UC divestment spreads – UC San Diego to vote on bill tomorrow

by Adam Horowitz on April 27, 2010

UC San Diego will be joining Berkeley in holding a vote on divestment tomorrow evening. The San Diego bill under consideration is slightly different, and organizers seem to have learned from some of Berkeley’s challenges. From the UC San Diego newspaper The Guardian:

The resolution was drafted by members of several campus organizations — including Students for Justice in Palestine and the Student Sustainability Collective — and approved by Transfer Senator Adam Powers and Campuswide Senator Desiree Prevo. According to Associate Vice President of Enterprise Operations Rishi Ghosh — a co-sponsor of the resolution — the council was inspired by a similar effort at UC Berkeley, where the resolution passed 16-4 in the student Senate, but was eventually vetoed by Berkeley A.S. President Will Smelko.

The resolution calls for the UC system to stop investing in companies such as General Electric and United Technologies, which supporters of the resolution claim promote violence by providing technology — such as helicopters and aircraft engines — to warring countries around the world.

Sixth College senior Leena Barakat — who helped draft the resolution — said the UCSD version was altered to ensure that it condemned human-rights violations as a whole, and not specifically actions taken by the state of Israel.

Of course pro-Israel students and organizations are attacking the effort, and some of their arguments seem especially desperate – including comparing United Nations documentation of human rights abuses in Gaza to Holocaust denial (huh?!). Again from The Guardian:

A.S. Engineering Senator Adi Singer — a member of the pro-Israel community and creator of the Facebook group “Students Against ASUCSD Anti-Israel Bias and Resolutions” — said the resolution is a pointed attack against Israel.

“It’s a very thinly veiled political statement,” Singer said. “If it’s about all human-rights violations, why are there a ton of citings specifically about Gaza and very few about anywhere else?”

Although Ghosh said the resolution has received endorsements from groups such as Jewish Voices for the Peace and that information in the resolution regarding companies profiting from occupancy was provided by the United Nations, Singer maintained that the draft is biased.

“My main issue with this is that it’s very one-sided,” Singer said. “It’s not hard to find news sources that support your point of view. I can go on the Internet right now and find tons of sources that say that the Holocaust never happened.”

She added that the resolution would be detrimental to relations between Israeli and Palestinian interest groups on campus.

“Say what you want about it — the intent is clear,” she said. “The pro-Israel community has been trying really hard to build relations with the pro-Palestine community, and we would never bring up a resolution against Hamas.”

Tritons for Israel President Dafna Barzilay said it is not the council’s place to pass resolutions pertaining to international issues.

“We don’t support any such resolutions, even if it was pro-Israel or anti-Hamas,” she said. “It’s not the business of A.S. to support international problems that require that scale of spending and is not directly related to the university.”

In contrast, Ghosh said it is the council’s duty to be aware of global issues.

“If they believe that, why weren’t they there when we passed a resolution to support Haiti with allocations?” he asked. “Why weren’t they in the past, when we’ve been fighting for human rights in Sudan, fair trade in Africa?”

He said the resolution is meant to be a politically-neutral gesture.

“It is not anti-Israel,” he said. “Israel was very cleverly kept out of it.”

You can learn more about the UC San Diego effort, and what you can do to help, at their website UCSD Divest For Peace.

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