The ASUC Senate will be revisiting one of UC Berkeley’s most contentious issues with the introduction of a bill that calls for the divestment of all ASUC and UC funds from any company associated with the Israeli military or settlement activity in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The bill — which appeared on the agenda for Wednesday’s senate meeting and was authored by Student Action Senator George Kadifa — calls for divestment of ASUC and UC assets from any companies that provide support to Israel’s military in Palestine or contribute to the building, maintenance or economic development of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories.
Student Action Senator and presidential candidate Rafi Lurie has authored an opposing bill — also introduced at Wednesday night’s meeting — that calls for the ASUC to instruct managers of its funds to “seek investment opportunities that strengthen Israeli-Palestinian cooperation” rather than divesting funds.
Both bills will go to the senate’s Committee on University and External Affairs for consideration on Monday, after which it may be moved to a vote.
Another bill, similar to the one authored by Kadifa, attempted to demand divestment from Israel in 2010. It led to heated debates, which drew hundreds of students to senate meetings and brought international attention to campus. This bill was passed by the senate but then vetoed by then-president Will Smelko. The senate failed to gather the two-thirds majority vote necessary to override the veto.
The bill authored by Kadifa calls the university a “complicit third party” in Israel’s “illegal occupation and resulting human rights abuses.” It identifies and seeks divestment of at least $14 million in UC Retirement Program and General Endowment assets from companies such as Caterpillar and Hewlett-Packard.
“Our campus climate is already divisive because right now we are profiting from human rights violations inflicted on our own students,” Kadifa said. “By refusing to acknowledge injustice in human rights, we are diminishing our humanity.”
UC Berkeley Jewish Student Union President Daphna Torbati said the bill would make pro-Israel students feel unwelcome.
“I feel like the main issue is that potential Jewish students will not feel comfortable on this campus,” Torbati said. “It makes me personally feel uncomfortable.”
ASUC President Connor Landgraf said he hopes not to see a fallout between campus communities similar to what occurred after the previous divestment battle, but he said he is hopeful the bill could foster discussion and the reconciliation of strained relationships this time.
“It’s up to the communities involved to maintain a civil discussion on education and building relationships rather than tearing them down,” he said. “That’s the only way we can have constructive progress.”
Jeremy Gordon covers higher education. Contact him at [email protected].