UCLA council votes down anti-divestment resolution and exposes pro-Israel trips for student legislators

ActivismIsrael/PalestineUS Politics
Students gathered to debate a resolution criticizing divestment at UCLA. Photo: Agatha Palma

Students gathered to debate a resolution criticizing divestment at UCLA. Photo: Agatha Palma

Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) have chalked up another significant win–this time at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles). SJP members spoke out against an anti-divestment resolution earlier this week and convinced student government legislators to vote down the bill by a margin of 7-5. The victory came just days before the national SJP conference at Stanford University.

On October 22nd, the UCLA Undergraduate Students Association Council voted to defeat “A Resolution In Support of Positive Steps Towards an Israeli-Palestinian Peace,” a bill that threatened to thwart the possibility of a divestment resolution before one even came up for a vote. While many UC student governments have voted in favor of divesting from companies, UCLA has yet to vote on one. In April 2013, the UCLA student government tabled a resolution that called on the UC system to align its investments with human rights standards, which included divestment from Israeli occupation profiteers.

The October 22 resolution also called for “positive investment” in Israel/Palestine while claiming that divestment was a source of “tension on campus.”

“Divestment resolutions at other UC campuses have had negative effects on campus climate,” the bill read. “Investment has the potential to foster positive discussion and promote cross-community collaboration.”

The student bill represented a new tactic  in battle over BDS on campus that sought to use “positive investment” in companies involved in Israel/Palestine as a way to deflect from divestment efforts. But SJP members blasted “positive investment” and said that it ignored the voices of Palestinians like West Bank and Gaza Coca Cola CEO Zahi Khouri.

The hearing, which extended until 3 am, had some riveting moments, according to participants. The meeting opened up with an impassioned discussion that shined a glaring light on how student legislators go on politically oriented trips to Israel for free on the dime of the Anti Defamation League.

“Someone in the public comment mentioned the conflict of interest, the benefit of a free trip taken by a member of the council who sponsored resolution. And once public comment was over, the council started its own deliberations over this question before even talking about the resolution,” said SJP member Rahim Kurwa in our phone interview.

“It was a very captivating moment, the entire focus of the room was on this issue. The fact that the ADL, sponsors of these trips, has engaged in Islamophobic and anti-Palestinian campaigns was openly discussed in the room and at the council table,” said Kurwa. “The ADL’s free politically oriented trips for student leaders were now being discussed out in the open. Once it becomes a liability to take trips from pro-Israel groups with an agenda, once it becomes widely understood — and you can’t do it in the dark– the effectiveness disappears.”

One of the recent beneficiaries of these free Israel trips, Sunny Singh, was one of the two sponsors of the resolution. Singh wrote an op ed in the Daily Bruin, UCLA’s student newspaper, on the morning of the hearing. But his op-ed came back to bite him that very evening, sparking criticism of student affiliation with the ADL’s agenda-driven trips to Israel.

Another council member voting on the bill also took the ADL trip, and a third was a member of Bruins for Israel who attended an AIPAC conference as a delegate.

Students from a wide variety of campus organizations spoke against the bill, and Senators were particularly critical of the bill because it was done with no consultation with Palestinian students.

Witnessing council members deliberating the resolution after the two-and-a-half hour long public forum, Kurwa concluded that “some of the independent senators were the most critical of the bill, more than we were hoping. They seemed very moved by the public comment.” He added that  “the critical thing is once senators realized the bill’s claim to support engagement was not matched by the author’s behavior, and once they realized that ‘positive investments’ was not what Palestinians actually wanted, then all that was left was the anti-divestment part of the bill. At that point the intentions were in question, and there was no longer a compelling reason to pass the bill.”

UCLA’s Muslim student newspaper Al-Talib reported:

External Vice President Maryssa Hall fought against passing this resolution due to the lack of student involvement and claimed that if a new resolution was brought to the table after real talks were made amongst the students, then it could be considered. To propose a bill that had no input from the student body, especially with such a controversial issue, has no substance.

The debate over the resolution came in the wake of various efforts by California state legislators to criticized the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement and label it as “anti-Semitic.” But despite those efforts, SJP chapters have vowed to continue to push for divestment resolutions on campus.

“As a queer, immigrant Chicana I am often asked why I work with Students for Justice in Palestine,” Angelica Becerra, an SJP member at UCLA, wrote in an e-mail. “After seeing the solidarity from the rest of the communities with which I identify with come out to the council meeting, and voice their opposition to this resolution, the answer is simple. Everyone, regardless of their multiple intersecting identities should support Palestinian society’s self-determination. I will support the Palestinian cause until my last breath.”

xx

Students gathered to debate a resolution criticizing divestment at UCLA. Photo: Agatha Palma

 

About Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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37 Responses

  1. just
    October 24, 2013, 3:11 pm

    This is a giant leap forward in so many ways.

