Wednesday, October 16

Students for Justice in Palestine calls for UC, UCLA divestment

Students for Justice in Palestine has authored a resolution asking the University
of California and UCLA to divest from some companies that profit from the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

The resolution calls for divestment from five companies that some students say are complicit in the human rights abuses of Palestinians, said Agatha Palma, the director of divestments, boycotts and sanctions for Students for Justice in Palestine. Group members plan to meet with members of the Undergraduate Students Association Council in upcoming days to gather support for the resolution.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a dispute concerning the Israeli military occupation ofthe West Bank and Gaza, among multiple other issues, has been a divisive issue on campus for decades.

Divesting is a part of a larger global movement known as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, which aims to put economic and political pressure on Israel to end the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, said Palma, an anthropology graduate student.

Palma added that the resolution is not asking for council to endorse the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement on a global level, and that their plans are a part of a statewide UC movement for divestment.

Other UC student governments, such as those at UC Berkeley and UC San Diego, passed measures calling for divestment from companies linked to the Israeli military.

The resolution would call for UCLA and the UC’s divestment from Caterpillar, Cemex, Cement Roadstone Holdings, General Electric and Hewlett-Packard.

Members of Students for Justice in Palestine started reaching out to councilmembers to sponsor their resolution last week, but they have yet to receive enough support from USAC to bring their proposal to the table.

USAC bylaws stipulate that at least three councilmembers must sponsor a resolution before council can deliberate and vote on it – a requirement that some Students for Justice in Palestine members call a “roadblock” to necessary discussion.

After failing to meet the minimum three-sponsor requirement, members from Students for Justice in Palestine appealed to the council at Tuesday’s meeting, asking officers to support their cause.

Dana Saifan, the president of Students for Justice in Palestine and a fourth-year psychology student, expressed her concern that slate politics have prevented councilmembers from coming forward to support their resolution.

Last fall, Internal Vice President Avi Oved brought forth a resolution calling for the UC and UCLA to invest in companies that would foster cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians. More than 100 students showed up to the meeting to voice their opinions about the resolution, which council ultimately voted down .

All councilmembers from Bruins United, with the exception of General Representative Sam Haws, voted for Oved’s resolution. Independent and LET’S ACT! councilmembers voted against it. The resolution lost with a 5-7-0 vote.

At Tuesday’s USAC meeting, General Representative Lizzy Naameh and External Vice President Maryssa Hall expressed their support for the resolution and said the council needed to be open to discussing the concerns of Palestinian students.

“I hope some of you can stand in solidarity,” Naameh said. “If you feel unprepared for the issue, educate yourself.”

Some councilmembers at the meeting said they had reservations about sponsoring the resolution because they may not be able to adequately defend the resolution when it came time to vote. They added that slate politics did not factor into their decision about whether to sponsor the resolution.

Members of Students for Justice in Palestine have reached out to other groups on campus, such as the Afrikan Student Union, Bruins for Israel and Hillel at UCLA over the past several weeks to discuss their cause with other students.

Some students within UCLA’s Jewish community have said they oppose parts of the resolution.

One point of contention regarding the resolution concerns the Israeli military’s use of biometric identification systems to monitor Palestinian travel within occupied territories.

Hewlett-Packard currently supplies these systems, which identify people based on fingerprints or facial data, to checkpoints throughout the West Bank, Palma said.

Tammy Rubin, president of Hillel at UCLA and a third-year human biology and society student, said she thinks the identification systems could help checkpoints run more efficiently.

But others said they view the checkpoints and identification systems as oppressive toward Palestinians.

Avinoam Baral, a third-year human biology and society student and a member of Bruins for Israel, said that calls for divestment make him feel uncomfortable because they stem from the global boycott movement.

Baral, a chief of staff in the Internal Vice President’s Office, said some individuals who represent the broader boycott movement express values that conflict with his own beliefs.

Omar Barghouti, one of the the leading proponents of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, advocates for a one-state solution for Palestinians – a position that Baral disagrees with.

Palma said Students for Justice in Palestine purposely wrote the resolution not to condemn Israel in any way, and that its specific intent is to focus on Palestinian human rights.

Some students expressed concerns over whether the council would be able to take a stance on a complex issue such as divestment.

Oved said some members may not have the background knowledge about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to fully comprehend the situation, so they might make an uninformed decision about whether to divest.

Oved, the only Israeli-American on council, said that the issue is a personal one for him.

“I understand today that USAC is not the right forum to take a stance on the issue,” Oved said.

