Although a majority of ASUC Senate meetings are sparsely attended, Wednesday night’s will likely be overflowing with hundreds of concerned community members.
The ASUC Senate will be considering a contentious bill, SB 160, that would divest ASUC assets from Israeli-affiliated companies in protest of the Israeli government’s alleged human rights violations in Palestine. The bill has drawn support as well as criticism from various campus communities.
Whether the bill passes remains in the hands of the 20 ASUC senators. While some senators have openly stated their support, others said they remain uncertain or did not return calls for comment.
“The main reason I am undecided is because this is a very complex issue,” said Student Action Senator Mihir Deo in an email. “I’m not saying that the complexity means it should not be brought up, but that it requires a lot of thought. Divestment is a serious thing to call for, and shouldn’t be used lightly. The main question in my head is whether the call for divestment is justified instead of a serious condemnation of settlements in the West Bank; which is still something this ASUC hasn’t done.”
Although SB 160 was written by Student Action Senator George Kadifa, other Student Action senators have said they are against the bill. Every CalSERVE senator will vote in support of the bill, said Matthew Enger, CalSERVE’s communications coordinator.
Some independent senators have also voiced their support.
“I think that the divestment movement itself is about taking a neutral position,” said independent Senator Sadia Saifuddin. “Right now, the UC does not take a neutral position because they’re funding war crimes, funding the building of a wall and funding the demolition of homes. Every student has a right to feel safe. I believe Palestinian people (should be allowed) to-self actualization and decide for themselves the best way to live.”
However, other senators have said that the bill is divisive and not a real solution.
Student Action Senator Rafi Lurie helped author SB 158, an opposing bill that will also be discussed at Wednesday’s meeting. This bill calls for ASUC “investment opportunities that strengthen Israeli-Palestinian cooperation” rather than divestment.
Lurie said that he is fundamentally against divestment because it is not an effective way to promote peace and a two-state solution in the Middle East.
“I believe that a divestment bill in this context is part of the wider Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement, which does not publicly endorse a two state solution and, therefore, the right to have a Jewish State of Israel next to a Palestinian State of Palestine,” Lurie said in an email. “I do not believe that all of the content presented in SB 160 is objectively true and I would feel uncomfortable with the ASUC taking a stance on facts that are clearly not objective.”
Cooperative Movement Senator Jorge Pacheco said that while he is in favor of divesting, he is also open to voting in favor of SB 158 as long as amendments are made to the bill.
“I want to make amendments so that suffering (between the Israelis and Palestinians) is not equated and not normalized,” he said. “I want to make sure the Israeli government is held responsible and condemned publicly for their human rights violations.”
In addition to declarations of support from senators, 114 members of educational institutions across California have signed a letter backing SB 160.
“I am supporting this bill because I believe that Israel is behaving like an apartheid and racist state — indeed, in ways that are highly reminiscent of South Africa,” said UC Berkeley professor Daniel Boyarin of the department of Near Eastern studies. “I believe that the university should desist from supporting racist and oppressive practices economically.”
SB 158 has also drawn support from faculty members, many of whom signed a letter in support of the bill published April 16 in The Daily Californian.
“I not only endorsed the bill’s substance but wanted to convey my support for the example set by the students who helped draft it,” said associate professor of history Mark Brilliant, one of the signers of the letter. “Their ability to transcend their profound differences offers a model to emulate and points to the possibility of bridging at least some of the divides that must be crossed in order to arrive at a just (two-state) solution to the anguishing Israel/Palestine conflict.”