Bill Would Pave the Way to Peace

By Rick Sterling
Special to the Daily Cal
Friday, April 23, 2010

As a 21-year veteran UC Berkeley staff member, I was pleased to see the ASUC resolution calling for divestment from companies profiting from war crimes in general and Israeli war crimes in particular.

As they debate overturning the veto and restoring the resolution, I hope ASUC senators will not be confused by those who attempt to divert or change the issue.

1. Should ASUC speak out on international issues? Yes. UC students, faculty, staff and regents have all done this in the past. Just four years ago, the UC Regents called for divestment from corporations invested in Sudan

2. Will divestment have negative financial consequences? No. Divesting from a few corporations has little to no effect on the portfolio.

3. Should ASUC speak out against Israeli war crimes in particular? Yes, because Israel receives enormous diplomatic, financial and military aid from the US, more than any other country. If there are crimes being committed, in some ways we are responsible.

4. Will we be the first to divest? No. Hampshire College divested last year and huge organizations such as the Danske Bank of Denmark and Norwegian Pension Fund have divested. This is truly a world wide movement.

5. What is the evidence of war crimes? It is compelling and comes from groups ranging from Amnesty International to the UN’s Goldstone Report to the personal testimonies of Israeli soldiers.

6. Is this issue “too controversial” and “divisive?” Challenging the status quo is always controversial. In the 1980’s calling for divestment from Bank of America because of their loans to apartheid South Africa was controversial. Even during the Free Speech Movement there were many students who did not agree with Mario Savio. In the short term it was divisive but in the long run it was progress.

7. Is the resolution “biased” or an “attack” on Jewish members of the community? On the contrary, progressive Jews are leaders in the struggle against Israeli war crimes. One example internationally is Sir Gerald Kaufman, who has been a British member of Parliament for 27 years. In reaction to last years Israeli assault on Gaza he said, “My grandmother was ill in bed when the Nazis came to her home town. A German soldier shot her dead in her bed. My grandmother did not die to provide cover for Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza.”

8. Does the resolution help or hurt the cause of peace? Here again, the South African model is relevant. While divestment and boycott campaigns are contentious, they are fundamentally non-violent. They help to bring change and progress by stopping the injustice with minimal bloodshed. The ASUC resolution is very much in this tradition.

9. In the 1980s, the university divested from companies doing business with South Africa. But is Israel really comparable? Every country and situation is different, but President Jimmy Carter wrote a book about apartheid in the Occupied Territories and the Nobel Peace Prize winning Bishop Desmond Tutu recently said “I’ve been very deeply distressed in my visit to the Holy Land; it reminded me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa.”

10. Finally, is the resolution “anti-Israel?” This assertion is similar to those who say you are “anti-American” if you criticize US foreign invasion and occupation. No, the resolution is against investing in companies that aid and abet war crimes.

The ASUC resolution is good because divestment from war crimes now will help prepare the ground for peaceful change in the future.The question should not be why does ASUC want to do this. The question should be: Why would objective people oppose it?

Thank you, ASUC, for helping to revive the awareness and reality that UC Berkeley is not just a leader in the sciences and humanities, it is still a leader in youth’s quest for a better and more just world.

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