Over 30 California state legislators have signed on to a letter criticizing the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement and the passage of divestment resolutions on California college campuses. Read the letter embedded below or download a copy here.
As part of SB 160, the External Vice President of the Associated Students of the University of California Berkeley has written a letter to other UC student leaders explaining SB 160 and encouraging similar divestment bills across the UC. Download the letter in PDF form here.
Dear Fellow UC Student Leaders,
I am writing as the External Vice President of the Associated Students of the University of California Berkeley to share with you news of a recent bill passed by our student senate, SB 160, “A Bill in Support of Human Rights in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.” You can find a copy of this bill attached.
SB 160 is a positive step toward increased corporate social responsibility. Specifically, it calls on the Regents to engage in targeted divestment of university funds from companies profiting from human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Companies the UC invests in that are mentioned in the bill include Caterpillar, Cement Roadstone Holdings, and Hewlett Packard. These companies have assisted the Israeli military in the illegal demolition of Palestinian homes, the creation of an illegal separation wall beyond Israel’s internationally recognized borders, and in the systematic and discriminatory violation of Palestinian freedom of movement internal to the Palestinian Territories, as documented by numerous human rights groups cited in our bill and elsewhere. By profiting from these investments our university maintains a relationship of complicity with these crimes, which SB 160 seeks to stop. Not only are we as students benefiting from these human rights abuses, but some students among us also are suffering directly from them as well, notably Palestinian students across the UC system who are put in the discomfiting position of knowing that their school is profiting from the demolition of their own family’s homes and from a violent, discriminatory occupation that harms them and their loved ones.
Our bill is very clear to distinguish between the targeted divestment of international corporations – in this case American and European ones – and divestment from any and all things Israeli; SB 160 specifically demands targeted divestment from international companies that are directly benefiting from human rights abuses. No more. No less. The human rights abuses in question are consequences of Israeli policy, but the continued occupation is not sustained by the Israeli government alone. In fact, the tactic of divestment seeks to emphasize our own complicity in these abuses, and seeks to hold ourselves accountable to the basic maxim of ‘do no evil.’
This bill affirms the common humanity of all students, Israeli, Palestinian and otherwise,
We encourage you to do the same and support similar divestment at your campuses, if you have not yet done so.
All my best,
ASUC External Affairs Vice President UC Berkeley
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Students for Justice in Palestine at UC Davis
ASUCD to vote on “UCD Resolution in Support of University of California Davis Corporate Accountability through Divestment from Corporations Profiting from the Illegal Occupation of Palestine”
(April 24, 2013) In the coming weeks, the Associated Students of University of California, Davis, (ASUCD) student government senate will be voting whether or not to divest from corporations that are profiting from human rights violations occurring in the occupied Palestinian territories. This will make the University of California, Davis the sixth UC to vote on a Divestment resolution this year, following UC San Diego, UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbara, UC Berkeley and UC Irvine.
The resolution targets Caterpillar, General Electric, Cement Roadstones and Raytheon, all of which are profiting from human rights violations in the occupied territories (violations which have been deemed illegal by the United Nations and the International Court of Justice). The Students for Justice in Palestine (Davis), sponsored the resolution, joining a UC-wide effort to assert students’ agency and insist on socially responsible investments by divesting from corporations profiting from the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian Territories.
Whether the resolution “UCD Resolution in Support of University of California Davis Corporate Accountability through Divestment from Corporations Profiting from the Illegal Occupation of Palestine,” passes or not, the Students for Justice in Palestine at UCD sees this as a beginning to pushing the University towards a more socially responsible investment.
To the members of the UC Berkeley community:
In the wake of the ASUC Senate’s passage of SB 160, “A Bill In Support of Human Rights in the West Bank and Gaza Strip,” I want to offer some thoughts about how we can move forward as a campus community. I also want to acknowledge that this may be the first step in a process that could, among other things, include consideration of other proposed bills that support Israeli-Palestinian cooperation.
