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USAC rejects resolution on divestment after long meeting

Editor’s note: Because of the offensive nature of discussion around this article, commenting has been closed.

The undergraduate student government voted down a resolution early Wednesday morning calling for UCLA and the University of California to divest from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank.

The Undergraduate Students Association Council voted against the resolution with a 5-7-0 vote in a secret ballot. USAC moved to make the ballot secret after councilmembers raised concerns that their safety would be threatened by individuals who disagreed with their votes.

After a tie vote to use a secret ballot, USAC President John Joanino made the final decision to vote anonymously, despite protests from some councilmembers.

More than 500 people attended the meeting, which began Tuesday at 7 p.m. and lasted until 6:30 a.m. Wednesday. The public comment part of the meeting, where students expressed support or criticism for the resolution, lasted for nearly 9 hours, ending at about 4 a.m.

The resolution asked for divestment from Caterpillar, Cement Roadstone Holdings, General Electric, Hewlett-Packard and Cemex – companies that the resolution says contribute to human rights abuses against Palestinians.

Facilities Commissioner Armen Hadjimanoukian of the Bruins United slate, Community Service Commissioner Omar Arce, an independent councilmember, and General Representative Lizzy Naameh of the LET’S ACT! slate sponsored the resolution.

Arce said he and other councilmembers sponsored the resolution to demonstrate that slate politics did not interfere with the decision to bring it to table.

Joanino pushed for USAC to take a straw vote at the beginning of the council discussion to determine which USAC members would be willing to support the resolution.

During an initial straw vote, Hadjimanoukian, Financial Supports Commissioner Lauren Rogers, Academic Affairs Commissioner Darren Ramalho, Internal Vice President Avi Oved, General Representative Sunny Singh, Campus Events Commissioner Jessica Kim and General Representative Sam Haws voted against the resolution.

In a second straw vote later in the meeting, no councilmembers changed their vote. Student Wellness Commissioner Savannah Badalich, Naameh, External Vice President Maryssa Hall, Cultural Affairs Commissioner Jessica Trumble and Arce still said they would support the resolution.

Kim said she felt uncomfortable voting for the resolution because she thought it was divisive and she did not want to alienate the resolution’s opponents if there was a chance USAC could find a less polarizing solution to the issue.

“I would like to represent the entire study body in the most representative way as possible,” Kim said.

During the discussion, Hall told councilmembers she thinks they should take stances on issues even if they are controversial. She added that she did not think USAC was neutral in the debate, since UC funding, to which students contribute, is invested in companies specified in the resolution.

“As an elected official, I will continue to take stances and the right stances,” Hall said.

Hall said she thought councilmembers who did not feel knowledgeable about the issue should abstain from voting, something that is not common with this year’s council.

During the council meeting, officers discussed a resolution relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that Oved authored and brought to table last quarter. Oved said he was wrong to bring the resolution to the council in the fall.

Some councilmembers said they thought Students for Justice in Palestine should have included the input of Jewish student groups on campus, such as Bruins for Israel and Hillel at UCLA, in the drafting of the resolution.

“If this resolution is passed, then the Jewish community will feel marginalized,” Rogers said.

Rogers, Oved, Ramalho and Singh all said that they wanted students to look for a more inclusive solution to the issue and that the divestment resolution was not the right approach to the problem.

“I want to challenge the fact that this divestment resolution is the only means to change,” Oved said. “This can be a united front. This can.”

After councilmembers voted down the resolution, students chanted against the decision for a few minutes and then filed out of Ackerman Grand Ballroom.

Naameh exited the room with members of Students for Justice in Palestine before the meeting ended and Hall stood and put up her fist in solidarity with students who supported the resolution.

Dozens of students said they were too disappointed with the vote to comment on it to the Daily Bruin as they walked out of the meeting, while others said they thought councilmembers made a just decision.

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  • adslkjf

    Thank God this did not pass. Now USAC officers need to go back to doing their real job and stop commenting on stupid stuff like divestment, Napolitano immigration, etc. Do something for the students instead of your own selfish purpose, for once.

    • jaimeson

      ^ three sentence summary of why we need a diversity req.

      Shame on USAC for choosing pacificism over human rights.

      • adslkjf

        Why do we need a diversity req when we have so many students struggling to graduate in 4 years? We do not need more requirements. If you want to take a class for diversity, then take it. Don’t force your other students to do so. Most of us have enough coursework on our hands.

