Students mobilize in response to divestment resolution
Feb. 25, 2014 12:41 a.m.
Students are mobilizing for and against a resolution that calls for divestment from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.
The Undergraduate Students Association Council is set to vote Tuesday on the resolution, which asks for the University of California to divest from specific companies that the resolution claims are complicit in the human rights abuses of Palestinians. The resolution names Cemex, Caterpillar, Cement Roadstone Holdings, General Electric and Hewlett-Packard.
Earlier this month, Students for Justice in Palestine at UCLA started working on the resolution to bring to USAC for a vote.
While Students for Justice in Palestine members have promoted the resolution, other student organizations, including Bruins for Israel and Hillel at UCLA, have campaigned against it. Both sides of the debate have tried to lobby students through social media and other methods.
Dana Saifan, a fourth-year psychology student and the president of Students for Justice in Palestine, said she thinks students need to take a stance on the issue and address it at the UCLA and UC level.
“The companies are responsible for building and maintaining the checkpoints and wall in Palestine, which keeps Palestinians from getting to work, school or their families on Palestinian land,” Saifan said.
Agatha Palma, an anthropology graduate student and director of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions for Students for Justice in Palestine, said group members began meeting fall quarter with organizations on campus, including Hillel at UCLA and Bruins for Israel, to talk with them about the resolution’s goals.
This year, Students for Justice in Palestine have held two movie screenings featuring documentaries about Palestine and the effects of the different companies on the region.
Students for Justice in Palestine also started a Facebook page called UCLA Divest, which had more than 1,100 likes Monday night.
The Facebook page allows students to post their opinions and contains information, articles and videos about the resolution and the companies from which some students want to divest. The page also demonstrates support from other communities through statements from campus organizations and professors, among other posts, she said.
On Thursday, members of Bruins for Israel created a Facebook page called Bruins Against BDS, in response to the resolution. BDS stands for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, a movement which aims to put economic and political pressure on Israel to end the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank.
In less than a day, Bruins Against BDS obtained 1,000 likes, said Avinoam Baral, a third-year human biology and society student who has been involved in efforts to stop the resolution from passing.
Students can voice their opinions about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement through the Facebook page, said Baral, the chief of staff of the USAC Internal Vice President’s Office.
The page also includes information about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement globally and on campus, featuring articles from the New York Times and the Washington Post.
Baral said he thinks this demonstrates that part of UCLA’s community opposes divestment, so the resolution does not represent the holistic view of the student body.
In addition to lobbying through social media, Students for Justice in Palestine held four teach-ins this year, where they reviewed the resolution and addressed concerns about it with students and members of USAC, Saifan said. Students for Justice in Palestine also held weekly office hours to inform students about the divestment they are asking for.
Miriam Eshaghian, a fourth-year psychobiology student and the president of Bruins for Israel, said she thinks USAC should not vote on the resolution because it is too rooted in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“The resolution is anti-peace, anti-coexistence and highly offensive,” Eshaghian said.
The USAC meeting, which was moved from Kerckhoff Hall to Ackerman Grand Ballroom in anticipation of high turnout, will be on Tuesday at 7 p.m. Students who want to weigh in on the resolution can attend the event and voice their opinions during the public comment portion.