Hundreds of students attended Wednesday night’s Associated Students Senate meeting to debate a resolution supporting divestment from companies accused of profiting from “the military occupation of Palestine.”
Talk of marginalization dominated the nine-hour discussion. Anti-divestment speakers argued that the proposed resolution would marginalize Jewish and Israeli students, while pro-divestment speakers insisted that the current investments have already subjected their community to marginalization. The exceptionally large student turnout forced the meeting to relocate to Corwin Pavilion in order to accommodate everyone, with a majority of the audience remaining at the meeting until adjournment at 5:00 a.m.
The resolution, titled “A Resolution to Divest From Companies that Profit From Apartheid,” targets seven university-affiliated corporations including Caterpillar, General Electric, Northrop Grumman, Hewlett Packard, Raytheon and Motorola for supporting Israeli military and economic control of Palestinian territories. It calls upon the Associated Students Investment Advisory Committee, the University of California treasury and the UC Regents to divest UC money from each of the companies mentioned in order to defend human rights.
Rabbi Evan Goodman, who co-teaches a course on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with professor Walid Afifi and serves as the executive director of Santa Barbara Hillel, said the resolution might jeopardize the positive atmosphere that UCSB has created for its Jewish students.
“We as a community have become a place that is very positive for Jewish students. When a campus like UC Berkeley or UC Santa Cruz is now under federal investigation for anti-Jewish activities … we are the exception,” Goodman said. “We are the exception for Jewish students; we are the exception for Muslim students, and for students of all different backgrounds, so I want to keep it that way.”
Goodman said this resolution does not merely criticize the Israeli government, but instead attacks the state of Israel itself.
“There’s one tiny Jewish state in the entire world,” Goodman said. “That the resolution undercuts that — and not something that’s simply critical of the Israeli government — is something that’s antithetical to what I believe in. To single out Israel as an apartheid state — if you can’t understand how that would make a Jewish student feel marginalized, I am flabbergasted.”
Pro-divestment student and second-year political science major Anisha Ahuja countered the statement.
“As a student who believes in human rights, I believe that without passing this resolution we are marginalizing students,” Ahuja said.
Third-year Hani Tajsar, one of the student sponsors of the resolution and member of Students for Justice in Palestine, rejected the idea that divestment or critique of the government was an attack on the Jewish community.
“I find it very disheartening that I cannot attack the state of Israel without being called an anti-Semite,” Tajsar said.
Goodman’s co-professor Walid Afifi of the communication department also spoke at the meeting in favor of divestment. Afifi said the Israeli government has broken international laws and should be confronted.
“In the end, what I think we really need to pay attention to is that we have an occupation … which comes with a rule of law of what is required by the occupier,” Afifi said. “That rule of law has been violated repeatedly in extreme ways, in terms of human rights, in terms of international law.”
In response to claims that some of companies targeted by the resolution may in fact work to protect Israel, Afifi said he would still support divestment.
“If companies are both contributing to security and contributing to violations of international law … what I would argue is they should not receive our funding until they stop engaging in the activities that are explicitly violations of international law,” Afifi said.
Many students in favor of divestment stated that divesting from these companies would not be choosing one side of the conflict but would in fact be an act of neutrality. Some, like student Rosina Saeed, said they were not advising reinvestment in companies that support Palestinian forces, but rather that the resolution advises divestment from the conflict as a whole.
“By investing in this corporation, we have already taken a stance,” Saeed said. “We are not remaining neutral; we have picked a side.”
First-year economics major Jake Speyer argued that divestment would be counterproductive to any positive negotiation that could potentially take place.
“The situation in the Middle East is complicated, and divesting from American companies, simply because they build bulldozers, is not a step towards peace,” Speyer said. “We can be a model for negotiation on this campus … this resolution has already created a divide.”
Several students standing against divestment took issue with the idea that the Israeli government violates human rights or international law. Some cited the official position of the United States government as an ally to Israel, quoting and showing clips of President Obama giving his support to the nation. Others, like first-year biology major Guy Singer, drew on personal experience, citing certain memories from his childhood in Israel as an alternative to the image of the country as an oppressive regime.