Palma said she hopes Students for Justice in Palestine can bring the resolution to table during eighth week.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Share on Reddit

Comments are supposed to create a forum for thoughtful, respectful community discussion. Please be nice. View our full comments policy here.

  • Aaron Lerner

    It was suggested above that one should “educate yourself” on this issue. Here are few though from Alan Dershowitz:

    Ten reasons why BDS is immoral and hinders peace

    The Israel boycott movement threatens the peace process by
    promoting extortion rather than negotiation, and discourages Palestinians from
    agreeing to any reasonable peace offer.

    By Alan M. Dershowitz

    As a strong supporter of the two state solution and a critic
    of Israel’s settlement policies, I am particularly appalled at efforts to
    impose divestment, boycotts and sanctions against Israel, and Israel alone,
    because BDS makes it more difficult to achieve a peaceful resolution of the
    Mid-East conflict that requires compromise on all sides.

    The BDS movement is highly immoral, threatens the peace
    process and discourages the Palestinians from agreeing to any reasonable peace
    offer. Here are ten compelling reasons why the BDS movement is immoral and
    incompatible with current efforts to arrive at a compromise peace.

    1. The BDS movement immorally imposes the entire blame for
    the continuing Israeli occupation and settlement policy on the Israelis.

    It refuses to acknowledge the historical reality that on at
    least three occasions, Israel offered to end the occupation and on all three
    occasions, the Palestinian leadership, supported by its people, refused to
    accept these offers. In 1967, I played a small role in drafting UN Security
    Council Resolution 242 that set out the formula for ending the occupation in
    exchange for recognition of Israel’s right to exist in peace. Israel accepted
    that resolution, while the Palestinians, along with all the Arab nations,
    gathered in Khartoum and issued their three famous “nos”: No peace, no
    negotiation, no recognition. There were no efforts to boycott, sanction or
    divest from these Arab naysayers. In 2000-2001, Israel’s liberal Prime Minister
    Ehud Barak, along with American President Bill Clinton, offered the
    Palestinians statehood, and the end of the occupation. Yasser Arafat rejected
    this offer—a rejection that many Arab leaders considered a crime against the
    Palestinian people. In 2007, Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered the
    Palestinians an even better deal, an offer to which they failed to respond.
    There were no BDS threats against those who rejected Israel’s peace offers. Now
    there are ongoing peace negotiations in which both parties are making offers
    and imposing conditions. Under these circumstances, it is immoral to impose
    blame only on Israel and to direct a BDS movement only against the nation state
    of the Jewish people, that has thrice offered to end the occupation in exchange
    for peace.

    2. The current BDS movement, especially in Europe and on
    some American university campuses, emboldens the Palestinians to reject
    compromise solutions to the conflict.

    Some within the Palestinian leadership have told me that the
    longer they hold out against making peace, the more powerful will be the BDS
    movement against Israel. Why not wait until BDS strengthens their bargaining
    position so that they won’t have to compromise by giving up the right of
    return, by agreeing to a demilitarized state and by making other concessions
    that are necessary to peace but difficult for some Palestinians to accept? The
    BDS movement is making a peaceful resolution harder.

    3. The BDS movement is immoral because its leaders will
    never be satisfied with the kind of two state solution that is acceptable to

    Many of its leaders do not believe in the concept of Israel
    as the nation state of the Jewish people. (The major leader of the BDS
    movement, Omar Barghouti, has repeatedly expressed his opposition to Israel’s
    right to exist as the nation state of the Jewish people even within the 1967
    borders.) At bottom, therefore, the leadership of the BDS movement is opposed
    not only to Israel’s occupation and settlement policy but to its very

    4. The BDS movement is immoral because it violates the core
    principle of human rights: namely, “the worst first.”

    Israel is among the freest and most democratic nations in
    the world. It is certainly the freest and most democratic nation in the Middle
    East. Its Arab citizens enjoy more rights than Arabs anywhere else in the
    world. They serve in the Knesset, in the judiciary, in the foreign service, in
    the academy and in business. They are free to criticize Israel and to support
    its enemies. Israeli universities are hotbeds of anti-Israel rhetoric, advocacy
    and even teaching. Israel has a superb record on women’s rights, gay rights,
    environmental rights and other rights that barely exist in most parts of the
    world. Moreover, Israel’s record of avoiding civilian casualties, while
    fighting enemies who hide their soldiers among civilians, is unparalleled in
    the world today. The situation on the West Bank is obviously different because
    of the occupation, but even the Arabs of Ramallah, Bethlehem and Tulkarm have more
    human and political rights than the vast majority of Arabs in the world today.
    Moreover, anyone—Jew, Muslim or

    Christian—dissatisfied with Israeli actions can express that
    dissatisfaction in the courts, and in the media, both at home and abroad. That
    freedom does not exist in any Arab country, nor in many non-Arab countries. Yet
    Israel is the only country in the world today being threatened with BDS. When a
    sanction is directed against only a state with one of the best records of human
    rights, and that nation happens to be the state of the Jewish people, the
    suspicion of bigotry must be considered.

