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In landslide, UCLA student govt votes to divest from Israeli occupation

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Last night the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) undergraduate student government voted 8-2-2 to pass a resolution calling on the university to divest from companies profiting from Israeli human rights abuses and occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. According to a UCLA Students for Justice in Palestine press release, UCLA’s vote marks the sixth undergraduate University of California campus to support divestment from the Israeli occupation.

The full divestment resolution can be found here and it calls for the school to divest from Boeing, Caterpillar, Cement Roadstone Holdings, Cemex, General Dynamics, General Electric, Hewlett-Packard, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and United Technologies.  It ends with this call to justice:

LET IT FINALLY BE RESOLVED, that we, the students, call upon our university to dissociate itself from companies that engage or aid in systematic prejudiced oppression, whether this system targets  people based on their religion, nationality, gender, race or orientation, by divesting from companies that  participate in or profit from human rights violations.
 The Daily Bruin reports on the debate that accompanied the vote:

After the resolution was put to a vote, USAC President Avinoam Baral voiced his frustrations about not being able to voice his opinions against the resolution, especially because he is the only Israeli-born student sitting on council. USAC presidents typically do not vote unless there is a tie, and do not participate in discussions.

“I’m sorry I could not represent you how you wanted me to represent you,” Baral said to the Jewish and pro-Israel communities, in reference to the resolution.

Before the vote, some public commenters spoke about their personal connections to the issues outlined in the resolution.

Noor Habib El-Farra, a third-year geography and environmental studies student, said during public comment that nine of her family members died in the most recent conflict in the Gaza Strip this summer. She added that her uncle had cancer and died waiting at a checkpoint because it was difficult to receive proper medical care in the Gaza Strip.

“(The resolution) is just about seeing my family and not having to worry about them,” she said.

Multiple student groups signed onto the resolution as co-sponsors or endorsed its content, including the Afrikan Student Union, Armenian Student Association, MEChA de UCLA, Samahang Pilipino, Student Coalition Against Labor Exploitation, Queer Alliance and Bruin Feminists for Equality, among others. Many groups said their own communities have had experiences with discrimination and believe such experiences parallel what Palestinians are experiencing.

Representatives from Hillel at UCLA, Bruins for Israel and J Street U explained their opposition to the resolution in a 15-minute special presentation.

Eytan Davidovits, president of Bruins for Israel and a fourth-year economics student, said he thinks this resolution focuses on polarizing global issues and that USAC should instead look at issues that students on campus face.

At a press roundtable held prior to the USAC meeting, Tammy Rubin, a fourth-year human biology and society student and former president of Hillel at UCLA, said she thinks the divestment resolution does not accurately represent the views of the entire student body that the council represents.

As Alex Kane reported for Mondoweiss, UCLA Hillel partnered with D.C.-linked public relations firm 30 Point Strategies to combat BDS at the school and prepare for this vote. As can be seen in the Daily Bruin passage above Tammy Rubin employed the advice of the PR consultants who recommended Hillel to “‘isolate’ Students for Justice in Palestine as ‘unrepresentative, a groups [sic] of isolated graduate students, part of Nationwide Agenda that has nothing to do with Student Life at UCLA.'” The strategy was adopted by several pro-Israel campus groups as reported by The Jewish Journal:

prompted by a new strategy enacted by some of UCLA’s Jewish student groups, including Hillel at UCLA, Bruins for Israel and J-Street U, supporters of Israel effectively boycotted the hearing in an attempt to discredit and delegitimize UCLA’s strengthening pro-BDS movement. Only about 10 student representatives and members from those three organizations sat together during the hearing. While none of them participated in the public comment period that would have given the floor to dozens of divestment opponents in two-minute intervals, four of them made their case against divestment to the student government during a scripted 15-minute speech.

“We are not going to have our community sit through however long a session of bullying and hate speech,” said Tammy Rubin in an interview before the hearing began. Rubin is the president emeritus of Hillel at UCLA. She said that unlike last year, Hillel at UCLA, Bruins for Israel and J-Street U will now use the time not spent on opposing symbolic divestment resolutions to “reinvest in our community.”

“We’re not not fighting it [divestment],” Rubin said. “We are just fighting it strategically in a different way.”

Still the resolution had strong support from other student groups on campus including Students for Justice in Palestine, American Indian Students Association, Bengali Students Association, Bruin Feminists for Equality, IDEAS (Improving Dreams, Equality, Access, and Success), Incarcerated Youth Tutorial Project, Jewish Voice for Peace, Muslim Students Association, Queer Alliance, Samahang Pilipino, Student Coalition Against Labor Exploitation, UMMA Volunteer Project and the United Arab Society.

Reflecting the diversity of the coalition that came together to promote the resolution, UCLA SJP sees the vote as a “milestone victory for social justice” and a “foundation from which students from myriad backgrounds can continue to educate and organize in support of not just Palestinian rights but all causes of social justice.”

