The Associated Students 74th Senate passed “A Resolution to Condemn The Israeli Government’s and the IDF’s Dehumanization of the Palestinian People” in a 13-4-2 vote at the May 1 Senate meeting. 

The result of the anonymous vote on the resolution was announced at around 8:45 p.m. to an uproar of applause and prayer from pro-Palestinian students in attendance. The resolution passed with 13 of 19 votes, just meeting the two-thirds majority, but had four dissenters and two abstainers. 

Senators initially tabled the resolution, first presented at the April 24 Senate meeting, for one week following hours of public forum and senate discussion. Nearly 150 students and organizations endorsed the initial resolution, including the Muslim Student Association (MSA), Students for Justice in Palestine and UC Santa Barbara Indus, among others.

The resolution calls upon UCSB and the larger UC system to condemn “war crimes and atrocities resulting in immense civilian casualties by the Israeli government and the [Israeli Defense Forces],” alongside calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and demanding the release of Israeli and Palestinian hostages. 

The resolution also demands that Associated Students (A.S.) “recognize the definition of ‘terrorism’ as defined and agreed upon by UN General Assemblies” and “mourn all civilian loss of life in Israel, Palestine, and the surrounding areas.” It also distinguishes that legitimate expressions of solidarity for both the Palestinian movement and the Israeli people by students and organizations on campus from calls for violence and endorsements of terrorism.

Second-year political science major and College of Letters & Sciences Senator Alejandra Martinez and fourth-year biology major and College of Creative Studies Senator Diya Bhandari co-authored the resolution.

Approximately 55 people attended the Wednesday meeting, with 15 students speaking on the resolution over a 50-minute public forum period. Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Margaret Klawunn and Dean of Student Life Katya Armistead were present at the meeting.

Fourth-year biological sciences major Miskah Hashim urged senators to vote in favor of the resolution in order to equally represent both sides of the Israel-Palestine conflict within Senate.

“I ask instead of arguing and personally critiquing senators, I urge you to pass this resolution as human beings who can see what is going on in Palestine and my people. I specifically urge the people who plan to abstain to vote yes, so that we are able to create a campus environment where both sides are held accountable for their wrongdoings,” Hashim said.

First-year psychological and brain sciences major Keren Kreindler spoke against the resolution, stating that it’s not the job of a student government to “condemn an army or a government of another county,” and that the resolution would isolate and marginalize Israeli students on campus.

“Did we pass a bill condemning the Russian government?” Kreindler asked the Senate. “By passing this bill you are telling all your Israeli students that we are not welcome here. And you will be adding fuel to the fire, alienating members of our community and creating further division that a conflict halfway around the world has already created.”

After public forum, the senate entered a discussion and rebuttal period before voting on the resolution.

Bhandari spoke about how the resolution counters the “Resolution to Condemn Hamas,” brought forth by Senators Coleton Cristiani, Michelle Lebowski, Mia Goren and Ephraim Shalunov, and passed by the Senate on Nov. 15. 

“We make it clear in this resolution that we’re not trying to target any specific student group. We’re simply condemning the action of the IDF and the Israeli government, just like other senators in this room brought out a resolution to condemn Hamas,” Bhandari said.

Fourth-year biology major and MSA President Maheen Ahmad, who acted as a proxy for Senator Renee Faulk, said the resolution includes the voices of Muslim students on campus, correcting the “mistake” of isolating their community through the “Resolution to Condemn Hamas.”

“Many speakers have mentioned how they believe bringing the Resolution to Condemn Hamas to the UCSB senate was a mistake. I believe that if that truly is how you guys feel, this current resolution is how you can correct that mistake and represent the Muslim, Arab and specifically Palestinian students on this campus,” Ahmad said. “No one here, from my understanding, is comparing Hamas with the IDF. We are asking you for equal acknowledgment of crimes against humanity when it comes to this situation, not just a one-sided narrative.”

Off Campus Senator and fourth-year political science and communication double-major Michelle Lebowski voiced her concern about the title of the resolution targeting Israeli students, stating she is “very worried about Israeli students on campus and their safety.”

“Not everyone in the IDF are responsible for these atrocities. I’m still worried [about] the repercussions of especially the title. While the authors recognize that many Israelis themselves don’t support the current government, and want this war to end as soon as possible,” Lebowski said.

The Senate held a secret vote on the resolution. After an initial miscount, resulting in 12 votes in favor of the Resolution, a recount proved the bill passed with a 13-2-4 vote, gaining the two-thirds majority.

About an hour after the vote, A.S. President Tessa Veksler took to her personal Instagram reels, expressing disappointment with the passing of the resolution and what it would mean for Jewish and Israeli students. Veksler was present for the bill’s discussion and posted the video while the Senate meeting was still in session.

“This evening was especially difficult for me because our student senate here at UCSB passed a resolution to condemn the Israeli government and the Israeli Defense Forces. And upon the passing of this legislation, many students in the room were cheering, they were praising God, they were yelling in joy as Jewish students around them and Israeli students around them were crying out of pain and out of what this meant for them,” Veksler said in the video.

In her video response, Veksler delivered the report she planned to give at the meeting, but claimed she “didn’t get a chance to say it in front of the entire Senate.” Veksler left the meeting after the resolution was passed, approximately two hours before the meeting ended.

“You want to help Palestinians and Israelis and Jews and Muslims, then do something tangible and actionable. Create a task force, invent a special project, allocate funding towards civil discourse retreats. Anything but mindless voting for the same legislation every year that causes nothing but harm to our campus community,” Veksler said.

MSA put out an Instagram statement on May 5 about the encampment and senate meeting, defending the rights of their community to praise God and expressing dissent against Veksler’s “villainization” of the action.

“When this resolution was passed, the predominantly Muslim audience proclaimed ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is Great). There has been some commotion about how this reflects on our community, but we stand firm in our faith and commitment to Allah (SWT),” the statement said. “We do not accept any villainization of this act as done in a recent Instagram video by the current AS President.” 

The statement also acknowledged their still ongoing goal of calling for the university to divest from “weapons manufacturing that funds the Palestinian Genocide.” 

“While we celebrate this monumental legislation, we recognize that this is just the beginning. The stage for following resolutions has been set, and we remain committed to fighting for justice and divestment from weapons manufacturing that funds the Palestinian Genocide.”

A version of this article appeared on p. 1 of the May 9, 2024, print edition of the Daily Nexus.

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Anushka Ghosh Dastidar
Anushka Ghosh Dastidar (she/her) is the Community Outreach News Editor for the 2023-24 school year. Previously, Ghosh Dastidar was the Assistant News Editor for the 2022-2023 school year. She can be reached at anushkagd@dailynexus.com or news@dailynexus.com.
Lizzy Rager
Lizzy Rager (she/her) is the Assistant News Editor for the 2024-25 school year. She can be reached at lizzyrager@dailynexus.com