Wednesday, May 27

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.

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