UC Berkeley student president announces he will not veto divestment bill

ActivismIsrael/PalestineUS Politics

From the Daily Californian Landgraf announces no veto on divestment bill SB 160:

ASUC President Connor Landgraf has announced that he will not veto SB 160, the controversial bill passed last week that divests ASUC funds from companies affiliated with the Israeli military and encourages the UC system to do the same.

In a statement released Tuesday night, Landgraf emphasized that his decision should not be taken as an endorsement of the bill.

“I firmly reject its one­sided narrative, and the bill’s complete and utter failure to create any constructive discussion or dialogue on a complex and multifaceted issue,” he said in the statement. “This bill has served to do nothing more than divide our campus, foster anger, and encourage divisiveness.”

SB 160, authored by Student Action Senator George Kadifa, seeks the divestment of more than $14 million in ASUC and UC assets from companies including Caterpillar and Hewlett-Packard. The bill claims that these companies are complicit in Israel’s alleged abuse of human rights in Gaza, including the illegal demolition of Palestinian homes.

However, Landgraf said he decided not to veto the bill because he believed such an act would only lengthen the conflict and make the campus’s healing process more difficult. It is for this reason only, Landgraf said, that he decided not to veto SB 160.

Here is Landgraf’s full statement on the divestment bill (PDF):

Dear Campus Community,

Last Wednesday, April 17, 2013, the ASUC Senate passed senate bill 160, “A Bill in Support of Human Rights in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.” Over 500 students gathered to engage in debate for over 10 hours until the bill finally passed by a slim margin of 11-9. The 11 senators represented their own perspectives and do not speak for the entire student body’s opinions. The divisiveness of the bill and the rift it created in our campus community was evident that night and has only further manifested itself throughout campus over the past week. Several students-including myself- have been verbally abused and many have even received threats of violence, all due to the polarizing nature of this bill.

Some have called for me to take direct action and veto the senate’s decision, but after much discussion and pondering, I have ultimately decided not to veto this bill. However, this decision should not be construed in any manner as an endorsement of this bill. I firmly reject its one-sided narrative, and the bill’s complete and utter failure to create any constructive discussion or dialogue on a complex and multifaceted issue. This bill has served to do nothing more than divide our campus, foster anger, and encourage divisiveness. The threats of violence
that have been hurled at students by members of our own campus community clearly demonstrate the complete failure of this bill as a legislative tool to promote any resolution to this nuanced conflict.

I want to make it clear that SB 160 is not linked to the international Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement. The international BDS movement, which has been known to attach itself to this legislation, cannot and should not take this as its victory. In no way do I endorse the movement’s call for cultural and academic boycotts that hamper freedom of speech and the exchange of ideas. In addition I was disheartened that senators voted down amendments to promote a two
state solution, as well as an amendment recognizing the right to self determination of the Jewish people.

However, as ASUC President, I recognize the legislative authority of the senate. I realize that a veto of this bill would only serve to further prolong this campus conflict and further tear at the seams of this campus. It would magnify the pain this bill has already produced. A veto would not serve to create constructive dialogue, and would only once again serve to end discussion for a little longer. It is for this reason, and only this reason that I have decided not to veto SB 160.

I hope that we can use this as a learning experience and catalyst to move forward in a positive manner. Senators should consider SB 158, which pushes for a positive and constructive resolution on this issue. I urge students to use more effective and constructive vehicles of dialogue that promote substantive discussion and compromise, which can foster and maintain the campus community that UC Berkeley prides itself on.

Sincerely,
Connor Landgraf                                                                                           ASUC President 2012-2013
 

Remember, Landgraf was under intense pressure to veto the bill by pro-Israel activists and organizations. Earlier, the San Francisco Bay Guardian reported it appeared Landgraf may be buckling despite a campaign promise not to veto:

The fate of the bill is now in the hands of student President Connor Landgraf, a senior bioengineering major who promised student leaders during his campaign that he would not veto any divestment measure. But now, with the bill sitting on his desk, Landgraf is waffling and supporters of the measure say that may be partially because a pro-Israel group appears to have sponsored his trip to Israel last year.

“During my campaign I did say I wouldn’t veto, but now I have different responsibilities,” Landgraf told the Bay Guardian. Since Thursday’s vote, Landgraf said his phone has been ringing off the hook. “I’ve received literally hundreds of emails, and I’m under a lot of pressure.”

The article also states Landgraf traveled to Israel/Palestine last year on a free trip. This all makes his decision all the more impressive, and despite his personal reservations the divestment bill stands as a major accomplishment for the BDS movement.

13 Responses

  1. American
    April 24, 2013, 10:02 am

    Spoken like a true politician..but still good outcome.

    • Krauss
      April 24, 2013, 10:45 am

      Exactly my thoughts, too. I personally think he was for it, but remember, if he is student president today he probably has political ambitions for the future. So he wants to hedge his bets. Nevertheless, if he thinks ahead 15-20 years, I’m guessing he doesn’t think that you’ll have to be in lockstep with Zionism as a liberal politician the same way it used to be.

      He proved in his statement/action why he rose to the top in the first place. But as you said, the ultimate outcome is what we want, and if I may speculate a little, probably also the outcome he wants too.

