In last night’s Associated Students Senate meeting, representatives from American Students for Israel and Students for Justice in Palestine appeared in public forum to discuss the Associated Students of UC Irvine’s recent legislation divesting itself from companies who support Israeli government measures.
While American Students for Israel urged senators to remain neutral on the issue, Students for Justice in Palestine encouraged similar action to that of UC Irvine. On Nov.
13, 2012, UC Irvine’s A.S. unanimously passed legislation that would divest from a handful of companies that they believe support human rights violations perpetrated by the Israeli government. The Request for Action cites the students’ history of “standing against oppression and injustice” and targets companies that have been documented by several human rights organizations as being complicit to “ongoing” violations.
According to the legislation, the construc- tion company Caterpillar has played a role in furthering human rights violations by supply- ing the Israeli government with the weaponry to do so. “[Caterpillar] has helped sustain the occupation [in Palestine] by providing engineering tools and bulldozers to destroy Palestinian houses, neighborhoods (in refugee camps), agriculture and water cisterns,” the legislation states. “[The company has provided] engineering tools and bulldozers to expand illegal settlements and construct the Wall and checkpoints.”
Other such targeted companies include Cement Roadstones Holding, Cemex, General Electric Company, Hewlett-Packard Company, Raytheon and Sodastream.
The UC Irvine A.S. bill also states that it will further examine its assets and UC assets for investments in companies that provide military support and weaponry to support occupation of the Palestinian territory and promises to slow down or stop the contractions of dividing walls.
Jeremy Ely, executive director of UCSB American Students for Israel, brought UC Irvine’s decision to the attention of the Senate, stat- ing that this legislation poorly affects the university’s Jewish students.
“This event has shaken UCSB’s Jewish population,” Ely said. “[I] want to see any such measures brought upon by the [UCSB Associated Students] Senate.”
Ely added that such partisan issues hold no place in the policymaking of the supposedly neutral A.S.
“It doesn’t affect a large portion of the student body so it shouldn’t come up in A.S.,” Ely said. “It would just cause [certain] students dis- comfort.”
Officer Hani Tajsar first wanted to ensure that the motivations behind his requests were not misunderstood, maintaining that his inten- tions were tied to religious intolerance — that he was condemning the actions of the Israeli government and not the Israeli people.
“I have always been called anti-Semitic but I’m condemning the state [and] not the people,” Tajsar said. “If someone condemned the state of Iran I would stick with them.”
Adeel Lakhani furthered the argument in favor of action by stating his belief that the Senate was within their rights to take a stand on this issue, as they had done during Apartheid in South Africa.
“A.S. has a history of making statements and of making action to fol- low a moral compass, such as divesting from Apartheid in South Africa,” Lakhani said. “I don’t think this is outside of the Senate’s duties.”
Lakhani proposed that senators do research on their current invest- ments and ensure that they do not support human rights violations.
“Regardless of the contentions or objections that the Senate or UC students might have with the UCI resolution, I urge the UCSB senate to pass a resolution that would direct research into our investments to make sure that student money is not going towards companies that hurt people,” Lakhani said. “Student money should not go to people who hurt other people.”
A version of this article appeared on page 3 of November 15, 2012’s print edition of the Nexus.