you deny the self-determination of another, you are imposing a double standard." said Lasry. "That is inherently antisemitic."

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While this rhetoric may be protected by free speech, said Lasry, it does not help ensure safety or equality on campus.

"Israel is intrinsically tied to Jewish people's identity. We and Israel are one and the same," said Lasry. "When you completely deny me access to my homeland and you call the eradication of my homeland, then you are calling for the eradication of the Jewish people."

Lasry and other officials called on the UCLA administration to develop an office of civil rights on campus that specifically trains on antisemitism and other forms of hate. Additionally, the speakers at the press conference urged UCLA to, eventually, implement safe spaces on campus for students with differing beliefs to exchange ideas respectfully.

"You do not need Jew-hatred to support a pro-Palestine vision," said Platt. "Unless, of course, the Jew hatred is actually the point."