Thursday, February 27

Submission: USAC divestment resolution relevant to entire student body

In the coming weeks, the UCLA’s Undergraduate Students Association Council will be voting on a resolution calling on the UC Board of Regents to withdraw its investments from five companies directly complicit in and profiting from, violations of human rights and international law in the Palestinian territories, occupied by Israel since 1967.

Since I am from Israel, where it is common to express apprehension about Israeli occupation and where many of my friends publicly refrain from buying goods produced in Israeli settlements built on Palestinian land, I was surprised to discover that some critics of the divestment bill at UCLA are much less tolerant.

They see the bill as being “anti-Israel” and they claim that any divestment resolution, regardless of its actual wording, is directly offensive to Jews on campus of any nationality. In my opinion, these critics miss the point, or deflect it. The bill is not about Israel. It is about all of us at UCLA and our rights and responsibilities as students.

At the moment, every UCLA student is invested in, and therefore complicit in, without being consulted or even informed of, systematic violations of human rights and of international law.

Israeli policy in the Palestinian-occupied territories is widely regarded by governments, legal institutions and human rights organizations internationally as being in clear violation of the Hague Convention and the Fourth Geneva Convention, as well as being in violation of key United Nations covenants which form the basis for international humanitarian law.

By investing in these companies, the UC has created an unacceptable situation, made even more intolerable by the fact that many students are Palestinians, their fees partially supporting the oppression of their own families.

This cannot go on. As students of UCLA, we have common interests, rights and obligations toward each other. I have heard talk about the feelings of Jewish students being hurt. Yet, I have many Jewish and Israeli friends on campus who – despite many political disagreements – wholly support the divestment bill.

Personally, I find the assumption that every Jew is bound to feel the same about this issue to be very offensive. This bill is about us as a community of students coming together collectively and demanding changes in UC investments.

I am an international student, a Jewish citizen of Israel. As such I was obligated by law to serve for three years in the Israeli army, and was stationed in the occupied Palestinian territories.

These years spent as an administrator dealing with different aspects of the daily running of the occupation made me directly involved in systematic human rights violations against hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Palestinians. I remember names, specific cases, long nights during which houses were demolished and olive groves uprooted, appearing before my eyes as summaries of the night’s events.

I remember feeling tired and stressed most of the time and I also remember how I gradually became aware of the concrete ways in which I was participating in what I had already known to be a brutal system of oppression.

This direct involvement is not an abstract matter. It is humanly embodied in the pain and suffering of so many Palestinians. This knowledge of my responsibility, complicity and guilt will remain for me to grapple with until I die.

But it is not only direct, formal involvement of individuals that sustains the occupation. Economic investments, although hidden, are no less significant. The difference between my personal case and our collective case as students is that neither the UC Regents nor UCLA students are obligated by law to invest in these companies. We have a choice about the matter.

Little did I imagine that coming to study here, I would discover my university to be invested in companies involved with the everyday maintenance of the occupation.

The complicity of the UC and our UCLA in violations of human rights and international law is not a personal matter, nor is it an arcane feud between pro-Palestinians and pro-Israelis. It is relevant to each and every one of us.

We have a collective right as students not to be implicated in human rights abuses, in violations of international law and in brutal oppression. It is time to demand our right.

Ball is a graduate student of history at UCLA.

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

  • Haidar Anwar

    Amazing article; it’s beautifully written. Very well done!

  • Guest

    Thank you so much for speaking up, your words have definitely provided me a new perspective and I’m sure other students will learn something from your narrative.

  • Guest

    [[citation needed]]

    • NatalieIsEvil

      The DB has you cite every fact when you submit an article to it, and has its editors fact-check every single citation. They also don’t have to accept your citations if they aren’t from sources they see as reputable. I mean, have you seen a citation on any other article in here, or even in the NYT? This is just how newspapers work, and by saying “[[citation needed]]” all you’re calling attention to is that you must not read them very much.

  • Lulu

    Thank you so much for this beautifully written article. I appreciate your stance on this issue. Being a Palestinian I have great respect for those who see the occupation as being humanely problematic – more than it being just political.

  • non

    Roii, you make excellent points in regards to the liberal Israeli viewpoint… yes, you can love Israel and disagree with its policies. I think your article is misguided in this sense… This bill only hurts and hinders those from within Israeli society who are trying to reform it. In fact, this bill is part of the larger BDS movement, a movement that is explicit in its harmful, anti-peace rhetoric. It’s the difference between joining Chadash or interning for Breaking the Silence to actually joining Hamas and firing Qassam rockets. I wish you spent some time really looking at this bill and its implications, as the Pro-Israel and Jewish community needs dissenters like you from within to progress as opposed to being galvanized and “attacked” by opposition groups like SJP