JVP statement on the attack on the UCLA student encampment


May 3, 2024
From Occupied Tovaangar (Los Angeles) 

Jewish Voice for Peace, along with its UCLA and Los Angeles chapters, is horrified by the LAPD’s violent attacks on and arrests of college students yesterday while they were peacefully protesting for divestment from Israeli apartheid and against Israel’s ongoing genocide in Gaza. The chilling scenes came only one day after the UCLA solidarity encampment was violently assaulted and terrorized overnight by supporters of the Israeli government. The message delivered by the police on behalf of the UCLA administration, its trustees, and investors couldn’t be clearer: UCLA is more interested in benefiting from Israeli apartheid than protecting its own students. 

Undergraduate UCLA student and JVP member Lilah said, “It is absurd that the UCLA administration is saying the disbandment of the encampment is for student safety. It is clear that they want students to feel scared and unsafe. The University knows that collectively the students and faculty have power, and they want to silence us.” They added: “The police violence was an extension of the physiological warfare that the pro-Israeli government demonstrators have used for the past five days – sound bombs and physical violence. This violence is representative of the systems of oppression that operate to suppress pro-Palestinian advocacy here and in Palestine. This is a reminder of our siblings in Gaza.” 

In the early morning hours of Thursday, May 2nd, the UCLA administration collaborated with the LA Police Department, the LA County Sheriff’s Department, and the California State Highway Patrol forces to viciously dismantle students’ Palestine solidarity encampment on campus. The administration allowed its students to be brutalized and jailed rather than disclose its investments in war and divest from Israeli apartheid. After surrounding the encampment with riot police and snipers on rooftops, police fired flash-bang grenades and shot students at point blank with rubber bullets before arresting nearly 200 people. 

Just one day prior, on Wednesday, May 1st, a horde of anti-Palestinian vigilantes attacked the students’ encampment. Campus security, LAPD, and administrators stood back and watched as mobs waving Israeli flags stormed the encampment, beating students with blunt objects, shooting fireworks at them, and assaulting them with chemical weapons, resulting in dozens of serious injuries. 

It is deeply concerning that the UCLA administration allowed the peaceful protest to be met with police violence, while violent assaults on peaceful students were met with silence. 

“After completely abandoning its students and failing to ensure their safety, the UCLA administration then used these attacks as a pretense for shutting down campus, escalating the situation, and destroying the encampment,” said UCLA student and JVP-LA member Benjamin Kersten. “We know that this violence is connected to, and yet just a tiny fraction of, what Palestinians experience on the daily through ongoing Israeli military occupation, apartheid, and genocide.”

Students from the UCLA chapter of JVP are very clear: Before the violence of Tuesday evening, the encampment was a beacon of possibility and safety. Jewish UCLA students led a Passover Seder at the encampment, as well as Shabbat and Havdalah services. Undergraduate UCLA student and JVP member Lilah explained that, Through our interfaith community, we are building the world we want to live in. We, Jewish students at UCLA, feel completely erased from the narratives put out by the Chancellor, who refuses to acknowledge the Jewish presence within the encampment because it is inconvenient to the narrative he is trying to perpetuate.  The actions of our administration shows us their priorities.”

JVP UCLA student member leader Agnes L. commented that she had “never seen this much collaboration, this much art making, this much community on the UCLA campus before.” She continued pointing out that the encampment was a, “reminder that we are students. Last night, as the police surrounded us, we were learning together. I was handing out readings and we sat in a circle reading together while hundreds of police surrounded us. We are using what we learned in school, doing these readings, and putting them into practice. More learning happened there in the encampment where we fought for the opportunity to learn and peacefully protest to make our beliefs a reality.”

This escalation lays bare the violent impact of ongoing smear campaigns by institutions like the Jewish Federation and the Anti-Defamation League, which perpetuate intentionally false narratives conflating antisemitism with criticism of the Israeli government’s military occupation and ongoing genocide against the Palestinian people. Their manipulative claims to care about Jewish students and safety, while calling for the destruction of the peaceful solidarity encampment, composed of many Jewish students, were exposed as mere efforts to move in lockstep with the police and Israeli occupation, completely disregarding safety and freedom of speech. 

UCLA’s was but one of hundreds of student-led encampments that have spread across the country and around the globe in protest of the killing of over 40,000 Palestinians and displacement of 2 million more Gazans in the last six months. In an effort to silence this anti-war message, 2,000 students were arrested over the last two weeks nationwide. By playing into smear campaigns that paint these encampments as violent and antisemitic, politicians like President Biden, House Speaker Mike Johnson, California Governor Gavin Newsom, and Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, among others, are also responsible for enabling this horrific brutality and repression of students.  

We call on UCLA to meet the demands of these brave students and faculty: 

  1. Divest – withdraw all UC wide and UCLA Foundation funds from companies and institutions that are complicit in the Israeli occupation, apartheid, and genocide of the Palestinian people. 

  2. Disclose – provide full transparency to all UC wide and UCLA Foundation assets including investments, donations, and grants.

  3. Abolish policing – end the targeted repression and policing of pro-Palestinian advocacy on campus, and sever all ties with the LAPD

  4. End the silence – call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire and an end to the occupation and genocide in Palestine.

  5. Boycott – sever all UC wide connections to Israeli universities, including study abroad programs, fellowship, seminars and research collaborations, and UCLA’s Nazarian Center. 

  6. Full amnesty for all arrested at the UCLA Palestine Solidarity Encampment. 

As we enter Shabbat, a time when we envision the world that could be, we say: Never Again for Anyone. We will continue this righteous struggle until Palestine is free, from the river to the sea.


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