    Congratulations and thank you to SJP!

    “Everyone, regardless of their multiple intersecting identities should support Palestinian society’s self-determination. I will support the Palestinian cause until my last breath.””

    I totally agree with Angelica.

    • thetruthhurts
      October 24, 2013, 11:10 pm

      if i remember correctly, it was precisely the college students (berkley, columbia, wisconsin, etc) who were chiefly responsible for changing the tide of our involvement in vietnam! i specifically use the term”changing the tide” to accurately portray the supernatural effort by our youth to move the establishment!(boy, i haven’t used that word in a long, long time, eh phil?)
      i’ve recently been lamenting the last several years over american youths lack of visibility in protesting like vietnam. i was too young for vietnam but i’ve spoken to older friends of mine who were smack dab in the thick of it on one of the three aforementioned campuses. i asked them how come they aren’t protesting like in nam? answer”because they’re brain-dead zombies brainwashed by tv”.
      one can only hope. i just spoke today with the public relations departments of three very visible universities in my state suggesting they bring in ille pappe as a speaker. at least i’m doing something constructive instead of just writing worthless complaints.

  2. Cliff
    October 24, 2013, 3:38 pm

    SJP rocks. Don’t let the Zionist community intimidate you EVER. Stand by your principles and beliefs and speak truth to those liars.

  3. LanceThruster
    October 24, 2013, 4:23 pm

    What amazes me is that if the political & MSM drumbeat was on the side of justice for Palestinians, it wouldn’t seem like propaganda (Like Israeli hasbara), but rather just a powerfully compelling argument for doing the right thing.

  4. Les
    October 24, 2013, 9:31 pm

    This is a reminder that anyone discouraging the discussion of what Israel is doing to the Palestinians has an agenda. CNN, the NY Times, NPR, etc., have an agenda.

  5. DICKERSON3870
    October 24, 2013, 10:01 pm

    RE: “The student bill represented a new tactic in battle over BDS on campus that sought to use ‘positive investment’ in companies involved in Israel/Palestine as a way to deflect from divestment efforts.” ~ Annie Robbins and Alex Kane

    MY COMMENT: This idea of “positive investment” is essentially the old “constructive engagement” policy in a snazzy new suit! It will just give the Israeli’s more carrots to use in making more “carrot stew” to eat.*

    ● MAGGIE THATCHER’S OPPOSITION TO USING SANCTIONS AGAINST APARTHEID-ERA SOUTH AFRICA :

    . . . While Thatcher maintained throughout her political career that she “loathe[d] apartheid and everything connected with it,” she . . . refused, alongside Ronald Reagan, to back sanctions against the Apartheid regime in South Africa. “In my view, isolation will lead only to an increasingly negative and intransigent attitude in the part of white South African,” she said in December 1977 [I wonder if this also applies to today's Iranians?!?! - J.L.D.] . . .

    SOURCE – link to mondoweiss.net

    ● FROM WIKIPEDIA [Constructive engagement]:

    [EXCERPT] Constructive engagement was the name given to the policy of the Reagan Administration towards the apartheid regime in South Africa in the early 1980s. It was promoted as an alternative to the economic sanctions and divestment from South Africa demanded by the UN General Assembly and the international anti-apartheid movement.[1]
    The Reagan Administration vetoed legislation from the United States Congress and blocked attempts by the United Nations to impose sanctions and to isolate South Africa.[2] Instead, advocates of constructive engagement sought to use incentives as a means of encouraging South Africa gradually to move away from apartheid.[3] The policy, echoed by the British government of Margaret Thatcher, came under criticism as South African government repression of the black population and anti-apartheid activism intensified. . .

    SOURCE – link to en.wikipedia.org

    * ● FROM foreignaffairs.com: “South Africa: Why Constructive Engagement Failed”, By Sanford J. Ungar and Peter Vale, Winter 1985/86

    Article Summary
    Ronald Reagan’s imposition of limited economic sanctions against the South African regime in September was a tacit admission that his policy of “constructive engagement”–encouraging change in the apartheid system through a quiet dialogue with that country’s white minority leaders–had failed. Having been offered many carrots by the United States over a period of four-and-a-half years as incentives to institute meaningful reforms, the South African authorities had simply made a carrot stew and eaten it. Under the combined pressures of the seemingly cataclysmic events in South Africa since September 1984 and the dramatic surge of anti-apartheid protest and political activism in the United States, the Reagan Administration was finally embarrassed into brandishing some small sticks as an element of American policy.
    [We're sorry, but Foreign Affairs does not have the copyright to display this article online.]

