Wednesday, July 17

USAC votes down resolution on Israeli-Palestinian conflict

The undergraduate student government voted down a resolution in support of a peaceful campus approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and investments in specific companies at its weekly meeting.

The Undergraduate Students Association Council voted 5-7-0 against the resolution, during a more than seven-hour-long council meeting that ended around 3 a.m. Internal Vice President Avi Oved, General Representative Sunny Singh, Academic Affairs Commissioner Darren Ramalho, Facilities Commissioner Armen Hadjimanoukian and Financial Supports Commissioner Lauren Rogers voted for the resolution.

More than 100 students attended the meeting to protest or show their support of the resolution in a two-hour public comment period. Council deliberated on the resolution for more than three hours and went through the resolution line by line, making several amendments.

The amendments eliminated all clauses that addressed whether or not USAC should support financial investments or divestments and altered some language that councilmembers said would polarize Israeli or Palestinian students.

The issue of financial investments or divestments was a main point of contention during the meeting. Many students who opposed the resolution said including the issue of investments and divestments was divisive and hurtful to some Palestinian students on campus who support divestments, boycotts and sanctions.

Other students said they felt that the resolution promoted a healthy dialogue on campus about the issue.

Several hours into the council’s conversation about the resolution, Cultural Affairs Commissioner Jessica Trumble said she was still uncomfortable with how the resolution was created, even though the resolution had undergone amendments. Trumble said Oved should have spoken with students before writing the resolution.

Student Wellness Commissioner Savannah Badalich and External Vice President Maryssa Hall echoed Trumble’s sentiment and said they did not support the resolution because Oved did not reach out to students from both sides of the conflict before bringing the resolution to council.

“It’s not fair to say that we have a dialogue because students have been limited to a two-minute public dialogue (during public comments),” Hall said. “I don’t support this resolution because of the fact that these communities weren’t brought in and because of the fact that I’m still wary about a lot of the language in it.”

Oved said he listened to all of the students in the room and that the resolution was meant to facilitate communication between the different sides of the conflict.

Some councilmembers said they were open to a new resolution coming back to the table sometime in the future if students were involved in creating it.

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  • Happy with the result.

    Glad to see that the resolution did not pass in its current state. It had some very significant flaws in it, though it was written with good intent.

    Hopefully a new resolution can be drafted that addresses the issues that were objectionable in the most recent one.

  • Disappointed with the results

    The new altered resolution that Avi and the council members worked to revise was a compromise on an issue that Avi was extremely passionate about. The new resolution took in account the validity of both sides. Rejecting the NEW revised resolution, a resolution with sole attempts towards peace, is rejecting the acknowledgement of both sides and therefore rejecting subsequent dialogue leading to peace. If council cannot support the right of existence of both sides of the conflict (both sides of which current student have ties to), how can council say they are representing the ENTIRE student body and trying to foster a respectful dialogue between the two groups.

    • The Outcome Was Necessary

      I personally don’t think even the revised resolution truly took into account the validity of both sides. How is it an attempt for peace when it’s taking divestment off the table? Ultimately, that is what the Pro-Palestine side wants. A PEACEFUL, non violent chance to put economic pressure on companies that UNDENIABLY profit from the occupation of the Palestinian people. It wasn’t an attempt to dialogue because neither sides were really consulted upon writing this resolution. Plus, the sole advocate and main author of this resolution (Avi) is very Pro-Israel himself… so it’s very understandable to approach this resolution with a lot of skepticism and to squash it for not being in the Palestinian side’s best interests. To a lot of people, the resolution wasn’t a sole attempt for peace. It just appeared to push divestment under the rug and plaster positive investments over it instead. Companies that profit from the occupation of the Palestinian people NEED to be held accountable and the best and most peaceful way to do that is through divestment. We can’t just invest in companies that benefit both sides, but ignore the fact that UCLA tuition is STILL being invested in companies we should be divesting from. Palestinian students are indirectly paying for the machines and bombs used to demolish their family’s homes… that is a very serious issue and that illustrates how dire keeping divestments on the table is for Pro-Palestinians. This resolution really tried to shift attention from that and put it on positive investments instead. That’s not peaceful, that’s putting a pretty face on the real issues at hand. Because by doing so and switching gears this way, you’re silencing and alienating the pro-Palestinian population.