As you all know, the ASUC is an independent student organization, and its vote in this matter will not change investment policy established by the Regents of the University of California. In addition, it is my personal opinion that targeting a single nation or state in this highly complex world is not appropriate and does little to advance the cause of peace and coexistence. Ultimately, we believe that engaging in dialogue on these difficult issues is the best hope that we have for achieving peace. It is the path that we hope world leaders will follow and our students will emulate.
This, of course, is not the first time that the Israeli divestment issue has arisen on this campus and I sincerely hope that we can avoid the rancor and divisiveness that arose in the wake of a previous ASUC vote in 2010, even as we support every student’s right to freedom of expression and acknowledge the diversity of views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As Chancellor, a pillar of my vision for UC Berkeley has been to create a campus where equity and inclusion are fundamental values that sustain our principles of community and allow freedom of expression to occur through civilized and informed debate.
At the same time, all of our students must feel that the campus is a safe and inclusive environment for them, one in which they have the freedom to express their views without fear of intimidation. In fact, UCPD has informed me of its investigation into a recent incident on Sproul Plaza in which, according to preliminary eyewitness accounts, a Berkeley student handing out pro-divestment flyers was struck in the face. I am deeply concerned by these initial reports and must state in no uncertain terms that this behavior is unacceptable in our community. We will take firm steps to bring perpetrators of such acts to justice. Our Principles of Community require that debate on our campus–even debate over emotional and important issues such as these–remain civil and respectful.
I and members of my administration will continue to work hard to build and sustain the sort of campus climate that I believe we all benefit from. We will also continue to support efforts like The Olive Tree Initiative, a student-led endeavor that is fostering dialogue and discussion here on campus and in the Middle East. Above all, we hope and expect that the ongoing discussion and dialogue about the conflicts in the Middle East will happen in a manner that respects and acknowledges the views and beliefs of others.
Robert J. Birgeneau
Dear ASUCR Senators,
I was shocked by your decision last month to adopt a resolution supporting divestment from U.S. companies accused to profit from the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, but then I learned with great satisfaction that you had decided to rescind your decision, thus creating a more open space, free of intolerance and hostility on your campus. You are to be commended for recognizing that your first decision was erroneous, and more importantly for taking the right corrective action by rescinding it. It is a sign of wisdom and maturity to re-examine a decision once more facts are made known.
The supporters of divestment present a distorted image of the reality Israel is facing. The “oppression” the Palestinians complain about incessantly is due entirely to their rejection of every peace offer Israel has made over the years, and to their refusal to meet with Israeli officials to negotiate the terms of a final peace agreement between the two peoples. They could have had their own state and live in peace side by side with Israel in 1948, 2000 and 2008, and could still do so at any time today. But instead they chose war and terrorism in a vain attempt to win it all and have to make no concessions. When they decide to make peace, the occupation will end, and with it the perceived need to hold hostage millions of students on American and Canadians campuses for a cause that few are really interested in.
50 years ago Martin Luther King Jr. sent his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” to address the commonly repeated notion that the south was not yet ready for civil rights. He responded by quoting Chief Justice Earl Warren by saying “justice too long delayed is justice denied.” I urge you to stand on the right side of history, right now, in the name of freedom, justice, and equality for all people, it being understood that “all people” means Israelis and Palestinians alike, not just the Palestinians alone.
Adopting a resolution calling for divestment was the wrong thing to do last month, and it remains the wrong thing to do today. Thank you for your courage and integrity.
I know that tonight’s debate on divestment will be emotional. Both sides will be passionate. But I as a responsible representative of the student body—and the University at large—I hope you’ll base your decision on FACTS. It’s for this reason that I attach a one-page fact sheet (pdf) on the BDS issue. I hope you’ll take a minute to read these indisputable facts. If you do, I believe you’ll conclude that the BDS movement does NOT support the aspirations of the Palestinian people for self-determination . . . and that this movement is led by people who fundamentally OPPOSE the right of the Jewish people to have a state in Israel. But the facts speak for themselves. Please review before voting tonight. And thank you for your commitment to truth and justice.
