Sunday, March 21, 2010

UC Berkeley Students Ask for Israel Divestment

UC Berkeley Students Ask for Israel Divestment


By Matt Krupnick

Contra Costa Times

March 19, 2010




UC Berkeley student leaders voted early Thursday to

drop the student Senate's investments in companies

doing business with Israel.


The Senate, meeting into the early hours of the

morning, voted 16-4 to divest itself from Israel and to

ask the University of California system to do the same.


It was not immediately known whether the Senate had any

such investments. But the UC system invests millions in

funds that include General Electric and United

Technologies, which supply Israel with military

equipment, said Emiliano Huet-Vaughn, a student senator

who co-wrote the bill.


The UC system, he said, should not support a country

that has committed human-rights abuses in the Gaza

Strip. The 10-campus university has divested itself of

tobacco- and Sudan-related funds.


The students' action was condemned by the Los Angeles-

based Simon Wiesenthal Center, which called the vote

hypocritical and troubling, citing violence by

Palestinians. A UC spokesman said the university had

not yet seen the resolution and could not comment.


UC Berkeley Students Divest from Apartheid. Again.



By Tom J

Daily Kos

March 18, 2010


    For the first time in the University of California

    history, the UC Berkeley Student Senate has

    approved a bill to divest from two US companies in

    response to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian

    territories and to Israel's siege and bombardment

    of the Gaza Strip. The Senate bill directs both the

    UC Regents and the Student Government to divest

    from General Electric and United Technologies.

    General Electric manufactures Apache helicopter

    engines; United Technologies manufactures Sikorsky

    helicopters and F-16 aircraft engines. In addition,

    the bill creates a task force to look into

    furthering a socially responsible investment policy

    for the UC system. --


        Students for Justice in Palestine Press Release


The vote was expected to be close, but it ended up

being 16-4 in favor of divestment. I have not

interviewed the ASUC Senators who voted in favor, but i

can't help but think that they were influenced in part

by the now very obvious refusal of the Israeli

government to work toward any fair resolution of the conflict.


Student Senator Rahul Patel supported the bill,

declaring that "in the 1980s the Student Government

was a central actor in demanding that the

university divest from South African apartheid. 25

years later, it is a key figure in shaping a

nationwide movement against occupation and war

crimes around the world. Student Government can be

a space to mobilize and make decisions that have a

significant impact on the international community.

We must utilize these spaces to engage each other

about issues of justice worldwide."


The Senate deliberation, which started Wednesday

night, concluded at 3 am Thursday morning, March

18. The meeting was flooded with students,

educators, and community members, which prompted

the relocation of the Senate session from the

Senate Chambers to a larger room. The attendees

took turns making impassioned arguments for and

against the bill. The diverse list of guest

speakers included 76 names, ranging in age from

college freshmen to Vietnam veterans. After

amendments, the final bill passed on a 16-4 vote.


In addition to Israeli military action, the student

initiative was motivated by an 2005 call on behalf

of 171 Palestinian civil society organizations

calling on "people of conscience all over the world

to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment

initiatives against Israel ... until it fully

complies with the precepts of international law."


According to Emiliano Huet-Vaughn, co-author of the

bill, "this vote is an historic step in holding all

state and corporate actors accountable for their

violations of basic human rights. The broad cross

section of the community that came out to demand

our university invest ethically belies the notion

that the American people will tolerate the

profiting from occupation or other human rights

abuses." Student Senator Emily Carlton, co-sponsor

of the bill, agreed, adding "this action will only

be historic if it is repeated throughout the

country and the world; I hope that student

governments all over America will see in this a

sign that the time to divest from war is now."


In 2009, Hampshire College in Amherst, MA, became

the first US educational institution to divest from

companies directly involved in the Israeli

occupation of Palestine. Hampshire College action

was advocated by the group Students for Justice in

Palestine, and ultimately adopted by the Board of

Trustees. Today, through its Student Senate bill,

UC Berkeley becomes the first large, public US

institution to endorse a similar measure.


UC Berkeley Students for Justice in Palestine has

been working on a divestment campaign from entities

that profit from the occupation of Palestine since

2000. UC Berkeley Law Students for Justice in

Palestine, founded in 2007, played a central role

in researching the legal issues and the

international laws pertaining to Israeli human

rights violations.


Divestment is the nonviolent tactic that won freedom

for the people of South Africa, even as South Africa

public relations people said that "It is unfair to

single us out" and "this will hurt the people that you

are supposedly trying to help" and even as the US

government at the time said it was better to have

"constructive engagement" with the government of South

Africa, so as to "urge the government to take positive

steps". the call from the grassroots of South Africa

was overwhelming, however. Full Sanctions and

Divestment. Congressman Ron Dellums of Oakland had been

putting up a divestment bill from his very first year

in office in 1972, it got nowhere until 1986 when it

finally passed. What happen in those intervening years

was a massive movement was slowly building on the ground.


This is where we find ourselves today in winning

freedom for the people of Palestine. We are responding

to the civil society of Palestinians themselves who are

committed to winning their liberation. Once again, UC

Berkeley students lead the way, but it won't stop

there. It is a global  movement that is growing at a

pace that far exceeds what we saw in the early 80's

with South Africa. Read more about it here:


IN the meantime, the apartheid regime in Israel is

digging in its heels. It is arresting activists who are

only participating in nonviolent protests. It has now

gone so far as to prohibit any travel by Israelis or

internationals to places of regular non-violent

protests in the West Bank. (read here). The home

demolitions continue. The settlement building

continues. The military siege that is producing

deliberate malnutrition continues.  More than ever we

must apply pressure from outside. Empty words will not

be enough. We must put corporate elites on notice that

doing business with an apartheid regime will bring a price.


Clarification: It should be noted that this is but one

step in a long process to get the UC system to divest.

It is a wonderful victory that needs to be followed by

many more.



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