  2. HarryLaw
    April 24, 2013, 10:25 am

    ASUC President Landgraf said the bill fails to promote any resolution to the “nuanced conflict” It is not a nuanced conflict, it is an illegal occupation [under International Law an occupation is supposed to be temporary, not 46 years] with the occupier claiming sovereignty over the whole of the West Bank in breach of numerous UNSC resolutions and the rejection by the Israelis of the right to self determination of the Palestinians implicit in the UNGA vote recognizing Palestine as a sovereign state, this divestment bill is the least these students could do in the face of such injustice. Maybe President Langraf should encourage bills which can unite the students, how about a bill celebrating the virtues of “Mother’s apple pie”

  3. CloakAndDagger
    April 24, 2013, 10:37 am

    I knew cal wouldn’t let me down!

  4. pabelmont
    April 24, 2013, 11:06 am

    The prexy doesn’t approve the message but also doesn’t veto it. So raw Zionist power is on the wane a bit, here. But the prexy sees in the bill a “one-sided narrative.” Could be, I ‘spose.

    Wish I’d studied the debate and the language of the resolution. If, for instance, the one or both centered on the illegality of the settlement project, it’s hard to see what the “other side” could be. In that case, BDS was aimed at a clearly illegal state policy abetted by corportions, corporations which can be attacked. BDS attacks mostly corporate aiders-and-abetters.

    But in our modern world, law-enforcement by BDS may indeed seem “one-sided” given the USA’s fierce attempts to invalidate the international law involved — sort of “repeal by neglect” due to 45 years of non-enforcement of the anti-settlement provisions of Fourth Geneva Convention.

    In that reading of modern history, BDS can be said to amount to a civil-society movement to resurrect neglected law.

  5. Citizen
    April 24, 2013, 1:34 pm

    It’s a transparently lame reason he gave for not to veto, but at least the Zionists didn’t get their usual way. Another step forward towards recognition of justice. Maybe my latest minute email convinced him to not veto it? I hope it helped. He says he was ” disheartened that senators voted down amendments to promote a two
    state solution, as well as an amendment recognizing the right to self determination of the Jewish people.” As if he didn’t know what a joke the 2-state solution has been for so long, especially given the unequal power and the continued bulldozing of native homes without compensation, and land grabs–which even the US State Dept says is reality in its 2012 Report on human/civil rights in the OT. And, as if he doesn’t know that self-determination has its limits when you trample on other’s, and their right to self-determination. Yep, he’s a weak one, but clearly sees which way the long political wind is blowing–and he’s setting up his pivot spot as opportunity arises. This has gotta be a major red flag for the likes of critters like Bill Kristol and Charles Krauthammer.

  6. kalithea
    April 24, 2013, 1:39 pm

    So the umbrella Lobby which includes Zionist groups in universities, because the Lobby’s reach is far-and-wide, tried to kill this bill and failed. Unfortunately, the student president seems to have buckled in his language if not his campaign promise not to veto this divestment. He must be considering running for office one day, which is sad, because this proves that nothing will change in Washington in the future.

    So now, we should ask: what next? Is the Lobby going to get into kindergarten and middle schools lobbying there as well to rescue its precious Zionism?

  7. Carowhat
    April 24, 2013, 2:10 pm

    I hope Landgraf has a job lined up after graduation because he will be blacklisted when he applies for any engineering jobs, just as reporters who write critically of the Israeli occupation get blacklisted at newspapers and TV stations.

    • kma
      April 24, 2013, 7:25 pm

      it is false that engineering in the bay area has such a blacklist! and, believe me, I know it!
      I also think it is bad for people to keep repeating that because some will believe it, and then it may affect behavior. but it is NOT true, and nobody should fear it.

  8. DICKERSON3870
    April 24, 2013, 3:10 pm

    RE: “The San Francisco Bay Guardian reported it appeared Landgraf may be buckling despite a campaign promise not to veto . . .”

    LINK TO ARTICLE – link to sfbg.com

  9. DICKERSON3870
    April 24, 2013, 3:34 pm

    RE: “The article also states Landgraf traveled to Israel/Palestine last year on a free trip. This all makes his decision all the more impressive . . .” ~ Annie Robbins and Adam Horowitz

    MY COMMENT: Not necessarily. Had the fact not been made public that he went on a junket to Israel (no doubt funded by a pro-Israel entity), he might well have been able to veto the divestment bill. Indeed, it appears from the San Francisco Bay Guardian article that he was laying the groundwork to do so (e.g., “now I have different responsibilities… I’ve received literally hundreds of emails”). But now that the same article has made his “free”* trip to Israel so public, a veto would make it appear that he has been bought by the funder(s) of the “free” trip (i.e. his veto is the result of a “quid quo pro”), and that would quite possibly be his political death knell.

    * P.S. A “free” trip is virtually never entirely free. NEVER! ! !

    • Annie Robbins
      April 24, 2013, 10:55 pm

      dickerson, i think he ran on a platform saying he would not veto a divestment resolution passed by the senate. therefor he was keeping his word.

  10. Shingo
    April 24, 2013, 8:00 pm

    Isn’t it ironic how those elected to positions of leadership in politics are so easily corrupted and contradicting the ideals they were elected to promote?

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