        • asdjfaksjd;a

          It’s not going to add another requirement. It’s just changing one of them.

          Foundations of Society and Culture
          -1 Historical Analysis class
          -1 Social Analysis class
          -1 of either Historical or Social Analysis class

          Foundations of Society and Culture
          -1 Historical Analysis class
          -1 Social Analysis class
          -1 Cultural Analysis class (this list is to be determined by the faculty and department heads)

          • Elon

            The other Historical Analysis class you are removing would likely end up teaching far more about diversity than any artificial PC Cultural Awareness requirement.

        • jaimeson

          We need it bc someone up there thinks that dealing with “stupid stuff” like Palestinian human rights and our broken immigration system isn’t worth our time.

          Voice your concerns to the chancellor.

          • adslkjf

            UCLA and USAC need to focus on improving the student experience, not on issues like immigration which are under the jurisdiction of the government. What about human rights for the Baluch people who are oppressed by the Pakistani government? And Napolitano should be criticized for not enforcing the immigration system. She has been too lenient on those who crossed these borders illegally and broke federal laws.

      • Alex S.

        Pacificism should never take precedence over human rights. End Indian, Arctic, Atlantic, and Antarctic subjugation now!

        • George Asswipe

          Liberty and justice for all penguins, regardless of colour or religious belief!!!

  • NatalieIsEvil

    Student government just voted to finance racist human rights violations with our tuition. They decided that our money should reward private war profiteers for trafficking in oppression.

    It’s not divisive to divest from corporations who are participating in what are recognized as crimes against humanity by everything from Amnesty International to the International Court of Justice. It’s divisive to stay invested in these.

    Shame on everyone who voted against peace–for HP’s checkpoint segregation and GE’s civilian-targeting rockets. Y’all have blood on your hands. As does everyone who allowed that vote to be kept private so that whoever wants to participate in war crimes can do so in secret.

    I’ve never been so ashamed that this campus is my home.

    • wueroie

      What about racist human rights violations by the Pakistani military against the Balouch people? Why are you silent about companies that reward the Pakistani military that killed 3 million people in 1971?

      Shame on USAC for thinking it should spend time on issues like this. Spend more time helping the students of UCLA (what happened to the promise of having syllabi available before we enroll in classes?), instead of foolish things like this.

      • NatalieIsEvil

        We aren’t currently investing our tuition money into the Pakistani military, much less into the Pakistani military of 40+ years ago.

        • Elon

          Ha ha ha. You clearly do not know your Cold War History or what is going on in Pakistan now.

      • Florida Dolphin

        i agree…there are many more campus issues that directly relate to the students that need improvement.

    • maththemath

      Okay, look. Not quite. I’m so so so in favor of this resolution and others like it, but a resolution being shot down does not mean that the opposite view of the resolution is supported. It just means that they did not urge investments in these companies to be pulled.

      They weren’t voting on peace. They weren’t voting on a side. They were voting on whether or not they supported a certain type of political pressure.

      - a viewer from MN in strong support of divestment

      • NatalieIsEvil

        That doesn’t seem logically sound. If they vote against ending financial ties to evil, then they’re voting to continue using our tuition to buy boats and houses for executive gun-runners.

        • maththemath

          They voted to not weigh in on the matter. It’s also important to note that the resolution in the first place simply took a stance on the matter and wouldn’t have directly influenced funding or lack thereof.

    • Farbod

      what “human rights violations” are you speaking of exactly?
      “checkpoint’s segregation” are for the Israeli citizen’s security and without them the terrorist attacks against the Israelis will increase.
      by “civilian-targeting rocks” I’m sure that you mean “militant-targeting missiles” and last time I checked every time there is an Israeli air strike against the Palestinians, It is a RESPONSE to rocket attacks that are fired TOWARDS CIVILIANS.
      The council voted in secret because there was a “safety concern” and I wonder who they were really scared of?

    • firedup49

      What racist human rights violations.
      LGBT rights in Israel since the 60′s try being openly gay in the other countries that surround Israel, as Iran.

    • Florida Dolphin

      So leave the school if you do not agree with what it represents…you made the choice to go there

  • wueroie


  • jeffklives

    If the resolution passed, does anyone think the UC Regents would have listened and divested? The main purpose was to air grievances against Israel. That was done. Discussion on what justice means depends on the individual. People are hurting on both sides. Passing this resolution wouldn’t have changed that.

