Over 100 students gathered in Corwin Pavilion to witness the Associated Students (A.S.) Senate vote on a resolution to divest from companies that aid Israel in alleged human rights violations against Palestinians.
The meeting began at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, and 110 students had signed up to speak during the meeting’s public forum as of approximately 2 a.m.
Senators and proxies cast their votes at approximately 4 a.m. Thursday. The resolution failed to pass after receiving 16 “no” votes, zero “yes” votes and seven abstentions.
Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) proposed the resolution on April 23 urging the university to divest from companies such as Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Caterpillar and Hewlett Packard — urging the university to divest from all companies that perpetuate Palestinian oppression.
SJP members Anumita Kaur and Edan Tessema sponsored the resolution.
Many Jewish students who spoke at the public comment portion called the resolution anti-Semitic, saying that divestment from the nation state of Israel personally affects Jewish students on campus.
Nate Erez, a fourth-year economics and accounting major, said the resolution presents an anti-Semitic rhetoric and is a “denial of the Jewish right to self-determination.”
“This language is no more than a clever disguise to achieve a much more sinister agenda,” Erez said during public forum. “This is a direct attack on the one Jewish state in the world.”
Danielle Cohen, fourth-year sociology and film double major, said the BDS and SJP movements have presented a “misleading portrayal” of the Israel-Palestine conflict and have normalized anti-Semitism on the UCSB campus.
“I have never felt so unsafe and unwelcome on campus than I do during the BDS campaign,” Cohen said.
Other students reject the argument that divestment from Israel is an attack on religious or ethnic Jews.They defend the resolution saying that divestment maintains the UC’s neutrality in the Israel-Palestine conflict.
“All this resolution is doing is fueling division on our campus.”
— Aaron Hendizadeh
Menelik Dagnachew, a third-year English major, said he supports divestment as an Ethiopian American because he believes the oppression of Palestinians is similar to the oppression of Ethiopian people.
“My heart bleeds for Palestinian people,” he said. “It makes me mad so that I’m shaking right now. As much as this is a cultural issue … this is not an issue we should be directly tied to.”
Cameron Klein, a second-year history major and Jewish student, spoke in favor of the resolution and objected to the alleged victimization of the Jewish ethnic minority.
“Just because you’re a minority does not give you the right to violate human rights,” he said.
Michael Torbati, the chief financial officer of the A.S. Finance and Business Committee, said he is opposed to divestment because he believes the investment in the companies is beneficial for students and the university.
“In terms of fiscal responsibility, these investments bring a lot back to UCSB students,” Torbati said.
Other speakers at public forum in support of the resolution cited historical events, such as the United States Civil Rights movement and the South African apartheid, as similar to the violation of human rights of the Palestinian people.
Steven Kwok, the A.S. director of legislative accountability, urged the senate to vote through a roll call vote “in the interest of transparency.”
The public forum ended at approximately 2 a.m. and the Senate then heard statements from the resolution’s sponsors, Kaur and Tessema.
During deliberation, some senators echoed the opinions of students who spoke earlier saying the resolution was an anti-Semitic gesture.
Senator Aaron Hendizadeh said that if this resolution was solely about divestment from U.S. companies, then the drafters would not have needed to include the companies’ partnerships with Israel in the resolution text. He said he believes the resolution singles out Israel for this reason.
“All this resolution is doing is fueling division on our campus,” he said.
Senator Hannah Ellenhorn said the resolution ignores the cultural and religious identities of Jewish students on campus and marginalizes the Jewish community.
“Only a minority of a community can define what hatred is against that community,” she said. “You cannot tell the Jewish community that this is not an attack on their identity.”
Other senators defended the resolution, insisting as students did earlier in the night that divestment from Israel is about asserting the UC’s neutrality in the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Senator Jonathan Lopez said the resolution does not question whether or not the state of Israel has a right to exist; rather, he said it is about withdrawing UC investments from alleged human rights violations in the Middle East.
“We cannot be complicit in these acts anymore,” he said.
Justice Dumlao, who served as a proxy for Senator Lesly Silva, said he is in solidarity with the Palestinian people as a member of Queer Commission and said he understands the feeling of being oppressed in society.
UCSB remains the last University of California campus to not pass a divestment resolution.
Updated 4:30 a.m.
Tamari Dzotsenidze, Phi Do and Jose Ochoa contributed reporting.