Here is a press release UCLA SJP sent out following the vote:

Divestment organizers at UCLA, representing a wide coalition of students from all backgrounds and sectors of campus, celebrated a milestone victory for social justice with the passage of “A Resolution to Divest from Corporations Engaged in Violence against Palestinians.” The resolution, sponsored by Negeen Sadeghi-Movahed, Conrad Contreras, and Manjot Singh, passed by an 8-2-2 margin. It was sponsored by 15 student organizations and endorsed by an additional 17, making for 32 total student groups in support of divestment. UCLA’s vote marks the 6th of 9 undergraduate University of California campuses to have taken a majority vote in support of divestment from corporations that violate Palestinian human rights.

Council members from a variety of political affiliations voted in favor of the resolution, including independents, progressives, and a member of the campus’ moderate party. Before the vote, council members expressed their admiration and respect for the coalition building, education, and outreach by SJP-UCLA during our campaign. Also notable was the positive tone of the hearing and discussion, wherein most council members affirmed their support for one another regardless of their votes.

The resolution could not have been successful without the support of the students from many communities who came out to speak in its favor and who stayed at the hearing until it passed.  Alaa Abuadas, the programming director for SJP-UCLA said, “as a Palestinian, I want to thank every single person who helped us pass this bill, for getting us one step closer to a free Palestine.”

This resolution’s victory does not mark the end of SJP’s efforts. SJP sees the passage of divestment as a chance to help other communities use this tool as an avenue to attain more political agency. On that note, the organization sees this vote as laying a principled foundation from which students from myriad backgrounds can continue to educate and organize in support of not just Palestinian rights but all causes of social justice.


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26 Responses

  1. just
    November 19, 2014, 10:44 am

    “Reflecting the diversity of the coalition that came together to promote the resolution, UCLA SJP sees the vote as a “milestone victory for social justice” and a “foundation from which students from myriad backgrounds can continue to educate and organize in support of not just Palestinian rights but all causes of social justice.””

    This coalition is stunning and beautiful. Bravo to this UCLA student coalition for blazing this trail.

    I had to giggle at this really very lame attempt:

    “Eytan Davidovits, president of Bruins for Israel and a fourth-year economics student, said he thinks this resolution focuses on polarizing global issues and that USAC should instead look at issues that students on campus face.”

    uh- huh.

    • pabelmont
      November 19, 2014, 11:26 am

      Yup, the students said, in effect, “we live in the whole world and we want to REPAIR the world” and (this) Eytan said, “Keep out of it, it’s not your business”. Not a very Jewish reply, perhaps. But then the student body may not have been very predominantly Jewish, no matter who its president was.

    • a blah chick
      a blah chick
      November 19, 2014, 5:46 pm

      “Eytan Davidovits, president of Bruins for Israel…aid he thinks this resolution focuses on polarizing global issues and that USAC should instead look at issues that students on campus face.”

      And exactly how does being a Bruin for Israel do that?

      • just
        November 19, 2014, 10:49 pm

        great point, abc.

        she shoots, she scores! kerpow!

        and he’s a 4th year econ student– will he go into the wide, wide world next year?

      • Horizontal
        November 19, 2014, 10:49 pm

        I’d say having your tuition funding oppression is pretty darned relevant to a student, don’t you think?

        I wish I had a say, when my tax money does the exact same thing, but I don’t seem to have much choice in the matter short of a jail cell, and damn my own cowardice in the matter.

      • November 20, 2014, 8:10 am

        That’s great. This guy is the president of “Bruins for Israel” and is saying that students should pay no attention to Israel as it is not an issue faced on campus. This is akin to Dershowitz accusing critics of being obsessed with Israel.

      • ritzl
        November 20, 2014, 4:07 pm

        Mega OUCH!

        Even after years and years of examples, that level of a lack of self-awareness is truly astonishing.

  2. Cliff
    November 19, 2014, 12:48 pm

    Devin Murphy, the class president just resigned.

    Why? The vice-president is a hardcore Zio, so things are going to get interesting.

  3. Polly
    November 19, 2014, 2:16 pm

    Slightly of-topic but it occurred to me that if Chomsky wants to shed his “gatekeeper” tag I hope he would see events like this as a reason to quit nitpicking various points on the BDS mission statement. Whatever BDS’s main objectives are, its most likely positive effect will be to help create a sea-change in public opinion and it’s slowly but surely working.

    • annie
      November 19, 2014, 2:27 pm

      he’s a linguist. picky is what they do.

      • November 20, 2014, 8:11 am

        No. He’s a (self proclaimed) Zionist. Hasbara is what they do.

      • Mooser
        November 30, 2014, 4:17 pm

        “No. He’s a (self proclaimed) Zionist. Hasbara is what they do.”

        One of those clever but sneaky linguists. Hmmm, ‘clever and sneaky’, there’s a word for that. Hey, don’t ask me, for years, I thought a “linguist” was somebody who made Portuguese sausage.

