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ASU political clubs debate Israeli-Palestinian conflict

The clubs supported and condemned proposed USGT resolutions

ICE and IDF protest

Journalism and Mass Communication sophomore Christopher Jones jumps down from a desk after hanging a Palestinian flag in a conference room in the Memorial Union on ASU's Tempe campus on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019. 

In recent weeks, nearly all of the political clubs at ASU have been vocal about where they stand concerning Palestine and Israel. 

Students have been protesting and discussing the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement throughout the past month, voicing both concern and support.

On Nov. 19, Undergraduate Student Government Tempe added four resolutions to their legislation that received mixed reactions from several clubs on campus. 

The resolutions were delayed but the discussions continued among clubs.

ASU College Libertarians stated they are not in favor of the BDS resolution that was introduced by the USGT senate as they believe it is inappropriate and invalid per their bylaws

President David Howman, a second year master’s student studying justice studies, said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a complex issue that "requires a deep understanding of the history and politics of both sides." 

He referred to the Letter to the Editor he published in a collaboration with ASU College Republicans and said it provides reasoning as to why they do not support such a resolution. 

“There's been a lot of debate over whether BDS is anti-Semitic and while I don't think College Libertarians as a club is the proper voice to weigh in on that debate, we do condemn anti-Semitism fully,” he said. 

Morgan Fox, a junior majoring in biochemistry, the executive vice president of College Libertarians and an active member of the Jewish community, said everyone has a right to do what they want, but this matter should not be brought to an institutional level.

"It is not USG(T)'s job to worry about policy in the Middle East — they should be focused more on their own bylaws and constitution," Fox said. "I don't even think USG(T) should hear it, it would only divide the student body. It isn't their problem."

Fox said the other resolutions given are relevant to the ASU community and things USGT should hear.

Despite being labeled as pro-Israel by other groups, Fox said the reasons in the article Howman published about why they do not support BDS does not say anything about their stance on Israel.

"Obviously, as individuals, we have our own opinions," Fox said. "But by equivocating our club's condemnation of BDS to a full support of Israel they are trying to silence our voice and glaze over our legitimate claims and concerns."

Daniel Magat, a senior majoring in political science and the president of SunPAC, wrote in an email statement that they view Israel as a strategic ally and oppose any sort of resolution that seeks to divest from Israel.

"(USGT's resolutions) are divisive to students on campus and do nothing to solve the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict," Magat wrote. "At a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise in the U.S. and around the world, it’s troubling to watch as Israel is targeted and singled out in an attempt to delegitimize its existence as a Jewish and democratic state."

Chairperson of Arizona Federation of College Republicans Judah Waxelbaum, a junior majoring in political science, recently had his resolution against BDS passed at the College Republican National Committee fall board meeting on Nov. 23.

Waxelbaum said this resolution "prohibits CRNC from doing business or holding contracts with businesses or contractors that support BDS."

Young Democratic Socialists of America at ASU believe that Palestinians have a right to self-determination and to their own land and that Israel is not recognizing that right.

Chairperson of YDSA at ASU Tanzil Chowdhury, a senior majoring in materials science and engineering, said they feel very strongly about the issue at hand and YDSA is in full support of the BDS resolution.

“This is a controversial issue and if we shy away from it because we are afraid of hurting feelings, we’ll never get the progress that we need,” Chowdhury said. “The second we stop talking, we stop advocating in what we believe and we lose. Losing, in this case, is conceding to war crimes and genocide. We have to continue fighting.”

YDSA supports free speech and believes this issue should be talked about, even if it is a difficult topic.

Chowdhury said there is already a presence of extremists on campus, "but the moment YDSA talks about BDS or Israel, there is no room for free speech. Our chapter supports free speech.”

Vice president of Students for Socialism ASU and junior environmental design major Amy Liu, spoke on behalf of the organization, stating that they are pro-Palestine.

“Our club firmly stands with Palestinians in their struggle for national liberation,” Liu wrote in an email statement. “Our line is: from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

The dialogue on campus gives SFS members much optimism because stirring things up is their goal.

“(The goal) is to shake the foundation that we stand on to get students and other folks to realize that we need to take action against oppression,” Liu wrote. “That is what we did in those protests, and since we shut down ICE’s visit, and stirred up the IDF, we are incredibly proud of that. That was the people’s power in action.”

SFS hopes that resolutions 13, 14 and 15 get passed. 

A documented statement from multiple groups in response to the IDF protest and the BDS resolution was discussed at a press conference on Nov. 22. The livestream of the press conference can be found on SFS's Twitter.

The collective statement is from No Más Muertes, Black Lives Matter Phoenix Metro, Party for Socialism & Liberation Phoenix, Undocumented Students for Education Equity, Young Democratic Socialists of America and Students for Justice in Palestine. 

The statement said pro-Israel organizations have been coming out to criticize the pro-Palestine movement as anti-Semitic. 

“We fully deny and repudiate the claim that we are anti-Semitic — opposition to the Israeli occupation of Palestine is not equivalent to the hatred of the Jewish people,” the document states. “We, as an activist community, have consistently fought against Nazism on campus and all forms of oppression against marginalized people.” 

The event was arranged by SFS, the Multicultural Solidarity Coalition and ME[ChA] de ASU, Liu wrote that all of the organizations that signed the statement are linked to activism and refer to themselves as the "Activist Community at ASU."

The statement ends with "the ASU activist community will stand firmly in supporting BDS and Palestinian liberation," followed by the signature from the clubs involved with the activist community.

Correction: This article was updated to reflect that Magat's comments were about USGT's resolutions, not USGT as a governing body. 

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