UCLA student council resolves to divest from companies tied to violence against Palestinians

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With an 8-2-2 vote Tuesday, the UCLA Undergraduate Students Association Council, or USAC, resolved to divest from a list of companies allegedly tied to violence against Palestinians, establishing a majority of UC student governments that have called for the UC Board of Regents to disentangle UC funds from Israel’s alleged human rights violations.

After a failed attempt in 2010, which came to a halt with a presidential veto, UC Berkeley’s ASUC Senate passed its own divestment bill with an 11-9 vote in April of 2013 amid contentious debate. The bill sparked heated controversy, and some said it contributed to a hostile campus climate for Jewish students and those who opposed divestment.

With the passage of the resolution, UCLA’s student government joins five other UC campuses — UC Irvine, UC San Diego, UC Riverside, UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz — that have passed similar proposals to date.

“By passing this resolution, we’re not setting a trend or anything, but it does keep a significant focus on Palestine,” said Safwan Ibrahim, a board member of Students for Justice in Palestine at UCLA. “Now, so many people have begun to recognize that there are human rights violations against Palestinians … and it is becoming a huge conversation.”

The University of California Student Association, the body that aims to collectively represent students throughout the UC system, tabled a divestment resolution Nov. 8 and will reconsider the proposal at its Santa Cruz meeting from Jan. 10 to 11.

United Auto Workers Local 2865, a union comprised of more than 13,000 student-workers within the UC system, will vote on divestment Dec. 4 in what union members call the first vote of its kind by a major U.S. labor union.

USAC President Avinoam Baral said it was difficult for him to not have a voice in the conversation as the only Israeli on the council. As part of his role, the president does not participate in discussions.

“Overall, I’m disappointed in the council’s decision,” Baral said. “But I’m proud of the conversation, which was respectful, and that’s always a plus.”

According to the Daily Bruin, Baral assumed the role of USAC president after his predecessor, Devin Murphy, resigned from office due to high stress.

Jewish and pro-Israel student groups — including Hillel at UCLA, Bruins for Israel and J Street U — boycotted the meeting and held an alternative gathering focused on strengthening the community and fostering constructive dialogue, according to Arielle Yael, spokesperson for Bruins for Israel.

“We did not want to engage and bring legitimacy into that conversation,” Yael said.

Similar to what the ASUC saw during its unsuccessful 2010 attempt, last year’s USAC voted on a resolution in February that ended in a 7-5 vote against divestment, according to the Daily Bruin. More than 500 people attended and were split almost evenly between supporters and those opposed, according to Baral.

The Jewish and pro-Israel communities did not want to subject their members to the “hateful comments and hostility” they faced in February, Yael said.

According to Yael, the Jewish and pro-Israel community obtained 2,000 signatures for a petition against the council’s discussion of geopolitical issues instead of student issues.

“It’s very ironic that the eve before the decision on the tuition increase, our student body was trying to discuss a conflict happening 7,000 miles away,” Yael said.

In 2005, the regents stated that “a policy of divestment from a foreign government shall be adopted only when the United States government declares that a foreign regime is committing acts of genocide.” UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said in a statement that UCLA and the regents board do not support divestment.

“That’s the administration’s position, and our job is to change that position,” said Rahim Kurwa, a UCLA graduate student involved in Students for Justice in Palestine. “That’s going to take faculty votes, graduate student union votes, Academic Senate votes to put enough pressure on the system.”

Michaela Fried — president of Tikvah, a Zionist group at UC Berkeley — sees the response of UCLA Jewish students against the resolution as “disingenuous” and “shallow.” She believes students on both sides of the issue were aware that the university would not change its course of action, saying that the resolution was symbolic in nature.

The debate surrounding divestment is beneficial to Jewish communities, Fried said, because it underscores the need to form “real responses.”

“I don’t care about us as being seen as angels in the Middle East — that would not be my argument,” Fried said. “I want to make it known that Jews are indigenous and that we do have a homeland in Israel.”

Ayesha Khan, who serves on the divestment committee for UCLA’s Students for Justice in Palestine, said she has seen a shift on campus regarding students’ willingness to share opinions on divestment and engage in conversations about the issue.

“I hope to see the remaining UCs start following suit and passing resolutions,” Khan said. “Everything only gets better from here.”

Contact Amy Jiang at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @ajiang_dc.

A previous version of this article incorrectly quoted Michaela Fried as saying that the resolution was “shallow” and “disingenuous.” In fact, she was referring to the response of Jewish students at UCLA who were against the resolution.

