(Link to UCSD Guardian article)
By Angela Chen
The A.S. Campus Affairs Committee voted 7-8 last night to indefinitely table a controversial resolution calling for the UC system to divest from General Electric and United Technologies — companies the document claims are profiting from alleged Israeli human-rights violations in the Palestinian territories.
Because the resolution was tabled during the committee meeting, it was not brought up during the council meeting last night, and will not be brought up again next year unless the resolution is rewritten and submitted as a new item.
Campuswide Senator and A.S. President-elect Wafa Ben Hassine, a member of the committee, said the issue was tabled because councilmembers thought it was repetitive to vote on an issue that had not changed since the prior debate.
“People used the rhetoric that we’d been through the same discussion last year, and since it was the same legislation, we didn’t want to go over it again,” Ben Hassine said.
Arts and Humanities Senator Omar Khan said he originally wanted to re-discuss the resolution at last night’s meeting, but withdrew it because he worried it would divide the campus.
“I tried to pull it from committee because I was unaware that this is an issue that could be brought up again,” he said. “I withdrew the motion because I realized that failing it or approving it would create a schism between the communities, and we want to continue the conversation.”
The resolution was first proposed at last week’s meeting, which drew an audience of over 200 students. During that meeting, councilmembers amended the original resolution to remove any mention of specific nations or companies, revising it to state that the council should condemn all war crimes in general. A special committee was then charged to review the resolution. It included representatives from both SJP and Tritons for Israel, the latter of which opposed the original language.
SJP member Leena Barakat, who helped draft the original resolution, said the two groups were unable to agree as to whether Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip could be considered human rights violations, or whether Israel should be classified as an occupying force.
“They couldn’t agree that internationally recognized, documented human rights violations have occurred,” Barakat said. “They tried to play it off as opinion. They have accused these organizations — United Nations, Amnesty International — of bias, and they have made it clear that they don’t believe in unconditional human rights.”
TFI member Lior Abramson said the issue is unrelated to whether a certain group recognizes Israel’s actions as human rights violations.
“I think the wording of the resolution implied that if you weren’t for it, you didn’t support human rights, and that’s not true at all,” Abramson said. “I support human rights, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t, but we cannot support divestment from a company that supports the Israeli Defense Forces, which are what keeps our friends and family safe back home.”
She added that TFI has not yet taken an official stance on whether “occupancy” is an accurate word to describe Israel’s actions in the Palestinian territories.
“The committee didn’t work because our goals were mutually exclusive,” Abramson said. “As a gesture, since no student fees directly go toward investment in Israel, it is anti-Israel — and we are a pro-Israel community.”
SJP member Chris Westling said that multiple students in the TFI community have expressed support for the resolution.
“There are at least 15 campus orgs that support our cause, and a very small number of one — one that’s fragmented anyway, and one in which many members support our resolution — which is essentially exercising veto power,” he said.
TFI member Daniel Friedman and Abramson disagreed with Westling’s claim.
“As with all good Jewish communities, there’s a lot of opinions and a lot of things going on,” Friedman said. “But at the end of the day, when we sit down and discussed it, everyone came to the same consensus. On the TFI executive board, there were different opinions voiced, but it’s a democratic thing. We voted, and what came out of the vote is what was represtend by the elected officials at committee.”
Abramson said that, though there may be individual disagreements within TFI, the group itself remains united.
“We are 100 percent unified on this issue,” she said. “Of course, people have individual opinions, but we have a board that decides for the group, and if anyone was angered by our decision, they would have left and not been in our group.”
A.S. Associate Vice President of Enterprise Operations and SJP member Rishi Ghosh said he wishes to see the council continue pursuing the issue.
“My idea toward the council is that you can run but you can’t hide,” he said. “Good things have happened, and I’m excited to further work with the pro-Israel community, but I’m confident that people will continue to work for this.”
Friedman said the indefinite tabling of the resolution is a welcome end to the debate.
“It’s not the ideal thing, but it’s what [the committee] decided,” Friedman said. “Hopefully now the communities will start working together to have conversation about the topic and bring them together.”
Ghosh said it is possible that a similar resolution will be proposed to the 2010-11 council, which takes office next week.
