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ASM members’ attendance on Israel trip renews Israeli-Palestinian debate in Council

Students concerned that ASM members were being offered a free trip to Israel spoke out during open forum.

Image By: Jon Yoon

Students who were troubled by the number of Associated Students of Madison representatives going on UW Hillel’s privately funded trip to Israel over winter break spoke out at the Student Council meeting Tuesday night.

Former Shared Governance Chair Omer Arain said many of the students who spoke in open forum had heard that ASM members were being offered a free trip to Israel. Upon looking through meeting minutes, they could not find record that members talked about the trip during student government meetings, Arain said. For this reason, he said the group thought it would be good to ask the council for more information.

However, Outreach Director Yogev Ben-Yitschak confirmed that all students were welcome to apply to the trip which is being sponsored by UW Hillel, an organization not affiliated with the university. It is not a "birthright trip," Ben-Yitschak said.

An email was sent out about the trip via UW Hillel’s listserv and Ben-Yitschak said he passed it along to friends involved in ASM, Greek life and the business school.

Six people involved in ASM are going on the trip and two are on the waitlist out of the total 25 available spots, Ben-Yitschak told The Daily Cardinal.

But some were troubled by the high concentration of representatives who are going on the trip, claiming it appeared that ASM members were “targeted” by the emails.

“It just so happened that a lot of the ASM people responded,” Ben-Yitschak said. “It was in no way targeting ASM members. It was in no way planned specifically for ASM members. It was in no way sponsored by ASM. It just so happened that some of my friends in ASM wanted to go on this trip.”

Some said that going on the trip could cloud representatives’ judgment on controversial topics such as the divestment legislation Student Council passed last spring.

Nesha Ruther, a Jewish student who has visited Israel, recognized that those who were going can make their own decisions. But she said those who are going and do not know much about Jewish-Palestinian history would not learn the full story on the trip.

“When they show you all the areas of trees that are planted, they’re not going to tell you underneath those trees are entire Palestinian villages that have been demolished. They’re not going to tell you about the 7,000,000 Palestinian people who’ve been displaced, who are living in Diaspora, many of whom are on this campus,” Ruther said. “These are things you’re not going to hear about.”

UPDATE Dec. 6, 4:48 p.m.: This article was updated for clarity.

An earlier version of this article also said that 7,000 Palestinian people were living in the Diaspora, but the figure is 7,000,000. The Daily Cardinal regrets this error. 

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