P.S. If it’s easier for you, you can view this information online at http://www.factsandlogic.org/ad_123.html
Dear ASUCR Senators
I am a third year student at the University and I was deeply appalled by the divestment from Israel Resolution. I feel that it was wrong because it marginalize me. The divestment allows for the singling out of not only Israeli and Jewish organizations on campus, but also of Israeli and Jewish students, it is unacceptable for a University of UCR’s caliber to be prejudice against a group. It is also depressing because as the Senators I voted for I expected a less discriminating and more accepting decision. I don’t feel accepted on this campus and I keep wondering who supports this resolution and who is against it. Who welcomes me and who thinks my country commits acts of genocide I also want to say you have taken a side by passing this resolution. You, ASUCR, are no longer neutral in this conflict. You have stated that ASUCR believes that Israel is partaking in Apartheid. This is a huge accusation. You also have stated in your resolution a number of war crimes and injustices that have not been proven by facts or have happened.
Does the Senate speak for me because I disagree. To compare Israel to South African Apartheid is absolutely offensive. I hope the Senate realizes they have made a statement to California, to American and to a whole Country. That no other Country has made that no other governing body has made.
Honestly, I would like to believe you have been manipulated into taking stance in a huge political stake, but the worst thing about this is that I am a disappointed
This is in regards to the divestment vote that just passed, I am extremely upset that a vote on a matter such as this was done in almost complete secrecy. The student population had a right to know when this vote was occurring and should have been given the right to protest this, in fact there was no effort on the part of ASUCR to let the student population know about this vote. I hope that you will veto this passed vote, if not there will be protests and formal letters of complaints mailed to all UCR officials, and media outlets about the injustice that has occurred on our campus.
Dear President Yudof, Chancellor Conoley, and ASUCR Senators,
Today I write to you as a Highlander Alumni, as a Highlander alumni who is ashamed to be a Highlander Alumni. It has come across my attention that the ASUCR Senate has passed a resolution to divest from Israel. This means that ASUCR has come to resolution that UCR should not do business with any companies in which are associated with Israel. First, I want to thank the senators who voted against this resolution. As an alumni, and as a former ASUCR Senator myself, I am disgusted that the ASUCR Senate would pass a resolution filled with fallacy and out right lies. This document is full of fallacy, lies, and deceit about Israel and the Jewish people as a whole. As a Jew, I feel singles out by such a resolution, in which is passed by my alma mater. In addition to inspiring hatred of Israel, its people, and of Jews, this document is filled with historical inaccuracies and defamation. There is no academic value and no integrity to such a resolution being passed by ASUCR or an AS Senate anywhere in the UC System. The mission of the UC is to teach, to research and to do public service. The goal of a University such as ours is to promote the exchange of free ideas and knowledge. This resolution does NOT do that, it actually promote hatred and dishonesty. This deceitful resolution does not accomplish any of the University’s missions or goals. Mr. President, Madame Chancellor, and distinguished Senators, I know I speak for myself, other alumni and current students of both UCR and of UC when I say that this has NO place at our University. Therefore, Mr. President, Madame Chancellor, and Senators, I URGE you to repeal this resolution and to strike it from any official record.
Statement from Nobel Peace Prize Winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu:
Your vote in support of “Divestment from companies that profit from apartheid” was an important statement of principle. The fact that companies are profiting from Israeli apartheid in the occupied Palestinian territories and comfortable with dozens of discriminatory laws within Israel is appalling. I have seen the deeply troublesome apartheid conditions that Israel has created inside the West Bank with the dual standard of law that discriminates against Palestinians. It is unacceptable.
I urge you to stand firm for equality and human rights — as well as against racism, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism — and not to backtrack on your courageous vote. Just as we defeated apartheid in South Africa so can we defeat Israel’s brand of apartheid and help Palestinians and Israelis alike secure a future of peace and equality. Your vote is not insignificant. It is votes such as yours that created the wave of momentum toward freedom in South Africa and sped up that glorious day of justice and equality in my homeland. The same thing can happen again today in securing freedom for Palestinians.
Do not stand silent. Do not retreat. Do not back down. Stand firm in your principles and reject apartheid wherever it is practiced. Your courage is admirable as you put your university on the right side of history.