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  • allone4world

    It’s time for those of us who care deeply about Israel to organize and fight back hard against these actions. If is is fair for these students to vote to boycott and divest from companies that do business with Israel or West Bank Settlements then it is equally fair for us to boycott them. I am in a position to hire a fair amount of people and I check the resumes. When I see resumes from the BDS crowd and their supporters (and I check by going on line) the resume gets tossed. No internships, no summer jobs, no permanent jobs, no exceptions. Donations I used to make to UCLA go to Friends Of The Israel Defense Forces instead. Never again means taking action, not sitting idly by while our enemies organize and in spite of all of the moral outrages in the world choose to act against the one tiny Jewish state while the Arab states discriminate at will.
    EditDelete Report

    Read more: http://forward.com/articles/209495/ucla-students-vote—for-israel-divestment-bill/#ixzz3KsVnsHcF

  • BigSticksWalkSoftly

    Nothing you say is true.
    It is a known fact that Israeli Jews are criminalized from learning about Palestine culture, are conscripted with mandatory service in their terror armies, glorify mass destroyers like Sharon and menachem Begin who was a wanted terrorist by Interpol.
    It is a shame how young Israeli Jewish children are conditioned to hate and erase Palestinians from Palestine.

  • Dan Spitzer

    Has ANYONE ever seen criticism from SJP, MSA, and their loony left toadies which condemns Hamas for advocating worldwide Jewish genocide? We certainly never see this for SoftStick or any other pro-Palestinian proponents who write drivel on the DC website.
    How about it, SoftStick? Care to critique that barbarian party which, according to the Palestinians’ own polls, is the favorite in the W. Bank and Gaza? And btw, SoftStick, if calling for genocide isn’t racist, WTF is?

  • 8-2 )2) is not a vote of democracy but bully trolls of oligarchy.

  • BigSticksWalkSoftly

    Your juvenile name calling is highly representative of racist land thief illegal colonial olive tree burning settlers who are addicted to writing graffiti lie ‘death to arabs’ all along Christian cemeteries.
    BDS was called by Palestinian civil society and does not answer to Abbas so what’s your point.
    The facts remain: Palestinians have a right to civil and human rights.
    Criticizing the racist right wing policies of the terror Likud Israeli government does not make a person anti-Jewish.
    Israel does not represent world Jewry (thankfully).
    In fact, Palestinians are real Semites and not fake imposters from another continent.
    You and your racist brethren acknowledge that you are losing the advantage to silence Palestinians and their supporters and that is why you and your racist crew lacked the willpower to put up any defense, even when funded by pro-Israel groups.
    Glad to see you are not so busy building apartheid walls and you have finally stopped being balls deep busy in your neighbor’s goat you probably stole.
    Brooklyn is your promised land, Not Bethlehem.
    Palestinians didn’t do the holocaust. It is not Palestinian people’s fault that Europeans can’t get along and Americans don’t want a boatload of Jewish immigration.
    Go BDS go.

    • Dan Spitzer

      Stick says, “your juvenile name calling” and then goes on to spew this hilarious sewage of idiot-logical words: “racist land thief illegal colonial olive tree burning settlers.” Is that a record for old lefty cliches?
      Abbas is the head of the “moderate government” supported by most Palestinians who do not align themselves with Hamas, so it is reasonable to presume that his commentaries mean something, including his statement opposing BDS. Hence it must be concluded that Stick along with his SJP pals support pro-genocide Hamas.
      More teenage like excreta such as the lie of “apartheid walls” and this adolescent gem, “you have finally stopped being balls deep busy in your neighbor’s goat you probably stole.” What maturity!
      As for “Brooklyn is your promised land. Not Bethlehem” and “it’s not Palestinian people’s fault that Europeans can’t get along (with Jews) & Americans don’t watn a boatload of Jewish immigrants,” I’ll simply let that stand as a reflection of the anti-Semitism of someone who has just exposed himself by coming out of his Jew-hating closet…

    • spocksbrain

      Please clarify land thief? Are you in favor of the removal of Israel and its 8 million citizens? You’d have them move out and return the land to … whom?

  • Dan Spitzer

    UCLA & UCB student governments, the likes of SJP/MSA, and ideological lefty activists have been so busy supporting the Palestinian’s favorite political party, the Jewish genocide advocating Hamas as well as denigrating Israel, that they haven’t worked as diligently as they might have to head off this egregious increase in their fellow students own tuition. Sadly, student government priorities are outrageously out of kilter. Yes, your ASUCs have piddled while your bank accounts burn.
    Students, your ASUCs have failed you while childishly focused upon the shiny disorienting foolishness of SJP. Pathetic. Just Pathetic…

    • Dan Spitzer

      Addendum: It should be noted that UCLA students signed a petition calling on USAC to stop promoting narrow political agendas like divestment and focus instead on immediate student interests.

  • BigSticksWalkSoftly

    Proud of our SoCal brethren standing up for and representing a just struggle in solidarity of peace, freedom and justice with the indigenous Palestinians.
    US taxes and school investments should not go towards an illegal occupation, apartheid, ethnic cleansing, oppression and slow genocide.
    Not in my name.
    Palestinians have a right to full civil and human rights without intimidation and misrepresentation.