      • There’s more to it…

        While I supported the resolution, I’m not so upset that it was not passed, so long as in the future council members stay consistent in their efforts to fairly represent the whole UCLA student body and work to foster a positive, safe campus climate. The resolution, especially in its amended form, would not have prevented divestment from ever coming to the council table. That being said, should a divestment resolution ever come to council, it should be rejected for the same reason that they rejected this one. Namely, just as supporters of one side of the conflict felt misrepresented by this resolution for positive investments, supporters of the other side of the conflict feel misrepresented by the divestment campaigns.

        I’m not going to try to argue with you on the merits of my belief’s or of yours, but I do what to emphasize that there are two very different, or polarized rather, mindsets when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. You say Israel is illegally occupying the West Bank and Gaza, I say that Israel legally gained control of those lands in a defensive war after it was attacked (see: blockage of the Sueze Canal 1967). You say that the security wall and checkpoints are unjust, I say that while the checkpoints suck, they successfully reduced terrorist attacks by over 90% after the second intifada. Those are just two examples. I’m not claiming that Israel is perfect, but as the only democracy in the Middle East, and the only country in the region that gives women and members of the LGBTQ community equal rights, it is certainly much better than the villainous portrayal most people against last nights resolution painted with perhaps some truthful statements, but also with a lot of propaganda, misinformation, or outright lies.

        So it is not as obvious as you make it seem that the companies to which you are referring are ones that the UC “should be divesting from,” just as last night showed that it was not as obvious as supporters of the resolution believed that this resolution was meant to be noncontroversial and purely about promoting peaceful dialogue.

        Ultimately, if council voted down this resolution because it made some students on this campus feel alienated, that’s fine, so long as if one antagonizing Israel should ever come up it is equally assessed and voted down, for it, too, would alienate many students on this campus. Council must keep this in mind throughout the year to make sure they alway put the fair representation of all students and the well-being of campus climate above all else.

        • Yes, there’s a lot more to it

          I feel like Pro-Israel groups use the issue of campus climate as a bargaining chip whenever they deal with this issue. I don’t understand how divesting from companies that profit from the occupation of innocent civilians should threaten you guys and make the climate uncomfortable… If anything, all people, Pro-Israeli, Pro-Palestinian, and neutral should be in favor of divestment. Because it holds the companies and the Israeli government accountable for the document human rights abuses it has committed against the Palestinians. Respectable human rights organizations recognized by the international community are reporting on these abuses. How could they be ignored? How can you just expect council to take a non-active stance in the name of campus climate? There are people dying in the region every day. Someone needs to be held accountable… and one of the most peaceful ways to do that is with an economic boycott. That shouldn’t be something that makes you uncomfortable. Don’t you want to see this violence end? If we put pressure on the companies profiting from the violence, do you think they’d continue to do business that has those effects? It’s a non violent, peaceful solution. It shouldn’t make the campus climate uncomfortable. Ignoring the issues isn’t fostering positivity, nor is it fostering safety… especially for Palestinian students who have to return to Palestine and be subjected to the companies that profit from the continued violence. I don’t see how BDS threatens your safety. I don’t see how it negatively affects you. Just because you’re pro-Israeli doesn’t mean you can’t question the practices of the Israeli government and their policies towards Palestinians. As an American, I question the American government and its motives all the time.

          So, divestment shouldn’t be shut down for the same reason that this one was shut down. Because they are both very different in their nature. Divestment is trying to put an end to something. This resolution would have invested in something that benefits both without divesting from a company that benefits one side. If we just invest in new companies, then we’d still be investing in the old ones. The ones in which we should be divested from. So since they’re very different in their nature, they can’t be held to the same standard.