  4. Kay24
    November 19, 2014, 4:32 pm

    End the Occupation wants folks to urge their lawmakers to attend:

    “Prior to the most recent land confiscation order, the Israeli government had already stolen more than 90% of Wadi Foquin’s land, failed to control raw sewage pouring in from nearby settlements, destroyed hundreds of their olive trees, and issued demolition orders for many structures in the village, including the children’s playground. Despite the Israeli government’s attempts to eliminate Wadi Foquin and intimidate people who speak out through reprisal attacks, the residents are determined to remain steadfast on their land.

    On November 24th, a delegation from the village of Wadi Foquin will be in Washington, DC for a Congressional briefing. The delegation includes Ahmad Sokar, Mayor of Wadi Foquin, Ata Manasra, Community Development Coordinator, and Adel Horoub, Youth Coordinator.”

    I don’t know if these poor folk will get the help they badly need from our ziocongress.

    • Horizontal
      November 19, 2014, 10:40 pm

      Can you imagine Diane Feinstein or Barbara Boxer actually attending one of these sessions? I can’t either.

      It would look like a scene from “The Exorcist.”

      As an elected official, they should though.

  5. American
    November 19, 2014, 5:45 pm

    growing growing growing……

    Woolworths faces Israel protest at key meeting
    Independent Online-11 hours ago
    “The call for Woolworths to terminate relations with Israel is part of a non-violent response to the Israeli regime,” Desai said. “We’d like to …

    Woolworths shareholders back Israel boycott
    Times LIVE-Nov 18, 2014

    • annie
      November 19, 2014, 5:53 pm

      american, i am fairly certain this is a south african initiative and it’s a completely different business, a food chain.

      • American
        November 19, 2014, 8:32 pm

        I know but it still counts.
        And its reported in newspapers from SA to New Zealand.
        So people see it.

      • RoHa
        November 19, 2014, 10:54 pm

        The South African Woolworths is quite distinct from the Australian Woolworths, but it has taken over David Jones here, so there is plenty of room for confusion.

  6. Kolin Thumbadoo
    Kolin Thumbadoo
    November 19, 2014, 9:28 pm

    Congratulations UCLA we draw added strength from your monumental victory. Long live BDS.

  7. Horizontal
    November 19, 2014, 10:37 pm


    Genuinely feel sorry for the Israeli student who wasn’t allowed to address this due to procedural matters. I can imagine who agonizing it must have been for him.

    Overall, great news in getting this passed and torpedoing the dishonest tactics mounted to overcome this bold initiative. We all realize that “ignoring these polarizing issues and that USAC should instead look at issues that students on campus face” is another way of saying, “Stop looking at my occupation.”

    The status quo is hardly neutral. Caulk up one for the good guys.

    Now, will UCLA actually listen?

  8. CigarGod
    November 20, 2014, 9:39 am

    So heartening to see these children fighting the good fight. Gives me hope for the future.

  9. lysias
    November 20, 2014, 10:35 am

    OT, Peter Sellars has comments on The Death of Klinghoffer and its performance at the Metropolitan Opera in a new piece in The Guardian: Peter Sellars: ‘The United States is coming close to censorship’.

  10. lysias
    November 20, 2014, 5:35 pm

    Also OT (apologies), Philip Nelson, the author of LBJ: The Mastermind of the JFK Assassination, has a new book just out, LBJ: From Mastermind to the Colossus. It has a chapter on the USS Liberty attack. I have just been reading it on my Kindle. He accepts Peter Hounam’s Operation Cyanide theory. I can’t tell you everything he says, as I am only midway in the chapter.

  11. JWalters
    November 20, 2014, 9:06 pm

    Great news! The U.S. should not be supporting war profiteers and religious supremacists, no matter how deluded some Americans are.

  12. kma
    November 21, 2014, 12:07 pm

    so, zionists took their PR consultant advice to “isolate SJP” and only 10 of them sat together… isolated from all those social justice groups.

    the idea that the prez of the council had no “voice” and that the vote did not represent the sudents Hillel represents contrasts sharply with the UCB zionists – where the zionist prez vetoed a landslide vote for diivestment. such hypocrites.

    so, with their strategies failing, now they say they are “fighting it strategically in a different way”. I’m sure that means they are running to their bought-and-paid-for politicians to enact pro-bullying laws to make it a crime not to be an islamophobe. The good news is that they are going to have to keep looking for new “strategies”.

    by the way, (OT), did anyone happen to see the funny story about Fox news trying to whine about anti-zionism being stronger than islamophobia at UCB? it was a stupid antic, but hilarious result:

    • annie
      November 21, 2014, 2:45 pm

      kma, i saw that video last night. someone linked to it here. it is hysterical. first of all i doubt anyone on campus took him serious when he was waving the isis flag, they probably thought he was a crackpot and many people don’t know what an isis flag looks like. i couldn’t pick one out other than knowing it’s black. but berkeley is the center of the activist universe (imho), so of course they know all about israeli war crimes.

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