“I remember walking to elementary school every single day with a gas mask in my backpack — gas masks required by the government — because there was a threat … I remember going to peace rallies with my mother, begging both sides to lay down arms … I remember the bomb shelters, I remember the sirens, I remember the explosions,” Singer said. “The picture I’d like to show today is a picture of Israel under attack.”
Third-year Liran Braude contested the resolution by recounting his own experiences as a soldier in the Israeli army.
“Israel is not comprised of only Jews … Jews and Arab Israelis, not only live together, but they are together in the workplace, and even in the home,” Braude said.
According to Speyer, Israel promotes freedom in various ways, rather than restricting it, including the country’s support for the LGBTQ community.
“In 2013, the independent watchdog organization Freedom House named Israel as the only free state in the Middle East … This is the Israel we want to share,” Speyer said. “Tel Aviv is the only place in the Middle East where you will find an annual gay pride parade.”
The majority of the meeting’s discourse remained civil. However, despite constant efforts by the A.S. senators to create a welcoming environment, one student left the building in tears, and there were instances of expletives being directed at speakers. Neither side of the debate seemed willing to concede their stance.
The Senate authors of the resolution — Miya Sommers and Genesis Herrera — urged their colleagues to table the resolution for one week in order to better understand every component of the issue. In the vote to table, 11 senators voted yes, 11 senators voted no, while one senator abstained, resulting in a tie. The vote then went to Internal Vice President Mayra Segovia, who agreed to table the resolution. Senators will therefore resume discussion on the resolution at next week’s meeting.
Let’s take a look back in history to 1933 when Hitler rose to power and became Chancellor of Germany and the Nazis won a large number of seats in the German parliament. What followed was the notorious nationwide Nazi boycott targeting Jewish businesses and professionals directed by Nazi stormtroopers posting signs everywhere saying “Do not buy from Jews!” Widespread anti-Semitism mounted with the Nuremberg Laws in 1935 depriving Jews of their basic rights as citizens and banning them from all professional jobs in education, politics, academia and industry which escalated in severity ultimately concluding in the “Final Solution.”
The following two quotes are from a March issue of the Palestinian Authority Daily. …….. “Had Hitler won, Nazism would be an honor that people would be competing to belong to, and not a disgrace punishable by law.” …….. “Churchill and Roosevelt were alcoholics, and in their youth were questioned more than once about brawls they started in bars, while Hitler hated alcohol and was not addicted to it. He used to go to sleep early and wake up early, and was very organized. These facts have been turned upside down as well, and Satan has been dressed with angels’… Read more »
(1) Google “gays” and “Palestinians” to see how gay people are treated by the people who are calling for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against Israel. The first search result is titled, “Palestinian gays flee to Israel” (2) Google “Palestinian” and “honor killings” to see how women are treated by the people who are calling for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against Israel. If you are a femalel student (or alumna) who is thinking about going to “Palestine” to help protest against the Evil Zionists, I suggest that you first read “Female Palestinian Peace Activists Suffer Sexual Harassment, Rape From Palestinians” (just… Read more »
If you want to see a BDS supporter squirm, ask them why Israel existing as a Jewish state is unacceptable and racist but Palestine existing as an Arab and Muslim state is a noble cause worth supporting. My proof of this is examples of the Palestinian National Charter: “Article 1. Palestine is the homeland of the Arab Palestinian people; it is an indivisible part of the greater Arab homeland, and the Palestinian people are an integral part of the Arab nation.” And from the basic law of Palestine: “Islam is the official religion in Palestine.” So why isn’t there a… Read more »
Why does A.S. even discuss these issues?! You represent a wide and diverse body of students who pay lock-in fees so that A.S. can work on making the school a better place. Why you would discuss world politics is beyond comprehension. A.S. should remain neutral on these issues and focus on things that are student related. The students pay lock-in fees so you guys can put on nice events and concerts, and on occasion, fight the good fight against fee hikes. The average student is not paying fees so you guys can dick around and play mock-U.N. You guys spent… Read more »
AS discusses any issue that students bring to our meetings. We have no way of limiting what legislation can be introduced so if a student puts in the time to write a bill or resolution we will discuss it. Furthermore, the majority of the 9 hours was not the Senate in discussion, but was students speaking at public forum. If you, or anyone, thinks we should not be talking about issues like divestment please come to public forum and tell us why you feel that way. We are open to any and all criticism, wednesdays at 6:30 in the Flying… Read more »
so can i offer legislation that demands AS adopt a more focused, relevant platform? i’m all for free speech. if a bunch of foreign students from saudi arabia want to come to ucsb and import their distorted views of the middle east that is awesome possom. i would love to watch that circus. but NINE HOURS of allowing AS to become a soapbox for these infants? AS represents the majority of the student body, a tiny vocal minority should not be allowed to hijack the main agenda. you couldn’t pay me to listen to these guys for one hour, let… Read more »
The Facebook page of the UC Santa Barbara divestment group bears the logo “From the River to the Sea”. That makes their intentions crystal clear. This isn’t about the “occupation”. This isn’t about the eventual borders of a state for the Palestinian people, living side by side and in peace with a state for the Jewish people. This is about the end of Israel.