Statement from Pink Floyd member Roger Waters:
Dear Senators of University of California, Riverside,
Be strong, you are on the right side of the argument. It is always right to support the oppressed. The founding fathers, the authors of the constitution of these United States of America were right to avow that “All men have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
That sentiment includes The Palestinian and Israeli peoples, it includes Rachel Corrie, killed by a Caterpillar bulldozer, and all the other victims of the occupation on both sides. You are part of the first stirrings of protest, not against Israel, not against the Israeli people, not against Jews, but against the illegal, unjust, immoral,and inhumane policies of the Israeli government. I am proud of you and stand with you in solidarity.
With great respect
Statement of Support from Ofer Neiman:
To whom it may concern,
I am an Israeli Jewish citizen. I have been active in the campaign against my government’s apartheid policies for many years.
I am also the descendant of Holocaust survivors from Europe. My activism is based, to a large extent, on the universal lessons which should be drawn from this dark episode of history.
One of the lessons I have learned during years of activism here in Israel is that Israel’s human rights violations against the Palestinian people are a part of an international power structure, In particular, these violations are sustained by the complicity of American companies, such as Caterpillar and HP. I strongly believe that companies which profit from the misery of millions (not just in Israel/Palestine) should be the target of divestment. I also believe that universities should be held to high ethical standards when it comes to their investment.
In view of this, I would like to express my strong support for the Riverside divestment initiative. I hope that supporters of equality and justice for the Palestinian people will stand firm in the face of Israeli propaganda efforts, which often involve the cynical use of the Holocaust to justify Israeli apartheid.
From the Electronic Intifada
Israel advocates upset about the recent passage of a divestment resolution at the University of California at Riverside have launched an intimidation campaign against the student senators who voted in its favor.
Members of the UC Riverside student senate have been inundated with calls and emails by Israel-aligned individuals and members of on-campus Zionist student groups following the passage of the resolution, who are claiming that the senators “misrepresented” the student body and that the resolution has made the campus atmosphere “more divisive,” according to a student senator who spoke to The Electronic Intifada by phone on Tuesday evening.
Vote to overturn divestment scheduled
In turn, it was recently announced that the student government has agreed to vote on to rescind the divestment resolution tomorrow (Wednesday) evening. If the vote passes with a majority, the divestment resolution will be up for a new vote all over again.
On 6 March, UC Riverside’s Associated Students resolved to urge the University of California’s treasury and administration to pull its current investments in companies which profit from Israel’s occupation. A week later, a similar resolution was passed by the student government at UC San Diego (and, following that, on 25 March, another divestment resolution was passed by the undergraduate student union at York University in Toronto, Canada). In California, since the UC Board of Regents — which is connected to the state government — controls the investments of the University of California system, and the Regents have no plans at this point to change their investment policies, these resolutions are mostly symbolic.
But as more divestment resolutions pass, they become, as EI’s Ali Abunimah put it, “another indicator of growing support for divestment among students, which is why Zionist groups have vigorously opposed such resolutions whenever they have been proposed and have supported draconian measures to suppress student activism at the University of California and other campuses.” Zionist organizations even recruited two local members of Congress to write letters asking student senators to vote against the resolution at UC San Diego.
Ahlam Jadallah, a student senator at UC Riverside and a member of the university’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, whose members were some of the main authors of divestment resolution, told The Electronic Intifada on Tuesday that members of Zionist organizations on campus were employing “scare tactics” and making the senate “feel that they had made the wrong decision” by passing the resolution.
“I really don’t know what’s going to happen [during Wednesday’s vote],” Jadallah said. “As of now, I’m still shocked and I really hope that the senators understand that these are scare tactics, and we made the right decision. We had nearly 40 student organizations who backed us up and stood by us at that meeting [when the resolution passed]. This is just a small group of students who are against it.”
She explained that she hopes her fellow student senators stay committed to the vote they passed last month.
“I really want to remind every senator to have courage to stand up for what they voted for and not to feel that they made the wrong decision. We never said this was going to be easy … Being a senator is not easy. When we took up this opportunity, we never said that this was going to come without criticism.”