    5. The BDS movement is immoral because it would hurt the
    wrong people.

    It would hurt Palestinian workers who will lose their jobs
    if economic sanctions are directed against firms that employ them. It would
    hurt artists and academics, many of whom are the strongest voices for peace and
    an end to the occupation. It would hurt those suffering from illnesses all
    around the world who would be helped by Israeli medicine and the collaboration
    between Israeli scientists and other scientists. It would hurt the high tech
    industry around the world because Israel contributes disproportionally to the
    development of such life enhancing technology.

    6. The BDS movement is immoral because it would encourage
    Iran—the world’s leading facilitator of international terrorism—to unleash its
    surrogates, such as Hezbollah and Hamas, against Israel, in the expectation
    that if Israel were to respond to rocket attacks, the pressure for BDS against
    Israel would increase, as it did when Israel responded to thousands of rockets
    from Gaza in 2008-2009.

    7. The BDS movement is immoral because it focuses the
    world’s attention away from far greater injustices, including genocide.

    By focusing disproportionately on Israel, the human rights
    community pays disproportionately less attention to the other occupations, such
    as those by China, Russia and Turkey, and to other humanitarian disasters such
    as that occurring in Syria.

    8. The BDS movement is immoral because it promotes false
    views regarding the nation state of the Jewish people, exaggerates its flaws
    and thereby promotes a new variation on the world’s oldest prejudice, namely

    It is not surprising therefore that the BDS movement is
    featured on neo-Nazi, Holocaust denial and other overtly anti-Semitic websites
    and is promoted by some of the world’s most notorious haters such as David

    9. The BDS movement is immoral because it reflects and
    encourages a double standard of judgment and response regarding human rights

    By demanding more of Israel, the nation state of the Jewish
    people, it expects less of other states, people, cultures and religions,
    thereby reifying a form of colonial racism and reverse bigotry that hurts the
    victims of human rights violations inflicted by others.

    10. The BDS movement will never achieve its goals.

    Neither the Israeli government nor the Israeli people will
    ever capitulate to the extortionate means implicit in BDS. They will not and
    should not make important decisions regarding national security and the safety
    of their citizens on the basis of immoral threats. Moreover, were Israel to
    compromise its security in the face of such threats, the result would be more wars,
    more death and more suffering.

    All decent people who seek peace in the Middle East should
    join together in opposing the immoral BDS movement. Use your moral voices to
    demand that both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority accept a
    compromise peace that assures the security of Israel and the viability of a
    peaceful and democratic Palestinian state. The way forward is not by immoral
    extortionate threats that do more harm than good, but rather by negotiations,
    compromise and good will.

    The author is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at
    Harvard, a practicing criminal and constitutional lawyer and the author, most
    recently, of “Taking the Stand: My Life in the Law.”

    • Colin Holbrook

      I respectfully encourage those interested in learning more about the divestment movement to consider the perspectives at the link below. These opinions diverge significantly from those of Alan Dershowitz (who I believe people on either side of this issue would agree is a relatively hardline advocate of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians):

      As far as labeling the divestment movement “extortion” — any state on the receiving end of any form of economic reprisals related to human rights violations is liable to react in this way. With respect to the related claim that “Neither the Israeli government nor the Israeli people will ever capitulate to the extortionate means implicit in BDS,” would the fact that Apartheid South Africa, for example, seemed unlikely to respond to sanctions mean that sanctions were inappropriate?


      • Aaron Lerner
        • Colin Holbrook

          I agree. Just an example. However, there are parallels that make South Africa a more apt comparison case than, say, Indonesia / East Timor (an even worse situation).

          Importantly, I should have specified that, in the analogy, Apartheid South Africa maps to the occupied territories, not Israel. As far as I know, the human rights of Palestinians living in Israel are recognized and upheld.

          So, at the risk of link overload, here’s one more that provides some explanation of the link w/ Apartheid (by a former U.S. president, mind you — not exactly an “extremist”):

          Finally, I am not trying to have the last word, but this issue inspires so much anger on both sides that I feel it best to leave the links and exchanges be for now.

          Thank you for the discussion and any readers for hopefully following the links. If there is a further reply I will let what I have said already speak for itself.