          I honestly don’t have a polarized mindset. I believe in the right of Palestinians to live freely. To have self determination and fundamental human rights that are currently and undeniably being denied. I believe in coexistence, as idealistic as that may seem. But I don’t feel like one religion or race should be given preference over another. I do believe in the right for Palestinians to return to their homes that they were ripped out of. I do believe in a secular, democratic government that grants the SAME rights and privileges to Jews and Arabs alike. That’s not a polarizing, radical view. It’s a fair middle ground. To live together in peace. It feels nearly impossible to attain, but a very important first step in getting there is holding those who profit from the harm inflicted upon the parties involved accountable for their actions. That’s why divestment seems so right to me.

          Israel is illegally occupying the land though. It really doesn’t matter if you, personally believed it obtained it legally from a war. The international community recognizes that Israel is ILLEGALLY occupying the land and continues to build Jewish settlements on it, displacing more and more Palestinians and creating more and more refugees. That’s not something that’s a matter of debate. It’s fact. THe international community recognizes it as so. Plus, the entire birth of the modern state of Israel is a result of colonialism… If it weren’t for the British mandating this land, Israel wouldn’t even exist. And if it weren’t for imperialist superpowers like the US providing you with the weapons necessary to win that war, you never would have won it in the first place. How can you legitimize obtaining the land because you were more powerful in a war and were able to kill more people. Does that give you legitimate claims to the land? Winning a war? Does you having the militaristic capabilities to defeat another group of people who already inhabit the land justify obtaining it and claiming it as yours? Are you saying that as long as one party has physical power over another, it legitimizes taking something from them? So if I were to see your iphone and really like it and beat you up and take it, would I have won that iphone fair and square? Does that legitimize me taking your possession that YOUUUUU worked hard to buy and obtain. Just because I’m more powerful? Similarly, does this mean that America has legit claims to this very land that we stole from the Native Americans. We technically beat the shit out of them in war. Wouldn’t you say so? So does that legitimize our occupation of THEIR land that they lived on first and had livelihoods on? Think about it.

          The security checkpoints and wall are more than unjust. Unjust is an understatement. It’s a gross violation of fundamental human rights that every human being inalienably deserves access to. Freedom of movement, the rights to self determination… those are things that every human being deserves. And Israel is denying Palestinians that… and that just “sucks.” Put yourself in their shoes. Have you ever tried doing that? Imagine if you just so happened to have been unfortunate enough to have been born into the oppressed side. You don’t get to choose what conditions you’re born in. For those who live within that wall that separates them and cages them like animals in what is considered the largest open air PRISON in the world, your explanation is “yeah, you don’t get human rights and it sucks. it’s because we believe you’ll probably turn into a terrorist one day and bomb me. So I’m going to take away your rights to make sure this doesn’t happen and by taking away your human rights, I’m therefore treating you as a subhuman.” Do you ever stop to realize that these terrorist attacks are the product of a hostile environment that Israel produces? Because I highly doubt all Palestinians are genetically predisposed to bombing Israelis. You’re a product of your environment. If Arabs are treated like they’re subhuman, ripped out of their homes, lose EVERYTHING they’ve ever worked for in life, violence and resistance is bound to be a result. Israel creates its own monsters and then plays victim to them. Ripping away one group of people’s rights in order to preserve another’s can never be morally justified. An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Plus, the world terrorism itself is problematic. To me, bombing civilian blocks of densely populated hospitals, schools, and homes in Gaza and elsewhere where most of those who die are innocent civilians, many of which are women and children is sure to inflict terror in the hearts of Palestinians. I don’t know about you, but if someone showered my neighborhood in bombs, THEY would be the terrorists in my eyes. You practice the actor-observer bias. If Palestinians inflict harm, they’re considered terrorists and therefore you believe you’re justified in caging them into an open air prison. Buttttttt, if Israel drops bombs, it’s defensive OF COURSE. Do you see the issue?

