UC Irvine Student Government Divests from Israeli Occupation

Will our own WSA follow suit?

Last week, the student government of UC Irvine (the equivalent of Weslayan’s WSA) unanimously passed a resolution supporting divestment from all companies that support the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. The move came amidst the ongoing U.S.-backed bombardment of civilians in the Gaza Strip. According to news reports, the attacks have claimed the lives 95 Palestinians in the past week, including at least twelve children and a pregnant mother.

The UC Irvine resolution (which is fairly short; I encourage folks to read in full) is part of a growing international solidarity movement for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS for short) which seeks to withdraw support and legitimacy from the Israeli occupation, much like the divestment campaign that eventually led to the downfall of the apartheid government in South Africa in the 1990s, of which college campuses and the student movement were an integral part.

Similar resolutions have been passed or proposed on campuses across the U.S., and the campaign was even discussed at Wes during Thursday’s panel with leading independent Israeli journalists. Progressive blogger Noam Sheizaf threw in his support:

I have long committed myself to supporting non-violent resistance by Palestinians against the occupation, and there is no denying that BDS falls under that category.

Campaigns for divestment from oppressive, far-off, apartheid states are nothing new to this campus. Wesleyan students played an especially large role in apartheid protests in the late ’80s and early ’90s, pressuring the University to divest from companies that dealt with South Africa’s apartheid regime, culminating in the 1990 firebombing of South College. The Chace administration complied with complete divestiture in 1990. (Edit by Zach: Though loosely tied to a number of radical political causes, including racial tension at Wesleyan in the spring of 1990, the firebombing was never directly linked to divestment movements; it should not be grouped in with peaceful anti-apartheid protests on campus like this one.)

More recently, the now defunct group Awareness, Dialogue and Action for Palestine/Israel Today (ADAPT) initiated a divestment campaign in 2009. Their investigation uncovered five companies in which the University invests which directly profit from Israeli occupation—including weapons manufacturers like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, which supply the IDF with weapons that have been used in attacks on civilians. The University has consistently resisted ongoing student campaigns for endowment transparency, keeping the public in the dark about where it invests its money; the true number of companies could be much higher.

Our own illustrious WSA has an endowment of its own, similar to the student government at UC Irvine; unlike the University’s investments, these are public. Will they, too, adopt a resolution supporting divestment? Should the University follow suit? Some members of Wesleyan’s chapter of Students in Justice for Palestine have already expressed support for such a move.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments section.

24 thoughts on “UC Irvine Student Government Divests from Israeli Occupation

  1. Jon

    I think you’ll discover that the UC Irvine decision only happened because BDS proponents did everything possible to hide what they were doing from the prying eyes of anyone who might object (i.e., the students the UC student government were supposed to be representing):

    http://divestthis.com/2012/11/irvine.html

    In fact, since divestment first became a tactic of choice by anti-Israel partisans in 2001 (after the Durban I conference), every college and university in the country has roundly rejected BDS, meaning not one school has sold a single share on the BDS blacklist for more than a decade. This is why student governments have been targeted recently, but even there I can only think of 2-3 schools that have passed symbolic resolutions (always by working behind people’s backs) and dozens that have rejected them, meaning BDS has been kicked down the stairs by the country’s most progressive institutions for going on 12 years now.

  2. dsa

    what about the fact that Hamas keeps their supplies in civilian areas, knowing that Israel will have to target those areas and potentially kill innocent Palestinians? The commenters who are against Israeli occupation are ignoring the ruling power that is not comprised of innocent people but terrorists who are motivated by hate. Israel is motivated by a desire to exist.

  3. guest

    good luck getting the WSA to even CONSIDER similar action. we are far too close new york city for that, if you get my drift.

    1. pyrotechnics

      I get your drift, and I do not care for it.

      To your first point, the WSA is, in fact, considering action. A resolution regarding divestment from arms development and distribution corporations will be introduced to the Assembly on December 2nd. I thank you for your wishes of good luck.

      1. Jon

        Let’s hope that this resolution is not like others I’ve seen that try to perform a “bait and switch” by claiming they are asking for a vote on divestment from general arms makers, only to turn around after such a vote is taken and tell the public that the student council has voted (in the name of every student on campus) to condemn Israel as an “Apartheid State”.