“It might have more success next year with a new council, if those new senators are willing to read the legislation and not just listen to the rhetoric surrounding it,” Ghosh said.
Abramson said that TFI will continue to oppose the divestment resolution if it is reintroduced next year.
“If this resolution comes up next year, TFI will keep coming out and speaking out against it,” Abramson said.
Readers can contact Angela Chen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Full press release coming soon.
UCSD Student Organizations:
Arab Student Union
Black Student Union
Haiti Emergence Action Team
Muslim Student Association
One Earth One Justice
Schools for Schools
Student Sustainability Collective
Students Take Action Now Darfur
Students for Barack Obama
Students for Civil Rights in Iran
Students for Justice in Palestine
UCSD Faculty and Staff:
Chang, Edmond (History)
Frank, Ross (Ethnic Studies)
Kheshti, Roshanak (Ethnic Studies)
Linton, April (Sociology)
Prestholdt, Jeremy (History)
Saier, Milton (Biology)
Evans, Ivan (Sociology)
Anna Baltzer (Jewish Human Rights Activist)
Fr. Bill O’Donnell (St. Joseph the Worker Church, Berkeley)
Hedy Epstein (Holocaust survivor)
Jody Williams (Nobel Peace Laureate, USA)
Mairead Maguire (Nobel Peace Laureate, Ireland)
Noam Chomsky (Professor, MIT)
Rigoberta Menchu Tum (Nobel Peace Laureate, Guatemala)
Roger Hill (Director Mental-Rev Productions)
Roger Waters (Pink Floyd member)
Shirin Ebadi (Nobel Peace Laureate, Iran)
Al Awda (USA)
American Muslims for Palestine (USA)
Arab Resource Organization Center
Arab Youth for Palestine (Valdivia, Chile)
Association for Muslim Professional Development
Associations in Friendship with the Palestinian People (Catalonia, Spain)
BOYCOTT Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call from Within (Israel)
Berkeley Women in Black
British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (UK)
Cambridge Palestine Solidarity Campaign (UK)
Camden Palestine Solidarity Campaign (UK)
Campus Radical Women
Coalition of Women for Peace (Israel)
European Jews for a Just Peace (Europe)
Faculty for Israeli-Palestinian Peace
Flashpoint radio program on KPFA 94.1FM
Friends of SABEEL North America Church
Goldsmiths Student Union (London)
Gush Shalom Israeli Peace Bloc (Israel)
Hithabrut – Tarabut Arab–Jewish Movement for Social & Political Change (Israel)
If Americans Knew
Independent Jewish Voices (Canada)
International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
International Solidarity Movement
Jewish Voices for Peace
Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods
Leeds Palestine Solidarity Campaign (UK)
Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute
Middle East Children’s Alliance
Middle East Peace & Justice Alliance (NM)
National Action Palestine (UK)
New Profile – Movement for the Civilization of Israeli Society (Israel)
Nicaragua Center for Community Action (Nicaragua)
PC(USA)’s Israel/Palestine Mission Network (USA)
Progressive Democrats of East Bay (California)
Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (Scotland)
South Somerset Palestine Support Group (UK)
Students for Socially Responsible Investing (University of Michigan Dearborn)
The BDS New Mexico Campaign (New Mexico)
The Coalition to Stop $30 Billion to Israel (New Mexico)
The Council for the National Interest
The Federation of Argentinian-Palestinian Entities (Argentina)
The General Union of Palestinian Students (Chile)
The General Union of Palestinian Students (Colombia)
The Israeli Committee Against House Demolition (Israel)
The Palestinian Federation (Chile)
The Tree of Life Foundation, Holy Land Educational and Peace Building Project
Union of Progressive Women (Israel)
WE Refuse to be Enemies: Jews, Muslims and Christians in Coalition for Peace
Yesh Gvul There is a Limit! (Israel)
Task Force, A.S. Divestment Resolution 2010
We have a historic opportunity to stop our university from contributing to the violation of human rights. This is a controversial issue, as all movements for social justice are.
But let us be clear: The controversy surrounding the Peace and Neutrality Through UC Divestment From U.S. Corporations Profiting From Occupation resolution has not been created by any student group on campus, but by the University of California’s decision to invest in corporations involved in tremendous violations of international law.
