Students for Justice in Palestine and American Students for Israel have set up signs opposite each other in the Arbor in preparation for a resolution regarding UC divestment from Israel, which will be a topic of discussion at next Wednesday’s Associated Students meeting at Corwin Pavilion.
The resolution, if passed, would encourage UCSB administration to withdraw investments from companies that supply Israel with equipment, supplies and services that enable Israel to occupy Palestine. The meeting will feature testimonies from SJP, who proposed the resolution, and ASI, who oppose it. A similar divestment resolution consumed many of the A.S. meetings last year, but ultimately failed to pass following an intense 11-hour meeting.
Mohsin Mirza, a second-year sociology major and member of SJP, said the group’s aim is to stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine.
“We’re not here to decide on what the solution is for Palestine. We’re here to stand up and to make it known that we do not support the oppression of the Palestinian people,” Mirza said.
Second-year political science major and ASI member Ariella Plachta said although the issue was divisive last year, both sides share the struggle of defending their beliefs and having their stories heard.
“I hope people will learn that this war, like any other, has two narratives, two histories, two peoples that both deserve full self-determination and every human right,” Plachta said.
But in support of the resolution, Mirza said Palestine has been occupied for 40 years by the Israeli military, which has exploited Palestinians for their labor, while encroaching on their land to build Israeli settlements.
“People are being displaced everyday. Bulldozers that we are invested in through companies like Caterpillar are knocking down the homes of Palestinians,” Mirza said. “This is something that has been going on not just since recently, but for years now. It’s gotten to a point where the international community has an obligation to respond.”
However, second-year dance and psychology double major Lyla Palmer held a different view, saying Israel has attempted peace talks but has been turned away.
“Over the past 66 years, Israel has made numerous concessions and efforts to bring peace to the region but they were all rejected by Palestinian leaders,” Palmer said. “Singling out Israel, the only democratic state in the Middle East, is highly biased and does not promote peace on either side.”
Mirza said SJP’s goal with the resolution is to follow the same methods used during South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement from the 1960s through ’90s, which focused on economically targeting South Africa in protest of their racist practices. According to Mirza, the way Palestine is viewed from the eyes of the mainstream public must be changed.
“No one’s talking about the need for peace within the Palestinian people’s lives and the need for Palestinian self-determination and well-being of the Palestinian people,” Mirza said. “SJP, a lot of it, is bringing that perspective and letting people realize that these things are taking place.”
While Palmer said that the divestment debate would “likely stir up similar negative reactions across campus” as it did last year, Plachta said members of ASI remain hopeful that this year’s meeting will promote education on the issue, while avoiding the physical and mental stress that was experienced by last year’s participants.
“Last year was a small catastrophe, during which, both sides of this tragic issue suffered emotionally, physically and academically,” Plachta said. “I believe this year’s meeting can be a productive, educational opportunity to express passions and concerns but will not reap us of valuable sleep and studying.”
Mirza said he acknowledged that while the resolution is partly symbolic, he hopes it will help get the conversation started regarding the situation in Palestine.
“We know that divestment alone can’t change the occupation of Palestine, and can’t change the human rights crisis that exists there, but we can begin that conversation. We can begin working towards that,” Mirza said.
This story is a Daily Nexus online exclusive.