Friday, January 24

Submission: UCLA’s failure to divest harms its Palestinian students

Today marks the beginning of UCLA’s Students for Justice in Palestine’s annual Palestine Awareness Week, a series of events centered on educating students about the Palestinian struggle for justice and equality. While Students for Justice in Palestine has been hosting this event for the past eight years, this week promises to be different, and more crucial than ever.

I say this because there is an issue our campus has been dancing around for quite some time that we are more than ready to finally talk about: divestment.

Divestment is a simple concept. It means that our university will stop investing funds in companies engaged in inappropriate or unethical behavior. It is part of a larger non-violent tactic called boycotts, divestment and sanctions, or BDS, that has been used successfully in numerous struggles, most notably in contributing to the end of South African apartheid. In 2005, it was adopted by Palestinian civil society as a way to put pressure on Israel to stop denying Palestinians freedom and equal rights.

The purpose and effect of divestment is not to destroy the state of Israel, nor to impose harm upon its citizens. It is a peaceful strategy which places economic pressure on companies to stop engaging in harmful and immoral practices. Some of these companies include Caterpillar, Cemex and Raytheon, which enable and profit from home demolitions in the West Bank, sell cement used to build a massive wall throughout Palestinian territory or sell weapons used to injure and kill Palestinian civilians, respectively.

While Students for Justice in Palestine calls on our campus to remove funds from corporations that aid in the violation of Palestinian rights, some students oppose this idea. They claim that divestment is divisive, creating a harmful campus climate, or that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is justified. But if anyone on campus is being harmed by this issue, it is due to the appalling fact that, simply by paying their tuition, Palestinian students at UCLA are funding the destruction of their own family’s homes or aiding in the construction of the 8-meter-high, 430-mile-long wall that separates their families in Palestine. Divesting from these companies can do no real harm to UCLA’s pro-Israel students, whereas our current investments are already harming Palestinians and UCLA students with families and loved ones in Palestine.

In November 2012, Students for Justice in Palestine issued a call in the Daily Bruin for a debate on divestment. Although we have repeated the call several times, no one has taken up our offer. Instead, we’ve seen responses range from trying to ban our campaign to attempting to portray us as unreasonable and extreme.

Two weeks ago, an Undergraduate Students Association Council member proposed a resolution that would have skipped this debate altogether by prohibiting divestment in favor of the vague notion of positive investments. Since the resolution failed, Students for Justice in Palestine has been labeled angry, extreme, unwilling to talk, unwilling to talk about talk and, most laughably, in a comment on a Daily Bruin article, UCLA’s version of the Tea Party. We view this as an attempt to avoid an honest debate about divestment, and we are confident that UCLA students who are interested in the honest pursuit of knowledge will not avoid our perspective just because we are being stigmatized by those who disagree with us.

Palestine Awareness Week is an opportunity to have our viewpoint heard and judged fairly, not cut off through bills that prohibit our campaign or through discourse that imposes negative stereotypes on us. We invite you to meet us at Bruin Plaza, to read our material, ask us questions, join us for evening panels and make up your own minds about whether or not we should continue to invest in the ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people.

Palma is a graduate student in anthropology and a board member for the Students for Justice in Palestine.

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  • Guest

    “Divestment as a solidarity strategy can hurt a regime or company economically’

    You say that the “purpose and effect of divestment is not to destroy the State of Israel, nor impose harm upon its citizens.” One of the main websites for the BDS movement states that it is aimed at hurting Israel. I think it is an unfair statement to say that it is a peaceful strategy if that is what your argument for why it is not divisive and creating negative campus climate.

  • Sad

    It is dishonest for Ms. Palma to equate Israel treatment of Palestinians to South Africa Apartheid when the real discrimination against Palestinians is done by the Arab countries.

    In 1959, the Arab League passed Resolution 1457, which states as follows: “The Arab countries will not grant citizenship to applicants of Palestinian origin in order to prevent their assimilation into the host countries.”

    That is a stunning resolution, which was diametrically opposed to international norms in everything pertaining to refugees in those years, particularly in that decade. If you check, you will find that even today, children of Palestinians that were born in most Arab countries are not allowed to become citizen!

    Those children can only dream but they have no access to higher education, healthcare, jobs and other social services that Palestinians enjoy in Israel and the West Bank. This is the REAL Apartheid.

    • asdfsdf

      Exactly. There were also lots of Hindus in Pakistan, around 20%. Now it is around 2% due to Islamic violence. That is the REAL Apartheid.

    • woah

      that’s a good point and there I’m not here to argue for or against your opinion, but but next time, don’t plagiarize.

      Also, the website this was taken from (above) was made by a man named David Horowitz, who is widely thought to be a racist and who has used money, possibly from this website, to run a television ad “alleging the Muslim Students’ Association (MSA) [at UCSB] of having links to the Muslim Brotherhood, Al Qaeda and Hamas.”

      Context is everything.

      A Simple wikipedia search would go a long ways


    Great work SJP!

    • pat roberts

      Yeah, bunch of racists.