    SOURCE – link to foreignaffairs.com

    • pabelmont
      October 25, 2013, 2:09 pm

      USA sends $3B in “carrots” to Israel every year. You can make a lot of “carrot stew” with all them carrots. I wonder what their recipe is. I wonder who chokes it all down?

      • Bumblebye
        October 26, 2013, 8:49 am

        If they’d send me a portion of them £3B “carrots” I’d make carrot cake. Much tastier.

  6. traintosiberia
    October 24, 2013, 10:43 pm

    There was an editorial in one of the newspaper of Illinois berating the decision of some lawmakers to go on tour to travel to Tawian,paid by organization with links and funding by Tawain. I was thinking why the journal never bothered to ever raise the question of periodic visit to Israel paid by lobby whose purpose is Israel,spy forIsrael,and act to pitch ideas to Congress approved by Israeli government.

  7. Krauss
    October 25, 2013, 3:06 am

    “As a queer, immigrant Chicana I am often asked why I work with Students for Justice in Palestine,” Angelica Becerra, an SJP member at UCLA, wrote in an e-mail. “After seeing the solidarity from the rest of the communities with which I identify with come out to the council meeting, and voice their opposition to this resolution, the answer is simple. Everyone, regardless of their multiple intersecting identities should support Palestinian society’s self-determination. I will support the Palestinian cause until my last breath.”

    For me, this is a problematic quote. What Angelica is basically saying, she’s doing this out of her own self-interest. You should support SJP because it is the right thing to do, not because your own identity tends to marginalized and thus you see in the Palestinian struggle something that you feel that can used to help you too, in this world view, the Palestinians become a secondary objective, a tool to help your own struggle. Even if that struggle is moral itself! It doens’t make you a moral person, because it just happens that you are a marginalized minority, you didn’t choose to become that. Most people do things out of self-interest, Angelica happens to be lucky to drape herself in a moral mantle. But her quote reveals a woman more interested in how the Palestinian struggle could in turn help her, it’s in the back of her mind.

    If we turn the premise around and Angelica became Allen, and a white Jew at that, would he have a self-interest in retaining the apartheid system that massively favours Jews? From a moral stand point; no. But from a strictly self-interested standpoint, yes. Am I cruel when I suggest that Angelica might not be as a moral as she thinks she is? That her way of thinking could have made her opposse SJP had simple genetic luck played out differently?

    We can never know fully.
    But if Allen had the same attitude as Angelica – what’s in it for me? Do the Palestinian struggle help me as a person, do I profit? – then it just might.

    • pabelmont
      October 25, 2013, 2:13 pm

      A lot of Jews probably worked in the USA’s civil rights movement out of “it’d be good for the Jews” and others from pure do-gooder motivations. Both helped. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

      Anyhow, if she saw that all the good guys (for various issues) were on the Palestine side of the issue, perhaps she simply sensed that it was better to go with the good guys than the other side.

  8. OlegR
    October 25, 2013, 4:05 am

    So UCLA has not made any actual divestment votes , and all this vote did was still keep it as a possibility , great job you guys…

    • Ecru
      October 25, 2013, 6:21 am

      This vote did much more than that Oleg, it showed the base corruption and Islamophobic character of the anti-BDS crowd for all to see. They’re the Zionist American Bund.

      • OlegR
        October 25, 2013, 3:23 pm

        They are the what ?
        And what is so bad about it?

      • Annie Robbins
        October 25, 2013, 5:26 pm

        did you read the article? they were exposed:

        ”the critical thing is once senators realized the bill’s claim to support engagement was not matched by the author’s behavior, and once they realized that ‘positive investments’ was not what Palestinians actually wanted, then all that was left was the anti-divestment part of the bill. At that point the intentions were in question, and there was no longer a compelling reason to pass the bill.”

        bottom line the claims of the pro ‘positive investment’ is that it can bring everybody together and empower dialogue yada yada, as if they were interested in dialogue and in engaging over the issue in a positive way. however, the didn’t get any input from palestinians students of sjp or even discuss the legislation w/the student body or any students and didn’t seem interested in what they thought.

