From The Daily Aztec:
Throughout the past year, student-run organizations across the University of California and California State University systems have protested their schools indirect funding of documented human rights violations, according to the Students for Justice in Palestine. Some CSU organizations are supporting the UCs student organizations’ efforts including San Diego State SJP, Arab Student Association and Amnesty International.
Tuition dollars from UC schools have been invested in companies and stocks, some of which are responsible for the violation of Palestinian human rights, according to the student organizations.
Although many student governments have acknowledged the need to divest from these companies, California Legislature has effectively limited the extent of the measures taken to retract involvement. California State Assembly resolution, H.R. 35, describes any discussion or measures taken by students or faculty members promoting and encouraging divestment from Israel as means of “demonizing” the country, adding that anti-Semitism has often been “cloaked” as criticism of Israel on some college campuses.
The resolution, written on Aug. 6, 2012, was joined by a letter from the Legislature this past May, firmly condemning the universities from divestment measures on campus, in effect attempting to limit student democracy.
Together, the groups scripted their own version of the document denouncing the Legislature’s firm stance in remaining loyal to companies that do business with Israel.
“As students we are not going to support funding of projects or companies that are complicit in the occupation of Palestinian people, complicit in human rights violations,” SDSU Muslim Student Association President Hassan Abdinur said.
Students for Justice in Palestine Co-Chair Nadir Bouhmouch explained the deliberately timed actions the Legislature took in composing and dispersing the letter, a time when most UC and CSU school were in their final examination periods, making it difficult for students to provide a rapid response and protest.
The letter sent out by the Legislature on May 31 was met with a response by UC and CSU student organizations more than a month later on July 8.
“We are not only upset by the human rights violations, we are upset about the fact that someone is trying to curtail student rights and student democracy,” Bouhmouch said.
SDSU’s Amnesty International President Hilal Haider said the issue was one in which no side needs to be taken, but rather a concern for all of humanity.
“At the end of the day the thing that matters most is the human perspective of (human rights violations), there are … lives that are being lost in another country, and the fact that people don’t know about it is huge,” Haider said.
In response to the Legislature’s claims of the antagonistic environment caused by divestment, as well as H.R. 35’s claims that anti-Semitism has been veiled in criticisms of Israeli government, Abdinur said the intent of divestment interests among student governments on UC and CSU campuses are a deep concern for the human rights violations committed in Palestine.
“There’s nothing wrong with being critical of a government, whenever we are critical of the U.S. government, we are not considered anti-American. We are considered American because we are criticizing, we are putting our government to a higher standard,” Abdinur said.
Arab Student Association Secretary Farah Abunadi explained how tuition dollars have indirectly been used to fund companies that aid in the building of the illegal separation wall along the West Bank, destruction of Palestinian homes through use of bulldozers and restricting the movement of Palestinian peoples within their own land.
The companies are Cement Roadstone Holding, Caterpillar and Hewlett-Packard Co.
“Our interest in divestment is not against Jewish students, it’s not against people of the Jewish faith, this is against a particular government being ruthless and being an occupied force on another people … this is about stopping a government and companies that are committing human rights violations left and right,” Abdinur said.
The response letter, drafted and signed by the various UC and CSU school systems’ student organizations, serves as an explanation of the concern for human rights violations that the university students share.
“The signed letter will show the legislature that we will continue to fight for human rights, and that we cannot be silenced … We want to make clear that the legislature’s clear attempt to attack and discriminate against college students … will not be tolerated,” Abunadi said.
Not all student organizations at SDSU hold the same opinion. Aztecs for Israel has a stance against divestment, AFI representative Jon Davidi said.
“Aztecs for Israel takes a strong stance against divestment. To say Israel promotes human rights violations is simply false,” Davidi said. “Divesting funds from companies that invest in the state of Israel is unfairly placing blame on one side in a two-sided conflict. Divestment is a regression of peace. If we truly want a better life for both people, we must move forward, and each side must compromise,” Davidi said.
AFI looks forward to the newly initiated peace talks in hopes they will bring about a resolution for both governments.
The aforementioned student organizations await a response from the Legislature to the signed letter.