  • Divestment is impossible

    This whole divestment thing is a political ploy, nothing more. Even if this weren’t such a contentious issue, there is no way that the UC would divest from companies doing business in the West Bank and Israel simply because it’s impossible to do so. The UC does not invest in them directly, but through numerous mutual funds and pension funds, which are worth hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars. There is simply no way that the UC would change its whole investment strategy over an issue that is, when compared to the whole size of the UC student body, not important enough.

    But don’t let facts stop your plans for the annual week of anti-Semitic hate and lies.

    • B(d)S

      Indeed. The endeavor is failed from the start and waste of time for USAC at the same time as it’s needlessly destructive to campus climate. The Regents and Office of the President have stated they will not consider any divestment the “United States government declares that foreign regime is committing acts of genocide.”

  • lpt

    Ms. Palma, what do you mean by this statement: “In 2005, it was adopted by Palestinian civil society”

    Was it adopted by the Palestinian Authority or any other legitimate representative of the Palestinian people? Is there an official presidential proclamation in support of BDS? The answer is of course NO!

    You have no business in promoting initiatives in the name of the Palestinian people that their legitimate representatives did not authorize.

    • Jason Ball

      You don’t understand what the term civil society means. I suggest you take an introduction to Political Science, Sociology, Anthropology, or History course. Or just use wikipedia.

      It is also fairly fascistic to limit political agency to representation.

  • B(d)S

    “If indeed BDS is concerned with violations of international and human rights law, it is notable that they focus none of their attention on known human rights violators and oppressive governments such as Iran,
    Sudan, China, Saudi Arabia, or Pakistan.” No iPhones for you!

  • zOMG Zionists!!!1!1!1!

    The West Bank security barrier saves lives. This article presents it as nothing more than a manifestation of Israeli racism and cruelty toward Palestinians. The truth, however, is that Israel built the fence (it’s mostly a fence, not a wall, by the way) in response to a wave of suicide bombings carried out by various Palestinian terrorist organizations. The security barrier has reduced the rate of suicide bombings by about 90 percent.

    Do we really need to go out of our way to punish a Mexican cement company simply because Israel used their products to build a barrier that has saved the lives of countless Israeli civilians?

  • StCuthbert

    If Palestinian students do not wish to fund those companies, perhaps they should attend another university. Why do they feel they can impose their political views on an entire student body?

  • Aaron Lerner

    Ms. Palma: It’s unclear to me by what authority you write: “Divesting from these companies can do no real harm to UCLA’s
    pro-Israel students?” Can you provide a reference? Have you asked them? I’m very surprised to see this line got past DB’s very thorough editors.

    • Aaron Lerner

      Furthermore, I would add that, having lived in Israel while there was no barrier keeping terrorists out, I was personally in close proximity to a major suicide bombing which murdered people I knew. Removing this barrier would allow these murders to begin anew, potentially killing the Israeli family members of some of your fellow “pro-Israel” Bruins whom you claim cannot possibly be harmed by divestment efforts. I’m not sure I can think of a more insidious assertion. You and I probably agree that the barrier should be better routed in some areas to avoid separating families, but by-in-large, it’s built along 1967 lines and will be modified in whatever peace agreement the parties negotiate. See here for both information about the barrier’s efficacy in preventing suicide bombings and sniper attacks, in addition to information and maps about its route:

    • pat roberts

      Who needs a reference. She is lying. Like Obama.

  • Typical comment

    [pretended shock] + [racist slur] + [oh look over there at some other atrocity] = [don’t do anything about atrocities Israel commits against Palestinian people]

    • Typical PS BS

      [equate the state of Israel with all Jews; don’t listen to Jews who side with Palestinians, and claim they don’t exist; equate criticism of Israel with anti-semitism and BDS with hate crimes, because states have feelings too, you know]

  • pat roberts

    Idiots who want divestment are no different than the Nazis. I’m glad UCLA isn’t buying into this left-wing garbage.

  • pat roberts

    UCLA probably doesn’t have a divestment policy because its Muslim pig activists are too busy stoning their women.

  • Ross

    “Divesting from these companies can do no real harm to UCLA”

    So what happens if our rich Jewish donors decide to divest from UCLA?

    My advice: don’t be an anthropologist. Learn finance, join Goldman Sachs, make a million dollars, start a hedge fund, make a billion dollars, and donate it to Palestine. Problem solved. Palestine has enough poor people supporting its cause. What it needs are rich, influential patrons like the ones Israel has.

    • zOMG Zionists!!!1!1!1!

      The Palestinians need rich, influential patrons like who? Like Saudi Arabia? Their cause is already bankrolled by the rich Arab states.

      Oh wait, the Arab states don’t actually care about the Palestinians–they care about harming and ultimately destroying Israel.

      • Ross

        Precisely. Hence, if the honorable Miss Palma here really wants to help Palestinians, she should quit being an Anthropologist and make the personal sacrifice to become a billionaire (or at the very least a millionaire.) This way, she can make a tangible difference in the issues she cares about, and avoid writing these stupid articles risking the future generosity of our Jewish donors to our financially imperiled university.

        Believe it or not, many of us don’t give a shit about Israel OR Palestine. They’ve hated each other for generations, and they will continue to hate each other for generations. Mark my words, the only solution is a fight to the death or secularization of that entire region. Neither is happening any time soon.