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.

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