        These and other tricks (like the dead-of-night, backroom deals that led to BDSers few “victories” – including the toothless resolution just passed at Irvine – which has already been rejected by the people who actually get to make investment/divestment decisions for the university), are fairly common for a BDS movement that is desperate to stuff it’s propaganda message into the mouth of a respected institution (like my alma mater).

        Fortunately, almost all student governments have been sharp enough to see through this subterfuge and deception and not take a vote that would be sure to appall huge numbers of the people they are supposed to represent.

  4. pyrotechnics

    “If you phrase a statement as a question, is that journalism?” – Stephen Colbert, in reference to political sensationalism by Fox News.

    If you’re going to make a statement that you believe that the WSA should adopt a resolution on divestment, be direct about it. Similarly, if you’re going to suggest that other students believe that the WSA should adopt a resolution on divestment, you should be direct about that as well.

    I would also venture to say that your statements regarding the WSA’s endowment holdings are a little misleading. The Assembly’s current investments are in the following: PAX World Balance Fund (a mutual fund), Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund (a mutual fund), the Winslow Green Growth Fund (green development fund), PIMCO Total Return Fund (fixed income), short term funds (random fixed-income holdings), and an investment in the Wesleyan University Endowment. I’d be interested to see any evidence that PAX, Vanguard, Winslow, or PIMCO have any holdings that support the shelling of Gaza.

    The Wesleyan University Endowment, as you say, is not publicly available, and therefore the WSA may, by investing in the school that houses it, have accidentally made investments to that end.

    The Committee for Investor Responsibility, a subcommittee of the WSA, and the WSA itself can (and has, and will) make efforts to increase investing transparency and investor responsibility, via resolution if necessary.

    WSA Endowment May 2012, see Page 25: http://wsa.wesleyan.edu/files/2012/06/End-of-Year-Report-11-12.pdf

    Endowment Transparency Resolution: http://docs.google.com/a/wesleyan.edu/document/d/1UVyd8Axk5Tb09oVmajFs8DVLZ5goKvnySAmZdBw6Qr8/

  5. anon

    as someone who attended the panel discussion with Noam Sheizaf, I think you’re distorting his comments here a bit. While Noam said he makes it a general policy to support all forms of non-violent protest against the occupation, he said that he has a lot of issues with BDS. He talked about feels like it doesn’t address what it means to be a Jew in the middle east and what it means to be an Israeli. Moreover, while he supported the general premise, I think he found the implications of it to be polarizing and problematic for Jews. On a personal level, I share his concern. I totally support boycotting companies that profit from the occupation, but divestment from all Israeli companies strikes me as inimical to a peaceful resolution. There are Jews in Israel who are supportive of a two state solution and who are willing to fight to end the occupation (noam sheizaf being an excellent example) but what bds promotes is the idea that all of Israel is illegitimate. Within Israel proper (and by that I am using the green line and excluding the West Bank and Gaza) both Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel have equal formal rights (is there discrimination, absolutley, but to argue that there is apartheid going on on this side of the green line seems preposterous to me). Of course we must find the discrimination against Arabs in Israel to be extremely problematic, but they are citizens of a democracy (some of whom even choose to fight in the IDF). My point is that when you deny that any of Israel’s practices are legitimate, you polarize the sides even further and give an extremely reluctant government and population the justifcation to stall the peace process since “they just want us in the sea.” This conflict will ultimately be solved, even if this is not ideal by compromise and mutual sacrifice. Is this fair? No. Does Israel deserve to pay for decades of occupation and blatant human rights violations? Yes, probably and likely they will once palestine is granted statehood. However, If you want an end to the occupation and a peaceful resolution I encourage to examine what polarizes all or nothing solutions like boycotting all of Israeli products (including israeli educational and cultural institutions) is doing to bring these two towards a peaceful solution. It seems to me that is simply allow Israel to stall the peace process and claim they “have no partner in peace.”

