UCLA Student Whose BDS-Defeat ‘Meltdown’ Went Viral ‘Deeply Regrets’ Actions; Says Israel Is Great (INTERVIEW)
by Ruthie Blum
A University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) student whose angry outburst following the defeat of an anti-Israel vote went viral on the Internet has had a chance to educate herself better, she told The Algemeiner this week, after requesting an opportunity to express her change of heart.
“I don’t believe Israel is evil,” Danielle Dimacali said. “In fact I think it’s a great progressive country that offers a lot of freedom for its citizens.”
Dimacali, originally from the Philippines, was seeking to set the record straight about an incident that occurred in February 2014 during a meeting of the student council, where she still serves as a minutes-taker.
Dimacali attracted media attention at the time for weeping and cursing when a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) motion, initiated by the activist group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), was rejected. A video of the proceedings and Dimacali’s subsequent “meltdown” was shared on social media and reported in this publication.
Dimacali said she was shocked by the angry response her disappointment generated, which was reflected in comments circulating on the web, and in hate mail and even death threats she received.
Dimacali said her intentions were “misconstrued.”
“I was depicted as an antisemite upset that divestment didn’t pass,” she said. “But that’s not the case at all. I deeply regret my poor choice of curse words. And I now understand that Jewish communities misinterpreted my intentions and felt attacked. I never intended to hurt anyone.”
Dimacali explained that she had known very little about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the BDS movement or SJP, and that the real reason for her tears was the “apathy” of the student council to the proceedings.
“Regardless of how the vote turned out, I would have been upset,” she said.
“It wasn’t the defeat of SJP that bothered me so much,” she said. “It was the entire 12-hour meeting and how inefficiently and poorly it was executed. The student council was elected and has a responsibility to listen to the students. However, throughout the meeting I often found myself the only person on that table listening.”
I’m not an elected official; I’m just a minutes-taker. However, as a human being I was upset that there were 800 people in the auditorium telling us stories on both sides [of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict] — about how their families feel unsafe and how they feel unsafe on campus. It broke my heart hearing about these narratives and students making themselves so vulnerable and sharing so much. But the rest of the council members were unmoved. Some were on their phones; others were on their laptops.
Meanwhile, I listened to and typed every word. I could tell the students were exasperated at the lack of empathy on the part of the students they elected to the council.
I felt like I was the only who cared. I deeply, deeply regret how my meltdown got taken out of context. I never once said anything about Israel or Palestine in my rant.
Asked whether she had been influenced or pressured by SJP prior to the vote, or if the atmosphere on campus made it feel safer to espouse anti-Israel positions, Dimacali pleaded ignorance, not ideology.
“Although I have no ties to either Israel or Palestine, and I previously was completely unaware of the conflict, I know it’s my duty to educate myself on global issues and empathize with students,” she said. “Prior to the meeting, both Students for Justice in Palestine and Bruins for Israel (BFI) gave PowerPoint presentations depicting their viewpoints. Both arguments were convincing. No group has ever pressured me to feel a certain way, but I have had the privilege to hear their narratives. It’s honestly amazing how impassioned students can get and I’m humbled to be surrounded by such diversity. Even after everything went down and my meltdown video went viral, BFI and SJP both reached out to me and showed their support. Both groups understood my intentions and they were both extremely helpful in dealing with the aftermath.”
Dimacali said she has been studying the conflict “since becoming so entangled in it.” One step she took was to reach out to leading pro-Israel writers, among them FrontPage Magazine managing editor Jamie Glazov and blogger Elder of Ziyon — who himself publicized and analyzed her episode. Glazov, she said, went out of his way to help, going as far as to send her copies of his books. And Elder of Ziyon corresponded with her by email.
These gestures, Dimacali said, “gave me hope that forgiveness and mercy are real” — and assisted me “on this giant learning curve I have been on.”
One of the things she said she has learned about is antisemitism – “a negative perception of Jews that can be manifested physically or verbally toward Jewish individuals, property, religious facilities or their respective communities. Furthermore, I understand that antisemitism manifests itself with regard to the state of Israel. Criticism of Israel, demonizing Israel, blaming Israel for all inter-religious or political tensions, applying double standards towards Israel, or delegitimizing Israel are all forms of Jew-hatred. It is not only illegal but immoral to target a historically oppressed Jewish minority that has a collective right to self-determination and essential human rights.”
In conclusion, Dimacali said she “likes to see the silver lining in it all. It was overwhelming getting painted as this evil person who was infected with hate, but it was even more overwhelming receiving the amount of support and empathy others had with me because they knew my intentions were pure. I still think empathy is an amazing thing and the highest form of intelligence, and everyone needs a little more to change the world and get closer to peace.”