It seemed like routine business for the student council at the University of California, Los Angeles: confirming the nomination of Rachel Beyda, a second-year economics major who wants to be a lawyer someday, to the council’s Judicial Board.
Until it came time for questions.
“Given that you are a Jewish student and very active in the Jewish community,” Fabienne Roth, a member of the Undergraduate Students Association Council, began, looking at Ms. Beyda at the other end of the room, “how do you see yourself being able to maintain an unbiased view?”
For the next 40 minutes, after Ms. Beyda was dispatched from the room, the council tangled in a debate about whether her faith and affiliation with Jewish organizations, including her sorority and Hillel, a popular student group, meant she would be biased in dealing with sensitive governance questions that come before the board, which is the campus equivalent of the Supreme Court.
The discussion, recorded in written minutes and captured on video, seemed to echo the kind of questions, prejudices and tropes — particularly about divided loyalties — that have plagued Jews across the globe for centuries, students and Jewish leaders said.
The council, in a meeting that took place on Feb. 10, voted first to reject Ms. Beyda’s nomination, with four members against her. Then, at the prodding of a faculty adviser there who pointed out that belonging to Jewish organizations was not a conflict of interest, the students revisited the question and unanimously put her on the board.
But in the weeks since, that uncomfortable debate has upended this campus of 29,600 students that has long been central to the identity of Los Angeles. It has set off an anguished discussion of how Jews are treated, particularly in comparison with other groups that are more typically viewed as victims of discrimination, such as African-Americans and gays and lesbians.
The session — a complete recording of which has been removed from YouTube — has served to spotlight what appears to be a surge of hostile sentiment directed against Jews at many campuses in the country, often a byproduct of animosity toward the policies of Israel. This is one of many campuses where the student council passed, on a second try and after fierce debate, a resolution supporting the Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions movement aimed at pressuring Israel.
“We don’t like to wave the flag of anti-Semitism, but this is different,” Rabbi Aaron Lerner, the incoming executive director of the Hillel chapter at U.C.L.A., said of the vote against Ms. Beyda. “This is bigotry. This is discriminating against someone because of their identity.”
Reports of anti-Israeli or anti-Jewish sentiment have been on the rise across the country in recent years, especially directed at younger Jews, researchers said. Barry A. Kosmin, a Trinity College researcher and a co-author of a study issued last month that found extensive examples of anti-Semitism directed at college students, said he had not come across anything as striking as what happened at U.C.L.A.
“It’s egregious and startling,” Mr. Kosmin said. “If they had used this with any other group — sexual, racial, any kind of identity group — they would have realized it was illegal.”
There is more and you should read it.
The most shocking thing to me is not that this happened, but the relatively low-key reaction. Nobody has been kicked out of school or even been asked to resign from the student council. Imagine the outrage if a candidate was questioned and then initially rejected because he/she was black or gay. But somehow bigotry and discrimination isn’t so bad when directed at Jewish people.
Sure, they’re a minority with a history of being oppressed, but nowadays they are overrepresented in our top colleges and universities and Israel is undefeated in its numerous wars against its Arab neighbors. Nevermind that nobody ever gave the Jews a free ride and that the first time Israel loses a war it’s totally fucked, and not in a good way.
I never understood antisemitism. I know what it is, but like pedophilia I don’t get what attracts some people to it. I never imagined I would see it thriving here in this country.