    1. Slim

      anon – Having read the UC Irvine resolution that was linked to in the post, I found that they are not calling for academic, cultural, or even broad ranging economic boycotts of Israeli society. Rather they are pulling their money from the companies that DIRECTLY profit from Israeli occupation. These are the arms manufacturers, the construction companies who build the wall, the companies that produce their goods from illegal settlements. This isn’t challenging Israel’s right to exist; this is challenging the morality of us as individuals and members of an institution supporting crimes that have been deemed illegal by the UN and International Court of Justice on human rights grounds. I fail to see how this is a controversial position.

  6. a broad

    of course wesleyan blames the party in power. if israel did not defend itself from the palestinian attacks and conceded to their demands, the only consequence would be an inversion of this “terrible power dynamic.” instead, israel is sitting on their power until a peaceful dissolution of this dynamic. but wesleyan and the “liberal elite” want to blame a state for defending its civilians by specifically targeting known leaders of terrorist organizations. it’s disgusting that this victimization is ignorant of any of the causes behind this current conflict, or as this post wants to call it, “israel’s bombardment.” how has this happened? it feels like an underlying anti-semitism that seeks to fulfill palestine’s “birthright” whilst claiming israel’s illegitimate ancestry and oppressive self-defense

  7. disqus_xh2EWMGKUt

    it sickens me to know that i go to school with people who support the occupation, and the recent bombardments on the gaza strip…

    1. alum

      Israel only occupies those areas because of the Six-Day War. That war occurred because Israel’s neighbors kept allowing Palestinian terrorists/guerillas into Israel, leading to escalations. Who is to guarantee safe borders, no more rockets into Israel, etc? Israel only gained Gaza and the West Bank because it was threatened. It even gave the Sinai Peninsula back. I agree that Israel should give back the land, but only after it is 100% sure that doing so won’t be a security risk. Again, who is going to make that a reality? It’s disgusting to me that people attend Wes who think only one side is at fault.

      1. Gfrankel

        The Six-Day War was in 1967. Lyndon B. Johnson was President of the United States, The Beatles released Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, the Berlin Wall wouldn’t fall for over 20 years, and John McCain was a POW in Vietnam (okay, I looked the last one up on wikipedia).

      2. jass

        It’s also worth noting that however you define occupation, Israel in no way “occupies” the Gaza Strip. It has been fully disengaged from Gaza since 2005, when Israel unilaterally evicted all of its citizens from the Gaza Strip. With regards to bombardment, do you, discus… support the perpetual bombardment of civilian cities in the South of Israel which has been going on for months, if not years? You present an oversimplified picture, and there is a perspective here which you are missing.

        1. alum

          Israel has a blockade of Gaza. A de-facto occupation. I consider myself pro-Israel, and all I’m saying is that Israel is being labeled by many as the “bad guy” when in fact, it’s doing what it’s doing out of necessity for its own survival as a nation. It’s hand was forced – Israel does not want to babysit Gaza, but it must for its own security. It’s up to the Palestinians to seek a diplomatic solution and to stop firing hundreds of rockets at Israeli civilians. At least the Israeli military has the decency to target militants and weapons caches. Both sides are at fault, but in my opinion, it’s not an even distribution of blame.

  8. Golda Meir

    An absolutely disgusting vitriol. This is not in the slightest way constructive. I would be ashamed to have such a post on my site. One-sided does not begin to describe it. Also, I must agree with the commenter before on the topic of the firebombing. Does Wesleying now advocate for violent, potentially deadly, demonstration against the school administration?

  9. js

    This post never defines “Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories,” so I’m not really sure whether I agree with BDS. Also, I am skeptical of the analogy between Israel and apartheid era South Africa. Finally, was the firebombing of the president’s office in 1990 really what motivated the university’s divestiture? Where is the evidence that this act was even motivated by the university’s financial ties to apartheid?

    1. Zach

      The firebombing was not directly linked to divestment movements (though it emerged from an atmosphere of general unrest and racial tension that included divestment activism), and there’s no evidence to suggest that it motivated the University’s eventual divestiture. I’ve edited the post to reflect that, but for more detail, check out http://is.gd/izwfjR or http://is.gd/RP4v3m.

      Bracketing the fact that nothing in Oswaldo’s post “advocate[s] for violent, potentially deadly, demonstration,” it should go without saying that Wesleying posts represent the views of the blogger in question and not the blog as a collective entity.