As for the Zionists’ argument that this divestment resolution has made the campus climate “more divisive,” it’s important to note what a student at UC Riverside and member of SJP said during our interview on the EI weekly podcast on 8 March:
Being neutral is divestment. Because right now, we currently invest in only one side of this apparently two-sided conflict, in their eyes. And that the solution was either to begin investing in Palestinian companies, which is obviously not feasible, or to disinvest from both sides and stay completely out of it, by the choices of students — which it was.
To the Student Government of Stanford University,
J Street strongly opposes the views and positions such as those captured at the Palestinian BDS National Committee’s website, www.bdsmovement.net. As laid out in that site, the BDS movement fails to explicitly to recognize Israel’s right to exist and it ignores or rejects Israel’s role as a national home for the Jewish people. In addition, the promotion by some in the BDS movement of the return to Israel of Palestinian refugees from 1948 and their families indicates support for an outcome incompatible with a two-state solution to the conflict.
J Street recognizes the legitimate and urgent concerns related to peace, justice and human rights that have motivated calls on college campuses and beyond to boycott certain Israeli products or divest from U.S. companies that support continuing Israeli policies of occupation and settlement expansion, or for governments to impose sanctions on Israel. We recognize that the sluggish pace of diplomatic progress toward a two-state solution motivates some of these efforts. However, the urgent need for peace will not be reached through alienation. J Street believes that a peace resolution will be reached through international, and more specifically regional, cooperation. Long-term progress will be achieved through diplomatic means, not isolation.
We oppose the occupation of the West Bank and the expansion and entrenchment of settlements there. We also oppose encroachment on Palestinian areas of East Jerusalem, which must be part of a future Palestinian capital if a two-state outcome is to be achieved.
J Street believes, however, that these legitimate concerns are best addressed through urgent pursuit and implementation of a two-state resolution to the conflict. A two-state resolution is, in our view, the only way for Israel to guarantee long-term international recognition and security.
For these reasons, J Street urges that you vote against the BDS resolution under consideration.
Divestment from Companies that Profit from Apartheid
WHEREAS, it is UC Riverside’s duty to maintain the values of “respect, intellectual curiosity, integrity, commitment, and empathy” which includes the promotion of human rights, equality, and dignity for all people without distinction;
WHEREAS, it is the mission of the UCR Foundation to “ensure the appropriate use of all funds” in order to uphold the values of respect, intellectual curiosity, integrity, commitment appreciation, and empathy;
WHEREAS, students have a legacy of standing against oppression and injustice at UC Riverside and across the United States.;
WHEREAS, the role of student activists in exposing South Africa’s apartheid system and supporting equality, freedom, and dignity sets an example for us to follow as students of global conscience;
WHEREAS, as the example of South Africa shows, it is imperative for students to stand unequivocally against all forms of racism and bigotry globally and on campus, including but not limited to Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, homophobia, patriarchy, and Israel’s system of apartheid;
WHEREAS, South African apartheid was ended by a large movement of student governments across the United States and college systems world wide.
WHEREAS, let it be known that the University of California Riverside is a state funded school that is part of the state of California and thus a part of the United States who support the state of Israel.
WHEREAS, since the University of California Riverside is a public university, an environment of neutrality must be maintained in issues of high conflict.
WHEREAS, let it be known that resolutions regarding divestment of student funds only apply to funds/fees given to the UC system and disbursed to the University of California Riverside.