          I do acknowledge the great things Israel provides… but it only provides it to some people while harshly and inhumanely depriving others of it. So then what’s the point?!?!?! How can anyone see Israel in a positive light when its evils cast a very dark cloud over it. It’s portrayed as villainous because the actions it partakes in against Palestinians is very evil, inhumane, cruel. I don’t know why my typing randomly became italic but anyyyyway, Israel is so great in your eyes because you’re in the position of privilege. You get to freely travel there. Hell, as long as you’re Jewish from anywhere in the world with no real ties to the land other than being Jewish, you get to travel there free of charge and get trained to believe that Israel is a saint. You can’t dismiss the wrong it does by listing all the good it does. And the good it does doesn’t benefit Palestinians. I don’t dismiss the good it does… I acknowledge it… But I also acknowledge that the good isn’t shared and that it’s heavily denied to groups of people based on their race and religion. In order to create positive change, we must work together to end the negative and equalize things for all people. As long as one side is being oppressed, as long as one side doesnt have basic human rights, as long as one side is being caged in and doesn’t have freedom of movement, as long as one side is struggling financially and depends on day to day humanitarian aid, as long as one side is starving and the other is living in wonderful conditions, then a grossly unequal system is being put in place. Some like to call it apartheid. And though I, myself like to avoid such heavy words with very negative connotations, it’s so hard for me not to call it that. If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, walks like a duck… I mean, Nelson Mandela HIMSELF, a man who has LIVED through apartheid and seen the damage it’s done and led his peoples out of it calls the condition in Palestine and Israel as an apartheid system. He even said that the freedom of his people won’t be complete without the freedom of fellow Palestinians. He even mentioned that what Palestinians are going through might be even WORSE than the situation in South Africa. He said that people naively think the problem began in 1967… when there are still issues of 1948 to be solved. He says that Israel didn’t “normally” win a war and happened to occupy the land. He talks about how Israel strives to keep Israel Jewish. One of the leaders once said that Arabs are a “demographic threat.” The irony literally was too much. You should read this memo Mandela sent to Thomas Friedman if you get the chance.

          It is obvious that we should divest. If you notice, in all of the meetings across the country where divestment was proposed, the ONLYYYY opponents of the resolution are Pro-Israeli, Jewish groups. And the ones in favor are NOT just Palestinians or Arabs. You see all sorts of Muslims from different backgrounds, you see Hispanic and Black students and other minorities almost always side with SJP, you even see some Jews too who chose to stand on the right side of history and contest the injustices they see and fight to correct them.

          The best way to do this is with peace and non violence. BDS makes perfect sense. If you feel threatened by it, it really says a lot about where your humanity is.

          • yes, Theres more to it

            Oh, and I didn’t try to make BDS seem like its the end all, be all. It’s not a solution to all the problems. It’s a step in the right direction towards a positive and peaceful solution.

  • we aint the UN

    What a waste of potential sleeping hours for everyone involved in this. We are here to get a degree and eventually a job not try to be a super snotty UN. We, as students, aren’t fixing Israel and Palestine’s issues any time soon and if we impose any divestment BS we may as well boycott China or the US for that matter. Think in a global perspective. These little national issues are only going to put you guys behind the times. And we wont change anything by divestments. its an outdated strategy. if you want to make any change in this world, study now, make a ton of money ASAP and then buy the things you care about. I don’t see Chinese college students giving a rats ass about this. They do a thing called studying. Try it some time and you’ll realize you wont have time for these little back and forth banters.

  • Pointless

    This bill, in its amended form, seem rather pointless. And this sentiment WAS echoed by other council members. You don’t need a bill to have dialogue, you just need a place, a time, and people to converse with. Honestly, the bill doesn’t even outline HOW dialogue will take place. This is like saying: Pass this bill so Republican and Democrats can discuss issues in a peaceful manner. Which is absurd, because they don’t need a bill for that to happen. It seems like the only purpose of the bill was to keep investing in companies that Israel profits off of, and when those clauses were removed, it looked pointless.