Two of these corporations are General Electric and United Technologies. They were mentioned in the resolution for their involvement in well-documented human-rights abuses in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. These are not casual accusations: These corporations have been well-researched, and the fact is that our university has invested $136 million in General Electric and its subsidiaries, which contributes to the manufacturing and delivery of weapons in these occupied territories. Because many students have relatives who live in occupied territories, such investments force them, in effect, to fund the bombs that are dropped on their families. This is not a choice any student should have to make.
Due to the UC system’s involvement, the conflict in Israel and Palestine may be a difficult one to hear about, but it is not a difficult one to understand. The Palestinian people suffer from the longest ongoing illegal military occupation in the world. No matter how you spin it, a military occupation by another power implies the curtailment of civil liberties and the lack of democracy.
So why write a resolution that references Israel, one might ask? The answer is simple. The U.S. gives the Israeli government approximately $8 million a day, and the vast majority of that money is spent on its military. That sum is more than we give to any other country in the world. This money is often used for illegal war materials such as white phosphorus, which was banned by the 1980 Geneva Convention because it creates horrific burns that continue long after contact with human flesh.
After the 23-day Gaza siege last year resulted in 1,400 deaths at the hands of the Israeli military, institutions such as Amnesty International and the Red Cross confirmed that white phosphorous bombs were indeed used. But this does not do much to describe the daily abuses of Palestinians in the occupied territories: Palestinians must endure long waits at check points, illegal searches and seizures, the demolition of their homes, “Israeli only” bypass roads, a lack of access to clean water, skyrocketing unemployment, a wall separating farmers from access to their fields and the humiliation of another nation deciding the budget on everything from schools to roads.
Our Associated Students now have the opportunity to stand up against the injustice inflicted against the Palestinian people, and to demand that our university is never involved in a single bomb being dropped on a fellow human being ever again.
Many will say this resolution is biased — and we could not agree more. This resolution is biased for human rights, justice and equality. It is biased against bombs and military occupation. Many will also try to argue that this resolution is singling Israel out, and is therefore anti-Israel. However, this bill does not condemn one oppressive apartheid regime more than any other. If Spain were occupying Palestine, then this resolution would note that Spanish occupation and seek to divest from it.
This week Chris Cruz, chair of A.S. Resolution-Writing Committee On Peace and Neutrality, will publicly meet with the nine-person committee to discuss whether or not the Peace and Neutrality Through UC Divestment From U.S. Corporations Profiting from Occupation resolution will remain the same.
But do not fall victim to the fiction that the current military policies of the state of Israel represent the Jewish identity. There are an increasing number of Jewish and Israeli voices calling for an end to the occupation, including organizations such as B’Tselem, Jewish Voice for Peace, Meretz-Yachad, Gush Shalom and many others. These organizations see the occupation as both morally wrong and harmful to Israeli society. These broad coalitions include Holocaust survivors, rabbis and many other people of conscience who object to the terrible indignity that is forced upon the Palestinian people by right-wing extremists in their name.
In fact, occupation is a right-wing political platform in Israel. Many Jewish citizens oppose it. So, if someone tells you that he is “for Israel” but only represents this side of the controversy, he’s not telling you the full story.
Let this resolution become the piece of legislation that defines our generation. Let it be known that UCSD will not go on one more day until the money that is spent toward the oppression of Palestine is not in its hands any longer. We must remember that UC students have a long history of standing up for human rights. When Nelson Mandela was let out of prison, he thanked the UC students for their relentless work in divesting from the apartheid regime in South Africa.
We have a legacy; we have a place in the struggle that we cannot ignore any longer. It is time that the UC students take our rightful place in the fight for human rights. We can no longer sit idly by as our university supports the alienation and the racist treatment of a group of people, no matter who they might be. Yes, it will mean an uncomfortable conversation about things we’d rather not think about — but when has that ever stopped us before?
The student senate at the University of California–Berkeley has failed to override a veto of a bill calling on campus officials to divest from companies that supply weapons the Israel uses in its occupation of the Palestinian territories.