        so, from what i gathered, the sponsors of the bill in reviewing the charges, instigated a thorough line by line examination of the bill during deliberations in order to examine and then remove the parts of the bill that basically silenced palestinian activists, since the sponsors claim was that they wanted dialogue. and in the course of that process the ‘non political..or 3 “independent/stay out of political” senators (they have certain senators who run as independents non affiliated w/politcs, or something, some of which had agreed to sponsor the bill) were dropping off like flies. there was just nothing left of the bill.

        as riham pointed out when i queried if he could witness the change right there in the room. he answered yes, and i think they were somewhat surprised, it was somewhat unexpected:

        “some of the independent senators were the most critical of the bill, more than we were hoping. They seemed very moved by the public comment.”

        so it broke down over the review of the bill, exactly the opposite of what the sponsors expected. and then another thing that did not make it into the story (i don’t think tho i could review) is that once it fell flat the sponsors argued that since they had removed all the other offensive stuff the other senators were obligated to pass it! iow, it was clearly just about stopping divestment. they were not interested in dialogue or positive investment. they were interested in silencing debate.

        so this was the first time this new tactic was tried on a campus, and it failed. and it also brought into question the conflict of interest for these students legislators accepting these free israel trips. the adl and israel should not be targeting student legislators on campus’s across the state.

      • OlegR
        October 27, 2013, 8:45 am

        No no Annie that is not what i asked.
        Ecru blamed some organization he called ” Zionist American Bund.”
        i would like Him to answer what is this organization why is it called like that
        who are the members etc.

        Also i would like to know did Ecru ever read about the relationship between the Historical Bund and the Zionists movement ?

      • Shmuel
        October 28, 2013, 3:20 am

        i would like to know did Ecru ever read about the relationship between the Historical Bund and the Zionists movement

        Ecru was not referring to that Bund, but to the German American Bund.

      • OlegR
        October 28, 2013, 5:00 am

        That’s even better he is comparing Jewish American organizations to Nazi
        sympathisers.

      • Cliff
        October 28, 2013, 6:06 am

        Jewish nationalists are no different.

        Just because genocide has gone out of style for Europeans does not mean the underlying hateful ideological framework has also gone out of style.

        You are a good example of that, Oleg.

        You are like Nazi book burners. You don’t read. You’ve learned as much about this conflict as you are emotionally and psychologically capable of long ago.

        Any new contradictory info will be interpreted by you as ‘Israel bashing’.

        Example: you haven’t read Max’s book but you continue to slander it. You are a lying ignoramus.

      • Woody Tanaka
        October 28, 2013, 6:41 am

        “That’s even better he is comparing Jewish American organizations to Nazi
        sympathisers.”

        Well, if the shoe fits…

      • Ecru
        October 29, 2013, 1:07 pm

        @ OlegR

        I did respond before but it didn’t get through moderation. (Quick get me the ADL and a Senatorial Hearing!).

        Yep, Nazis. Ethno-nationalists and ethno-supremacists are at core all the same, be they Jewish Zionists or “Aryan” Nazis. You goose-step over people’s faces like a Nazi Oleg you’re gonna get compared to them. If you don’t like the comparison maybe you should rethink your behaviour.

        But a question for you. If you already knew who the Bund were, why did you ask me for an explanation of them?

    • talknic
      October 25, 2013, 10:51 pm

      OlegR “great job you guys…”

      I’d like to congratulate you too. But I can’t find anything you’ve ever written that attempts to promote a just, equitable peace

      • OlegR
        October 27, 2013, 8:49 am

        That would depend on your interpretation of the word just and equitable.
        Though i don’t expect much from you in that department.

      • Cliff
        October 28, 2013, 6:03 am

        Oleg, considering you regard the various UN resolutions as a waste of trees, its safe to assume you have no sense of the word ‘just’ or ‘equitable.’

      • OlegR
        October 28, 2013, 6:31 am

        No i just don’t assume that an impotent organization consisitng mainly of non democratic authocratic and totalitarian countries and that allows them to participate and even preside over it’s various institutions and commities has a monopoly on the words justice or equality.

  9. pabelmont
    October 25, 2013, 10:30 am

    ADL et al. really do understand that trips to Israel (politicians, youth-birthright, student-legislators, popular-musicians) are GREAT HASBARA because the trip-providers can CONTROL THE VISIT and HIDE THE ATROCITIES.

    Imagine that the UCLA student-legislators had said to ADL, “Yes, sure. glad to go, fine, dandy, BUT I cannot accept you offer of a trip to Israel UNLESS I am guaranteed a three-day period to be the guest of Al-Haq and B’Tzelem in Ramallah.”

