Berkeley student body sustains veto of divestment measure

on 25 Comments

It’s evident from the thrilling twitter feed in Adam’s post below, but that’s the news. The Berkeley student senate voted 13-5 to override the student government president’s veto, at 4 a.m. California time. They needed 14 votes. Note that the measure urged the university to divest from two companies doing business in the Occupied Territories.

25 Responses

  1. Citizen
    April 29, 2010, 10:46 am

    Did the five explain themselves?

  2. Chu
    April 29, 2010, 1:57 pm

    antone know why Smelko vetoed it to begin with?
    What his deal?

    • sherbrsi
      April 29, 2010, 2:03 pm

      link to


      “While the ASUC as a body has stated convincingly that it does not want ASUC and UC dollars going to fund weapons, war crimes, or human rights violations, this veto has to do with the mechanism by which the ASUC achieves its mission of building peace and goodwill in a way that avoids the shortcomings of the bill (such as a) … selective, one-sided focus on a specific country that lacks important historical context and understanding,” Smelko said in the statement.

      He said in the statement there were significant differences between the bill and a similar resolution approved by the senate in the 1980s that called for the university to divest from apartheid-era South Africa.

      “The analogy itself is highly contested, (and) the divestment strategies employed against the apartheid government were not introduced and agreed upon after mere hours of discussion, but involved lengthy and serious deliberation and analysis.”


      • Shmuel
        April 29, 2010, 2:28 pm

        What Smelko basically said is:

        1) ASUC doesn’t focus on specific countries when the supporters of those countries don’t want us to.
        2) The specific countries that ASUC may have focused on in the past do not resemble Israel in any way, because if they did, my first point would make no sense, and it is highly unlikely that the president of ASUC Berkelely would make such an ass of himself.

      • Citizen
        April 29, 2010, 4:21 pm

        Huh? Are you saying Smelko is weak felcro?

      • Chu
        April 30, 2010, 9:14 am

        Thanks for the translation!
        Vut, this is rich:
        “ASUC achieves its mission of building peace and goodwill in a way that avoids the shortcomings of the bill such as one-sided focus on a specific country that lacks important historical context and understanding”
        -They could have added ‘misunderstood country that requires an occupation, since God promised them this land’ – It would add a bit more thrust. Regardless, this is a pretty light explanation.

  3. Keith
    April 29, 2010, 7:15 pm

    SMELKO is an ambitious young man who is being of service to powerful people. I’m sure he will be richly rewarded for his service. Perhaps he will be mentored by Allan Dershowitz.

  4. Peter in SF
    April 30, 2010, 3:26 am

    I was in the room at the ASUC Senate meeting last night, along with hundreds of others. It was supposed to start at 10:30 (delayed from 8:00), but didn’t actually start until 11:30 p.m. So there was a lot of time to wait and look around. It was cool to be in the same room not only with the usual people like Paul Larudee, Henry Norr, and Joseph Anderson, who always show up at events like this, but also Michael Harris of San Francisco Voice for Israel and Akiva Tor, the Israeli consul. I was kind of hoping for an epic battle, but none of those named above actually addressed the whole group (at least while I was there; I left around 1 a.m.). During the hour-long wait, there weren’t even any visible skirmishes between those in favor of divestment, who wore green stickers, and those opposed, who wore blue ones. Greens outnumbered blues about 4 to 1.

    I’m guessing that video of the meeting will be made available sometime soon, but I haven’t seen any links to it yet. So here is my summary of the opening arguments.

    Each side was given 20 minutes to present its case. The pro-divestment side went first and showed a video from British media (the Guardian, they said) of reports of the IDF deliberately targeting hospitals and medics in Gaza. Then they had some Christian ministers, a Muslim imam, and Penny Rosenwasser of Jewish Voice for Peace talking about how Israeli actions harm Christians, Muslims, and also Jews, and go against the values of all three religions. I’m not sure why the pro-divestment side decided to take this religious approach at Berkeley of all places.

    Then the anti-divestment side presented its case. Rabbi Menachem Creditor of Netivot Shalom, a local Conservative congregation, said that he agrees with the aim of justice for the Palestinians, but this resolution would not help to achieve it. He did not say that some of his best friends are Palestinians, but if he had, I have to say that it wouldn’t have been believable. He said that “there’s nobody who doesn’t support the two-state solution”, prompting some murmurs of discontent from the crowd. An Israeli professor of education named Alexander, a visiting professor at Berkeley, adopted a more angry tone, telling us about how Israel had no option but to do what it did in Gaza, in order to defend itself, etc., as we’ve all heard before. I can’t remember whether it was Creditor or Alexander, but one of them said that every Jew who actually identifies with the Jewish people is against this divestment resolution. Also, both of them said that over half of the Jews in the world live in Israel, which is news to me (Wikipedia says it’s 33%), and I assume they just made up this fact.

    The third speaker on the anti-divestment side was an Israeli law student at Berkeley. She repeated the theme of Creditor and Alexander of how Jewish students at Berkeley are being made to feel marginalized and the object of hostility because of this bill. She responded to the video shown by the pro-divestment side, saying that it was biased because it showed only one side of the story. What it doesn’t tell us, she said, is that the Israelis are cooperating with the UN over the damage done by IDF bombing of some 20-odd UN facilities in the Gaza Strip. Also, she told us that one reason for high casualty figures was that the Gaza Strip is very densely populated (not explaining why this is so). She said that it’s difficult for not only Israeli students but also all Jewish students at Berkeley to hear people on campus talking about “war crimes”, “ethnic cleansing”, and “apartheid”. As her time was running out, she told us about how Israel is so kind that it is supplying many tons of goods to Gaza.

    I was surprised by how bad the case was that was presented by Creditor, Alexander, and especially the law student, who seemed to show zero compassion for those living under Israeli occupation and brought up a whole lot of points that give immediate rise to obvious uncomfortable questions for her own side. And why, for their three speakers, did they choose to have two Israelis and one American Jew (who referred to his strong ties to Israel)? OK, John Yoo probably wouldn’t be a wise choice, but you’d think they could find some token gentile. But I guess that would be a little hard to fit in with their overall theme of “Jewish students are being made to feel uncomfortable here.”

    Rabbi Creditor’s blog has an announcement of the meeting and a live report from it. On the blog he brings up the theme of Israel divestment bills being anti-Semitic in effect, if not in intent (to use Larry Summers’s expression). The irony is that the anti-divestment presentation given by him and the other two was, by itself, what I would characterize as anti-Semitic in effect, if not in intent. Seriously, if what they were saying is true, that all real Jews support their side, that all real Jews support what the Jewish state has done and is doing in Gaza, and that all real Jews are, like these three, completely unmoved by reports from real live people on how the Jewish state treats the non-Jewish population under its control, and are far more concerned about how a bill to divest from companies that sell arms to the Jewish state makes Jewish students feel uncomfortable, and all real Jews want to tell Berkeley students that they shouldn’t discuss claims of Israeli war crimes or ethnic cleansing or apartheid on the grounds that it makes Jews uncomfortable — then these strike me as pretty good reasons to be anti-Semitic.

  5. The Hasbara Buster
    April 30, 2010, 8:29 am

    The veto was not sustained, it was overridden. Please change the post’s title accordingly.

Leave a Reply