WHEREAS, the occupied Palestinian Territory is controlled militarily by the Israeli government;
WHEREAS, certain companies have promoted and been complicit in these ongoing human rights violations systematically committed by the Israeli government, which have been documented by human rights organizations including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Al-Haq, Defense for Children International, Addameer, B’tselem, Adalah, Badil, and the Israeli Coalition Against Home Demolitions;
WHEREAS, according to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), “the construction by Israel of a wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and its associated régime are contrary to international law”;
WHEREAS, according to the same ICJ decision, the establishment and expansion of settlements in the West Bank and Eastern Jerusalem is also illegal by international law;
WHEREAS, according to the UN General Assembly’s application of the Fourth Geneva Convention to occupied Palestinian territory, the establishment and expansion of settlements “…in Occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, especially settlement activities…remain contrary to international law and cannot be recognized, irrespective of the passage of time”;
WHEREAS, a US Department of State official said that the US policy “on Israeli settlements has not changed and will not change. Like every American administration for decades, we do not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity.”;
WHEREAS, according to the UN General Assembly’s application of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the exploitation of natural resources in the occupied Palestinian territory is also illegal by international law;
WHEREAS, these violations of human rights and international law have been recognized and have resulted in the condemnation of the state of Israel by the international community in the UN Security Council, Human Rights Council Fact-Finding mission in Gaza, and the above mentioned governmental bodies and organizations, which consequently resulted in dozens of resolutions concerning the state of Israel (i.e. 106, 111, 127, 162, 171, 228, 237, 248, 250-252, 256, 259, 262, 265, 267, 270, 271, 279, 280, 285, 298, 313, 316, 317, 332, 337, 347, 425, 427, 444, 446, etc.);
WHEREAS, our university invests in, and thereby profits from companies, which have an active role in the human rights abuse and institutionalized structural violence against the Palestinian people, thereby making it a complicit third-party;
WHEREAS, these companies have been previously engaged by various solidarity campaigns and concerned investors about their complicit involvement in the previously mentioned human rights violations of the Palestinian people to no avail;
WHEREAS, the following illustrative and non-exhaustive list of companies, which the university invests in, plays a role in these human rights violations;
WHEREAS, Caterpillar has helped sustain the occupation by providing engineering tools and bulldozers to destroy Palestinian houses, neighborhoods (in refugee camps), agriculture, and water cisterns;
WHEREAS, Caterpillar has also provided engineering tools and bulldozers to expand illegal settlements and construct the Wall and checkpoints;
WHEREAS, Cement Roadstones Holding (CRH) has also contributed to the construction of military checkpoints, the Wall, and the settlement enterprise by providing cement and other building material;
WHEREAS, CRH and Cemex have supplied building materials used to build illegal settlements, the Wall, and checkpoints;
WHEREAS, Cemex also illegally owns and operates manufacturing plants in West Bank settlements, exploiting Palestinian natural resources in violation of international law;
WHEREAS, General Electric Company (GE) manufactures and supplies engines for A64 Apache Helicopters, systematically used by the Israeli military; in attacks on Palestinian civilians which constitute severe human rights violations and war crimes;
WHEREAS, Hewlett-Packard Company (HP) has supported restricting the freedom of movement of the Palestinian peoples within the West Bank by providing biometric identification systems used in the Israeli military checkpoints;
WHEREAS, Raytheon’s guided missiles were used to ruthlessly level civilian dense regions during Operation Cast Lead;
WHEREAS, Sodastream operates its main manufacturing plant in an illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank;
WHEREAS, L-3 Communications has provided the Israeli occupation with equipment used in military checkpoints throughout the occupied West Bank, used to promote the dehumanization and humiliation of the Palestinians; to take away Palestinian freedom of movement between Palestinian towns and cities; to fragmentize and strangle the Palestinian economy;
LET IT BE RESOLVED, that ASUCR will further examine its assets and UC assets for investments in companies that a) provide military support for, or weaponry to, support the occupation of the Palestinian territory or b) facilitate the building or maintenance of the illegal wall or the demolition of Palestinian homes, or c) facilitate the building, maintenance, or economic development of illegal Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territory;
LET IT FURTHER BE RESOLVED, that we call upon, our university, the University of California Treasury, and the UCR Foundation to divest their holdings from these aforementioned companies;
LET IT FURTHER BE RESOLVED, that if its found that UCR funds or UC funds are being invested in any of the above mentioned companies, UCR will divest, and will advocate that the UC system divests, all stocks and securities of such companies with the goal of maintaining the divestment, in the case of said companies, until they cease these specific practices. Moreover, UCR will not make further investments, and will advocate that the UC system not make further investments, in any companies materially supporting or profiting from Israel’s occupation in the above-mentioned ways;
LET IT FINALLY BE RESOLVED, that we, the students, call upon our university to dissociate itself from groups or companies that promote systematic prejudiced oppression, whether this system targets people based on their religion, gender, race or orientation, by divesting from companies that participate in or profit from human rights violations.