    2. circul

      It’s not just an analogy.

      From Wikipedia: ‘On 30 November 1973, the United
      Nations General Assembly opened for
      signature and ratification the International Convention on the Suppression
      and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid.[1]
      It defined the crime of apartheid as “inhuman acts committed for the
      purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of
      persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing
      them.”‘

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_of_apartheid

      There is plenty of documentation out there of the extent of Israeli
      occupation of Palestinian territories, which you can read about, among many
      other places, here:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israeli-occupied_territories

    3. Think of your past

      Israel formed because Israelis wanted a country in which they held a majority and have ruthlessly maintained that dominance at the expense of Palestinian lives. It is apartheid. The Israeli defense minister actually called it shoah. Call it what you want, Israel is terrorizing civilians in the Palestinian ghettos. The rockets fired don’t even have explosive warheads in them, they are essentially metal tubes propelled by fuel.

      http://www.firstpost.com/world/rupert-murdoch-tweets-up-the-anti-semitism-of-israeli-hawks-529020.html

      1. jass

        Your comment is absurd. The militants in the Gaza Strip are firing, among others, Iranian Fajr-5 rockets with 100 kilogram warheads. I fail to see how these are “essentially metal tubes propelled by fuel” unless you would refer to, say, Apollo 13, or a Scud missile in the same way. Secondly, did you even read the article that you cite? The Israeli defense minister did not call the so called “occupation” a “shoah”. He threatened the Palestinians with one if they continued firing rockets at Israel, which I think you will agree is hardly the same thing. Given that your last two points were basically the opposite of the truth, we can likely surmise that the first two fall somewhere along the same lines.

    1. circul

      If you lived in a nation that had been occupied by another nation for
      several decades – that occupation including control over the nation’s airspace,
      territorial waters, what goods enter and leave, who enters and leaves, looming
      segregation walls and militarized checkpoints, illegal settlements of people
      from that nation, destruction of homes, confiscation of farmland, restricted
      road access, repeated bombings of civilian neighborhoods and infrastructure,
      just to name a few things – would you be surprised or totally unsympathetic if
      resistance groups started organizing and fighting back with the comparatively
      limited resources they had?

      Death is never a good thing. But we have to consider the
      context in which some – and definitely not all – Palestinians are acting. We
      have to consider our physical distance from the situation. We have to consider
      the ways in which the mainstream media distort or omit information about what
      is happening. To label Palestinian resistance as aggression (and, as corollary,
      label Israeli military attacks as self-defense) is to imply, in the way that
      most mainstream media has been reporting, that there is an equal playing field
      in this conflict, and that the actions Palestinian resistance groups are
      motivated by a brutish force of emotion as opposed to a long-standing desperate
      need for some kind of leverage towards true sovereignty, leverage out of a
      crippling and internationally ignored (even funded!) occupation.

      Getting the university to divest from companies that profit
      from Israeli occupation is not acting in support of “Palestinian aggression” –
      it is acting in support of demilitarization, of no more murders of Palestinian
      civilians, in support of ending America’s – and Wesleyan’s – system of
      profiting from war of any kind.

      Even though the Israel-Palestine conflict is so intensely
      connected with traditions of religious, cultural, and familial solidarity and
      loyalty – even though it is so confusingly contextualized with historical
      narratives of anti-semitism and genocide – it is nevertheless crucially
      important to consider the situation from as many different perspectives as
      possible, to keep in mind the differing (and arguably unequal) effects the
      conflict has on the daily lives of both and Israeli civilians, and to always
      remember that this war – no matter who anyone thinks started it – can not be
      escalated any further than it has been, for the sake of the preservation of
      life.

      1. cambia

        All of these discussions miss the crux of the problem. Wesleyan is a Zionist-funded university, which will never, never, speak publicly or in any fair or reasoned way on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. It’s not going to happen. Not when every other student has gone on the odious Sheldon’s free-fun filled Birth Right tours of Israel. Why doesn’t the university simply rename itself? What’s wrong with Yeshiva (CT?) I know that you’ll go down in rankings (just doesn’t have the same ring), but it’s better than the hypocrisy that exists now.

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