    • Thurman Reed

      The only thing I don’t want in my name is call for the call for the elimination of Jews, running over babies in Jerusalem, firing rockets indiscriminately at Israeli population centers, calling for the mass rape of Jewish women, etc. Funny the only calls for “apartheid” usually come from the “Palestinian” Authority. See Abu Mazen’s recent comments on the Temple Mount. UC student government’s have been hijacked by those utilizing prominent forums for their global jihad against Israel. Indeed, not in my name. Shame on UCLA.

      • Arafat

        Does anyone know if SJP stands for “Just Us in Palestine” because it makes sense that it does. After all wherever Muslims are they do their best to turn that place into the next Saudi Arabia, i.e., free of any and all non-Muslims.

        • Arafat

          To clarify: Wahhabism is the only officially recognized and allowed religion in Saudi Arabia. Other forms of Islam and other religions are banned and persecuted by the state.

          Saudi Arabia is the only Islamic state in which there is no church, no synagogue and no other place of worship of any other religion.

          Shiite Muslims have been systematically discriminated against for decades. Jews are even forbidden to enter the Kingdom.

          Saudi Arabia practices a form of Sharia law that is one of the most brutal systems in the world. Saudi Arabia has at all times rejected the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948.

          Women may not drive a car and can be punished by flogging.
          Corporal punishment, including amputations and executions, are part of everyday
          life in the country. Just two weeks ago a Sudanese immigrant in Saudi Arabia
          was publicly beheaded for ‘sorcery.’ Saudi Arabia is one of the few countries
          in the world in which the death penalty is enforced even on teenagers,”
          the paper said.

    • Arafat


      Modern Muslims have religious conflict with: Hindus in Kashmir;
      Christians in Nigeria, Egypt, and Bosnia; atheists in Chechnya; Baha’is in
      Iran; Animists in Darfur; Buddhists in Thailand; each other in Iraq, Pakistan,
      Somalia, and Yemen; Jews in Israel; Why is Islam involved in more sectarian and
      religious conflicts than any other religion today? In fact, why is Islam the
      only religion in conflict with every single one of today’s major world

      But you think belligerent pugnacious Islam has legitimate grievances in this
      constant conflict, and that, for example in Palestine, Islam is just defending
      its own reasonable interests?

      No, not at bottom. At bottom what we have in Islam is a violent,
      expansionist totalitarianism. That’s why Islam is in conflict all over the
      world with every other religion.

    • The Kugel Company

      There are no indigenous Palestinians… it’s a shame you don’t know that the term, used to describe only Jews, was changed to arabs by Nassar after he and 4 other armies attacked and then lost to Israel. It’s always been used as a pawn by the losers to subjugate their own people.

      Waiting for the same people who want Palestinians to have their sovereignty to speak the same for Tibet and for the Kurds…. but there’s silence for them. Shows you what’s really going on!

      • Dan Spitzer

        Indeed, DNA of the so-called “Palestinians” shows that they hail not from the current region of Israel but rather from the Arabian Peninsula…

    • indigenous Palestinians are a false claim, they are Arabs who took Palestine form the Cannanites, so they are imperialists and should be carted off to jail.

    • Ballsy Terri

      I keep a copy of your koran next to my toilet. It smells worse than my stool, but I know it’s the only thing your little book of BS is good for.

    • lspanker

      “Proud of our SoCal brethren standing up for and representing a just
      struggle in solidarity of peace, freedom and justice with the indigenous

      I have a hard time believing that people who willingly let terrorists strap suicide vests to their children care even one bit about “peace, freedom and justice”.

      • BigSticksWalkSoftly

        Yes it is wrong to take advantage of the mentally ill youth who are deprived of hope and opportunities and are raised around hate and violence from the racist Israeli regime that was built on terrorism.
        It is time for you to stop worshipping Baruch Goldstein, Ariel Sharon and Menachem Begin and the assassin of Yitzhak Rabin who were all hardcore terrorists

        • Arafat

          Palestinians are a miserable and pathetic people. They slit the throats of innocent Israeli families, then whine when Israel sets up check points to prevent this. They blow themselves up on crowded Israeli buses, then whimper when Israel prevents this with a wall. The shoot rockets at Israel by the thousands, then kvetch and moan
          when Israel deploys Iron Dome defenses to prevent this, too.

          They forced the construction of the wall. They necessitated
          the checkpoints. All of their misery is their own doing. But they will never
          acknowledge that truth; because that would mean self-reflection and intelligence
          (decency and kindness) on their part– all characteristics they and their
          leadership know nothing about.

    • spocksbrain

      Will you be throwing out your hp computers, getting rid of your GE light bulbs, moving out of your house built with caterpillar tractors and swearing off all medications made in Israel? And since you foolishly accept that Hamas is a human rights organization will you be joining it’s sister outfit ISIS? Are you naive enough to think if there were no Israel that the Arabs in Gaza would be enjoying a lovely peace garden? Students are idealistic and sometimes naive but in this case it’s shameful how you can all be so easily duped.