Latest update: December 30th, 2013
Late last night, November 13, there was a unanimous vote at a California school for divestment from certain companies that do business with Israel. Unanimous, 16 -0.
There are, however, several points militating against an uptick in alarm.
For one thing, the school at which this took place was the University of California at Irvine. Yes, the school that allowed students to repeatedly disrupt Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren, in 2010. Eleven of those hooligans were charged and convicted of conspiracy and disrupting a public meeting. Those convictions were obtained despite the efforts of many UCIrvine faculty members, including a large number of Jewish Studies department faculty.
But more importantly, the vote was taken by the UC Irvine Student Government, which, in all likelihood, does not have any investments in the targeted companies, or any other companies, for that matter.
The student government also called on the UC Irvine administration to divest from the named companies, but a student group’s call on its university to take the students’ investment advice is not exactly like money in (or, in this case, out of) the bank.
While the vote was really the equivalent of a small group of children shouting at those acting in loco parentis to take its investment advice, last night’s effort by anti-Israel student leadership at UCI is noteworthy for a small shift in tactic.
Although the Resolution repeatedly compared Israeli activity to Apartheid South Africa, the student government Resolution only sought divestment from those companies it deemed to provide support for the Security Fence, the demolition of “Palestinian” homes, and the building or maintenance of the “illegal Israeli settlements” on “occupied Palestinian territory.” In the past, calls for divestment from Israel typically called for divestment from any company doing business in Israel, which was the South Africa Apartheid divestment model.
The nitty gritty details, that is, that it was a student group that voted to divest its own (non-existent) financial holdings from certain companies – and was not the vote by a university to divest its holdings from companies doing business in Israel – was completely lost on most other media reporting on the vote. Professional Israel haters such as Ali Abunimeh and Noam Chomsky were quick to add their support, as were Muslim Student Associations and other anti-Israel groups across the country. To see the misguided glee, check on twitter #IrvineDivest.
The Resolution, which was introduced by Sabreen Shalabi, and seconded by Shadi Jafari, follows:
Item Number: 16 Legislation Number (B: Bill, R: Resolution): R48-15 Synopsis: Divestment from Companies that Profit from Apartheid Date of Presentation: November 13, 2012 Divestment from Companies that Profit from ApartheidWHEREAS, it is UC Irvine’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 UCI 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 Irvine and across the U.S.;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, 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 ASUCI 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 UCI Foundation to divest their holdings from these aforementioned companies;
LET IT FURTHER BE RESOLVED, that if its found that UCI funds or UC funds are being invested in any of the above mentioned companies, UCI 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, UCI 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. FINAL VOTE: Passed YEA: 16 NAY: 0 ABS: 0
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools. You can reach her by email: Lori@JewishPressOnline.com
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