    If students wanted to try to do something constructive they would try to push forth a resolution that states something along the lines that we the students of UCLA support the resolution of the conflict based upon the principal of two states for two peoples. We support the resolution of the conflict where Israel servers as the homeland of the Jewish people and a Palestinian state is created based upon the 1967 borders with some land swaps that serves as the homeland of the Palestinian people, The Palestinian refugees be compensated and have a right to return to the newly created Palestinian state. A big problem with this resolution seemed to be its supporters close ties to support for the BDS Movement and its founders do not support the two state solution that most (me included) is the best hope for peace.

    • NatalieIsEvil

      Regents said the same thing about South Africa, but then relented when most campuses passed resolutions to divest from their apartheid profiteers. Nelson Mandela always cited the UC movement to divest as key to creating the conditions for the South African resistance’s victory against racism.

      • jeffklives

        The Israel/Palestine conflict is not South Africa. The best hope for a resolution to bring peace isn’t a single state. It is a negotiated two state for two people settlement between Israelis and Palestinians.

        Neither side is going to give up its national ambitions. The only way the Palestinian will be first rate citizens is if they have a state of their own. Look at the hardships that Palestinians have had to suffer and they haven’t given up their national ambitions In the same way, Jewish Israelis aren’t going to dissolve their state because of boycotts and divestment.

        Perhaps a specifically targeted boycott on goods produced on settlements may have some positive effects in dividing Israelis. But any boycott or divestment that is tied to the larger BDS Movement led by someone like Barghouti is not going to be effective. The larger BDS Movement unites Israelis, which won’t lead to change.

        • NatalieIsEvil

          This was a resolution for divestment from 5 corporations known to have committed human rights violations in Israel-Palestine (as corroborated by groups from Amnesty International to the International Court of Justice). This was not BDS against the state of Israel. Anything that claims otherwise is not reading the language of the resolution. And the resolution was what was being voted on.

          • jeffklives

            The resolution was brought forward by Students for Justice in Palestine who supports BDS.

            If it had been passed, it would have been a victory for the pro-BDS crowd. The BDS crowd do not necessarily support the two state for two people resolution that is the US policy and policy I support.

            If the resolution was put forward by a group that honored Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people and Palestine as the homeland of the Palestinian people and there was some language along those lines in the resolution, there would be less suspicion about the limited goal of the resolution.

            From what I heard Hillel tried to be part of coalition of writing of the resolution and their offer was rejected.

            It is a complex issue and context matters.

            My thoughts are the occupation needs to end. Continued building of settlements hurts Israel. The status quo sucks. I would have still voted no on this resolution.

          • Elon

            Obviously, is was BDS against the State of Israel. The “D” in BDS stands for divestment. And the action was only being recommended, as a way to get involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which every speech on both sides of the issue mentioned. Where were you last night?

          • Elon

            Furthermore, your opinion is entirely dishonest, as you and SJP have no reason not to support BDS. In fact you have made clear many times that you DO support the movement as a whole. The only reason this resolution did not push for it is that the writers were too cowardly to act on their consciences and instead pushed for what they thought would be politically expedient.

      • Lee Kaplan

        Israel is not South Africa. Arab have equal rights in Israel. Stop talking like an idiot. YOu fool nobody.

  • Philassie

    The main problem with the resolution is not that it was divisive it is that it was based on lies, falsehoods and misleading assertions. The fact that the council entertained anti jewish hate speech (under the guise of humanitarianism) for so long is a disgrace to our school.

    • jaimeson

      Do me a favor and tell me exactly what constitutes “anti-Jewish hate speech” in the bill you may or may not have actually read.

      • SteveBronson

        Maybe it’s the way it put the focus on Israel, while ignoring the fact that some of those corporations also have contracts with the Palestinian Authority. The group behind the bill say they stand for “the promotion of human rights, equality, and dignity for all people without distinction,” but they seem to have no problem with the PA’s treatment of gays, for example.

        Why would a group of people say they stand for the promotion of human rights and dignity for all people without distinction, but have no problem with the way the Palestinian Authority treats gay people?

        • Florida Dolphin

          or making their own children martyrs by strapping bombs to them…all in the name of Allah. It has been seen by the world and unfortunately accepted by the world that the muslims are an oppressed people who use suicide and all forms of terrorism as the norm. Being the case, they need to accept responsibility for their actions and not blame those actions on the Israelis. That would be like me crashing into your car and blaming you for the accident because your jewish…absolutely absurd

  • jeffklives

    I have to give John Joanino credit for keeping things civil and allowing speakers to be heard. I listened to about 3 hours of the live feed last night and he did a good job.

