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Passage of divestment by Berkeley students is ‘inevitable’

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Haaretz publishes Berkeley student Matthew Taylor on the late divestment effort at the school:

[I]f history is any guide, Berkeley’s divestment measure could have a positive impact. In the 1980s, Berkeley’s student government was one of the first at any U.S. institution of higher learning to vote to recommend divestment from South Africa’s apartheid regime. The UC system’s board of regents initially resisted the divestment call, but student protests eventually led the regents to divest funds from companies with ties to South Africa. Eventually other campuses and local municipalities took similar actions.

The United States government, formerly one of the chief enablers of apartheid, followed the lead of the students, passing the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act in 1986….

"In South Africa, we could not have achieved our freedom and just peace without the help of people around the world, who through the use of nonviolent means, such as boycotts and divestments, encouraged their governments and other corporate actors to reverse decades-long support for the Apartheid regime. Students played a leading role in that struggle," Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote in a letter to Berkeley’s student government endorsing the current divestment bill…

..If more American college campuses and local agencies pass divestment measures, eventually members of U.S. Congress may come to see that they must listen to their pro-justice, pro-peace constituents and not only to AIPAC. If that happens, a U.S. anti-occupation act could become a possibility.

If the U.S. government were to seriously pressure Israel – for example, by conditioning $3 billion in annual aid on an end to the occupation and implementation of an equitable peace agreement – perhaps that would provide the incentive necessary to end the occupation.

Although the Berkeley student president subsequently vetoed the divestment bill, and AIPAC’s lobbying of student senators successfully prevented an override vote by the narrowest of margins, the proposal’s eventual passage seems inevitable. That will turn the spotlight onto the university regents, who will face protests if they don’t follow the divestment recommendation.

We who promoted and rallied for this bill are a remarkably diverse coalition of Jews, Christians and Muslims; Israelis and Palestinians; and Americans of all backgrounds. Prominent Jewish supporters included Ofra Ben Artzi, sister-in-law of Prime Minister Netanyahu, and Hedy Epstein, an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor.

We Jews who support the divestment bill are fed up with Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights. We are unwilling to wait for political pressure to get Israel out of the territories to spring from the head of Zeus. And we believe that this move is in the best interests of the Israeli and Palestinian people.

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Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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