    What would ADL say (and THINK) about such a prospect? How would American candidates like the Republican dudes say if they were REQUIRED to visit OPTs whenever they visited Israel?

  10. Ludwig
    October 25, 2013, 2:08 pm

    Divestment has been voted down time and again. It’s collective punishment toward innocent Israelis both Arab and Jew and it will not be tolerated.

    • just
      October 25, 2013, 9:07 pm

      You have no control over it. Ludwig– BDS will grow and thrive.

      “it will not be tolerated”– you are just fooling yourself. You don’t have the power.

      • yrn
        October 28, 2013, 6:48 am

        Just

        Here are some success stories for the BDS.

        * Web giant Amazon.com will open an office in Tel Aviv
        Why Israel? Werner Hans Peter Vogel, the chief technology officer and Vice President of Amazon.com ” If you start a business today you no longer buy IT (information technology). You spend your money on getting better engineers and product builders. ”

        * Facebook has acquired Onavo, an Israel-based startup for well over 100 million. Facebook will gain both talent and technology in the deal. All of Onavo employees will join FB. Onavo’s Tel Aviv headquarters will become into Facebook’s first Israel office.

        * Warren Buffet purchased a third Israeli company Ray-Q Interconnect. Ray-Q, which helped develop Israel’s Iron Dome and Arrow military systems, will keep its operations in Israel Buffet total investment in Israel is nearly $7 billion.

        Rihanna Perfromed in Tel Aviv

        And Beyoncé is coming to Tel Aviv………..

        Now do you get it !

      • just
        October 28, 2013, 7:16 am

        Someday, even the craven and stupid will come around.

        Thanks anyway, yrn.

    • talknic
      October 25, 2013, 10:46 pm

      Ludwig “Divestment has been voted down time and again”

      So was a round world that orbited the sun

      ” It’s collective punishment toward innocent Israelis both Arab and Jew”

      Uh huh. So is occupation, dispossession, prevention of RoR, illegal acquisition, illegal annexation and illegal settling in other folks territory, then blocking any escaped from a war zone and bombing them because of a few wonky home made rockets that are less a threat than obesity

      “and it will not be tolerated”

      If it’s effective, there’s no choice, except of course to lobby the Israeli government to get out of ALL non-Israeli territories for once

      • ziusudra
        October 26, 2013, 3:27 am

        Greetings talknic,
        …..to Lobby the Israeli government to get out of ALL non-Israeli territories for once…..
        Zionistan makes a mockery of the Genius of the 5 treaties of the 30 yrs’ war of the representatives of 196 rulers in only 4 yrs.!
        Zionistan has the wealth, Military Support of NATO & the backing of the US to unilaterally withdraw to the collective recognized 67 borders tomorrow, w/o reprisals. If they would ask for reparations, they would get it from the global kitty!
        They are gluttonly mesmerized with the dillusion of a greater Zionistan w/o even being able to uphold it being such a puny ‘Folk’!
        We remember that little Girl strolling along to market with her pitcher of milk potentializing the sale of such into a chimera of profit…. until she tripped!
        The Ideology of Zionism was a ploy to remove Euro. Jews to a safer place while inducing the Euro powers to realize their benefits of a jewless Europe, it worked. That should have been the end of Zionism,
        but no, Zionism cloned itself to a manifested conquest of contiguous Falesteeena!
        ziusudra
        PS Yom tov, they are going to need it.

    • ziusudra
      October 26, 2013, 2:57 am

      Greetings Ludwig,
      … It is collective punishment toward innocent Israelis…….

      Active Zionists or passive Israelis, who is innocent in Zionistan?
      What have the Generations of No. Koreans, Cubans, Iranians
      ever done to suffer perpetual sanctions?
      ziusudra

    • just
      October 26, 2013, 6:06 am

      All of a sudden you are concerned about “Arabs”, Ludwig?

      Puh- leeze. Next you’ll be terribly concerned about the refugees from Africa that are imprisoned by Israel being “punished” as well by divestment.

      • talknic
        October 26, 2013, 8:54 am

        @Just I’m sure that even some of Ludwig’s best friends ‘d be Arab don’t ya know.

      • just
        October 28, 2013, 7:18 am

        I’m sure that he offers loads of them tea in his own cozy home……with abundant & legendary Israeli “hospitality”.

    • Ecru
      October 29, 2013, 1:11 pm

      @ Ludwig

      If divestment is “collective punishment” of innocent Jews and Arabs in the case of Israel may we assume you’re also against the sanctions against innocent Iranians?

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