  • Anon

    we should look at why the uc system has the lowest returns among the largest college funds.

    “If the endowment had matched the returns of an AVERAGE performer in the CIR analysis, the university system would have increased its endowment by an additional $3.2 billion over 10 years.”

  • Hila Solomon

    Just another overt act of anti-semitism cloaked in false claims. To go after Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, the only country in the region in which women and the LGBT community have rights, the ONLY country (yeah, check your history–see whether Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt accepted Palestinians into their societies) in which Palestinians are free to work, become citizens, sit in the parliament, and participate in every single activity that Jewish-Israelis participate in (except for serving in the army), is shameful, at best. I’ll be waiting for a similar resolution to boycott countries that are ACTUALLY committing human rights violations–Iran, Egypt, Ukraine, Syria. Shouldn’t hold my breath, because, as I said, this is nothing but pure bigotry and hatred towards the Jewish people.

  • Razib_Taif1

    What’s next? Will they seek divestment from Saudi Arabia for chattel status of women? From Iran for hanging gay men? From Yemen for imprisonment of homosexuals? From Pakistan for executing non-Muslims for the ‘crime’ of blasphemy? From Egypt for criminalizing Muslims who want to switch to another religion?

    I am all for criticism of Israel for some matters, but the fact that it always remain only Israel and not the glaring human rights violators in the neighborhood betray the bigoted nature of this resolution.

  • Lee Kaplan

    The sole purpose of the divestment and boycott is to starve the Jews out in the Middle East. Caterpillar has a sales office in Gaza so Hamas even is not divesting from that firm. This is a further way to carry on the Arab attacks on the Jews in the Middle East and should have been rejected. As for human rights violations, Israel; is a representative democracy where Arabs have equal rights to Jews by law. whereas the Palestinian Authority says no Jews may live in Palestine and even proposes deporting Jews from their homes. The allusion to South Africa is to dupe the unknowing into supporting the Arabs and their fascist regime against the Israeli democracy. As a Bruin alum, I am disgusted my university is falling in line with this same hysteria. Thank God the resolution didn’t pass, but the fanatics will bring it back again when they think the opposition might be on vacation like they did at UC Berkeley. This must no happen.

  • garyfouse

    What needs to be asked is why the UCLA student government has to spend so many hours of its time, energy and resources to this issue which has nothing to do with the UCLA student body and will be ignored by the university even if it passes. Shouldn’t the student government be devoting its time and resources to issues that affect the student body?

    It is clear the pro-Palestinian lobby is conducting a well-coordinated effort to make the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the number one issue on US college campuses. To the UCLA student govt. I say -Don’t let yourselves by manipulated .You could have spent 9 hours doing more useful things on behalf of the student body.

    Gary Fouse
    Adj teacher
    UC Irvine Ext

  • rogerdm

    Typical anti-Semite B.S.
    Tell me there “genius”, which is the ONLY country in the Middle East that is actually TOLERANT of other religions being in their country?
    Tell me, which is the ONLY country in the Middle East that isn’t sending suicide bombers into schools, on to buses, and firing rockets EVERY DAY into another country.
    Tell me, which is the ONLY country in the Middle East that IS NOT RECOGNIZED by the Palestinians.
    Tell me, which is the ONLY country in the Middle East that has had calls for the entire NATION to be wiped out or to be driven in to the sea?
    I note that while a MAJORITY of those in attendance were AGAINST Israel and at times attempted to SHOUT DOWN those that supported Israel, all you can do is comment on thing that you SAY you heard, but which NO ONE else backs you up with.
    And tell me on last thing oh great elitist anti-Semite moron, if the vote was to MARGINALIZE ISRAEL, exactly how were the Palestinians “marginalized and oppressed” by this vote? The vote was NOT about the Palestinians, but about ISRAEL.
    Geez, and you’re supposed to be a future “leader” of this nation?

    • Michelle T.