“From the River to the Sea” eh? When did Americans start emulating Nazis? Or is it only the liberal Americans who do so while pretending to be holier than thou? ……. While Saudis repress all their people (other than the royal family whom have private $500 million dollar private airplanes) we focus our angst on Israel for deep down we are really just anti-Semites pretending to be humanitarians. While Pakistanis ethnically cleanse that once Hindu country of its remaining Hindus we focus our angst on Israel for deep down we are really just anti-Semites pretending to be humanitarians. While Egyptians… Read more »
That Israel is still the subject of hatred is deeply disturbing and one of the forces that drives my support for the Jewish State. In choosing not to stand idly by as the age-old hatred of the Jewish people has been transferred to the “collective Jew,” I have been speaking up against the new anti-Semitism that is so pervasive today. It targets the Jewish people by targeting the Jewish homeland, as the source of injustice and conflict in the world. It is perversely couched in the language of human rights. Just as conventional anti-Semitism denied Jews the right to live… Read more »
In the interest of full disclosure, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) are notorious propaganda mouthpieces for Hamas terrorists. Recall also, in a 6 to 3 decision, the Supreme Court upheld a federal law that makes it a crime for Americans to provide “material support” of any kind (be it in the form of cash, weaponry, training, personnel, services, or “expert advice or assistance”) to a foreign terrorist organization, even if that support is for (ostensibly) peaceful purposes. Hamas would be one such example. It conducts terrorist attacks against Israel with one part of its organization while spitting propaganda lies… Read more »
Since the Islamo-supremacist occupation and ethnic cleansing of Greek Cyprus began in 1974: * at least 55 Greek churches have been converted into mosques * another 50 Greek churches and monasteries have been converted into stables, stores, hostels, museums, or have been demolished * the cemeteries of at least 25 Greek villages have been desecrated and destroyed * innumerable icons, religious artifacts and all kinds of archaeological treasures have been stolen and smuggled abroad illegal excavations and smuggling of antiquities is openly taking place all the time with the involvement of the occupying forces * all Greek place names contrary… Read more »
I totally agree that there are TRUE atrocities and ACTUAL occupation and ethnic cleansing going on in the world yet people are completely ignorant of it and attack the only state, ISRAEL, that has done ANYTHING for the Arabs living in the West Bank.
I’m sorry I’ve never heard of Famagusta before but I will definitely look into it now.
it’s pretty clear most supporters of these boycotts are either antisemites or unwilling/ignorant participants.
also…do these idiots know the bulldozers use to take down arab homes destroy jewish ones as well? and more jews than arabs have been evicted in the west bank and gaza than palestinians. never let the facts get a hold of these morons.
im not particularly comfortable that students are using public resources and wasting what little influence the student government has in promoting partisan-based movements. the student government should be apolitical. if students want to pass motions about israel or palestine they can do it in their own student groups. but these sorts of resolutions are not in the purview of the student body. i dont even know what such a resolution would accomplish beyond satisfying the on-going anti-israel fetish many pro-palestinian trolls have at UCSB. we’re tired of it. please focus on things that affect and matter to us. this isn’t… Read more »
In 2005, the UC regents came out with a statement denouncing divestment from Israel. Ain’t going to happen. So yes, Students for Just us in Palestine is wasting everyone’s time and everyone’s energy to score cheap publicity for their cause. PS- in case you haven’t heard, the overall goal of the divestment movement, in the words of one of its leaders , Omar Barghouti BDS is “euthanasia for Israel”