      First, I’d like to point out the fact that you’re utilizing the same exact argument I outlined above. You’re attempting to discredit me by attacking me as a person and calling me an anti-Semite.
      This is not true. Growing up, I’ve had Jewish friends. I’m tolerant of all cultures and religions, and do my best to understand people whose perspectives differ from me. In fact, I’ve read the memoir Alicia: My Story, a novel about a woman’s experiences in the Holocaust, more than 10 times because I consider it to not only an incredibly moving and informative story.
      Furthermore, I never said I was a genius, nor that I’m a future “leader” of this nation. I wrote my analysis of the debate after watching for about four hours and doing my research on both sides.
      While I can’t say I know everything about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I do my best to read up on both sides and figure out what I think makes the most sense. All I know is that atrocious human rights violations are enacted by the Israelis against the Palestinians. And while I don’t commend violence from the Palestinians against the Israelis, I assume that when it does occur, it is because they are trying to defend themselves from the occupation of their beloved homeland.
      I’m not saying that Palestinians were marginalized and oppressed by this vote. I’m saying that what I overheard (which you seem to not be able to believe) was an example of racism, marginalization, and oppression that I am sure is carried about by many (but not all) Jewish people against Palestinians. Of course, I’m sure that at times, there are also hateful (but wrong) comments from Palestinians to the Jewish, but I’m just commenting on what I witnessed firsthand myself.
      Moreover, I find it completely SELFISH for you to say that this vote was ONLY about Israel. There are two sides to the story, and not everything is about Israel. Palestinians have feelings and a story as well.
      Furthermore, you don’t know that “no one backs me up”. I’m just one of the few (and you as well) who is voicing her opinion through these comments. Just because it’s not explicitly written as a comment on this article doesn’t make it nonexistent.
      I watched the public comments for about four hours. I don’t remember hearing those who were against the divestment (NOT against Israel) shouting down those against the divestment, but if that did occur than I agree that was wrong and unprofessional. In matters like these, those with opposing perspectives should be respectful and try to learn as much from each other as they can.
      And lastly, I’ll leave you with this- those who are for the divestment aren’t against the Israel itself, but what is perceived to be the atrocities that Israel commits in the name of the right to its “God-given land”.

    • Michelle T.

      Furthermore, I’m more than willing to listen to logical, non inflammatory arguments against the divestment. I’d like to educate myself more on this issue.
      To engage in dialogue, I’d like to perform a thought experiment. Let’s put ourselves in the Palestinian’s shoes. What if the American Indians, whose lands have been stolen from them, who have been grossly mistreated at the hands of our government, proclaimed that their god had established that Los Angeles is theirs, and that they had a god-given right to live in Los Angeles? Let’s say that they then took over Los Angeles, bulldozed our apartments to make settlements for themselves… and established checkpoints in our city that we had to pass through every day. How would you feel? Would you be happy about this? How would this situation be resolved?
      While in this thought experiment, the American Indians were treated horrifically in the past and were justified in WANTING to reclaim what they considered to be their land, that still doesn’t justify their mistreatment of those already living in Los Angeles. Hopefully the two could peacefully coexist, but if the American Indians destroyed the lives of those currently living in Los Angeles, it’s understandable that those currently living in Los Angeles would be angry. Of course, if they retaliated and murdered people, that wouldn’t be right either, but the point of this thought experiment is merely to understand what’s deemed as the “opposition’s” point of view by pro-Israelis.
      There’s no denying that I haven’t captured the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with this thought experiment. But if you’re willing to engage with me in a constructive, critical, and thoughtful manner instead of calling me names, I would love to learn more about the Israeli perspective.

  • George Asswipe

    And I bet they had hooked noses too, right?

    • Michelle T.

      No. From what I overheard and the language they were using, they were obviously discussing the divestment from a Jewish perspective.

  • Florida Dolphin

    So is the USA…Your forefathers did the exact same thing to the American Indians and Mexican people. I’m sure you are not ready to give all you have back to them!!!. If the Arabs would spend as much time improving their economy, and land they live on now, and stop using their children as martyrs…they could be a productive society. It’s time to move on like everyone else in history has done.

  • Florida Dolphin

    If the pro palestinian people want to do something productive….please go help your people in Syria which is having a much worse human rights violation against palestinians and syrians.

  • unboundried

    Divestment is a pretty benign form of expression. UCLA can always reinvest when Israel resolves the human rights issues involved. Human rights issues against Palestinians exist and are serious. Of course Israel supporters are going to oppose such a resolution. The global community has been pretty patient with Israel’s refusals to join the community of civilized nations. What you do is so loud, Israel, we cannot hear what you say. Now is the right time for action.