The ASUCI Legislative Council held a public discussion on Tuesday, Nov. 20 regarding Resolution R48-15, which has caused controversy between groups on campus over the Israel-Palestine issue. The council passed the resolution unanimously on Tuesday Nov. 13, but there was opposition to this decision by Jewish groups on campus and the campus administration.
In order to allow both supporters and opponents of resolution R48-15 to voice their concerns, the Council dedicated the majority of their meeting time to public debate.
The first person to speak was fourth-year student Patrick Chen, a supporter of the resolution who voiced his support of the decision by the Council the week before.
“I just wanted to say that it was important that that legislation was passed and that you [Legislative Council] are making a good call for divestment of funds from companies that we know are providing funding and that UCI has invested in specific companies that are providing weapons or hardware used to enforce really terrible living conditions on people in Gaza,” Chen said.
Others did not agree, including third-year student Daniel Narvy, who felt that the Council had acted poorly with their divestment decision and argued that the legislation itself was flawed.
“It’s wrong that you guys [Legislative Council] are going to hide under concern for human rights violations by passing factually inaccurate legislation aimed at slandering a pluralistic democracy,” Narvy said. “I ask right now where is the call for legislation against Darfur, the slaughtering in Syria, the murdering of Christians throughout the entire Arab world? Where are these? Why focus on Israel?”
He went on to say that Israel is not to blame for the violence so it should not be targeted by the university.
“The legislation brings up Gaza and I think it’s important, I think it’s an issue that affects most of us on this campus. And it’s a very tragic situation but I think faults can be blamed, and the fault is on Hamas, the terrorist organization.”
Others such as third-year student Naomi Wartfeild held similar positions in their support of Israel and believe that divestment is the wrong action. She argued that since the divestment resolution conflicts with the policies of the federal government, it should not continue.
“As a Jewish student, I’m not here to talk to you about my personal connection to the land but I’m here to talk about the policy of divestment in the UC System,” Wartfield said. “Divestment is not the policy of the UC system, nor is it the policy of the US government. In fact, under federal law, it would be illegal for the UC system to divest from companies doing business with Israel.”
Others still held to their support of the resolution, such as fourth-year Mustafa Sabha, who believes that it is immoral to support the occupation of Palestine in any way even though he could benefit from it personally.
“For me, I made a personal choice not to look for jobs that have anything to do with defense or have anything to do with investment in Israel,” Sabha said. “And that’s a personal choice for me because I’m a student with morals. I understand that anybody who tries to work for these companies is also helping in the cause of demolishing homes, helping the cause in making the daily lives of a Palestinian harder than it already is and I like to think that UCI has morals too.”
Others in the audience supported Sabha’s views and argued that divestment from companies that support Israel was just because of human rights violations committed by Israel. This included fourth-year Abdul Youssef who supports the resolution because he believes Israel should not get special treatment and that there should be consequences for companies that invest in Israel.
“I hope no one here supports committing human right violations. And just because Israel is involved doesn’t mean that we should just ignore it. Israel is not better than any country. Just because these companies happen to be helping Israel commit human rights violations rather than any other country doesn’t give legitimacy to opposing the legislation,” Youssef said.
Others such as fourth-year student Deenal Pinoui argued that the resolution that was passed does not attack Israel directly and that it is not an attack on Israel’s sovereignty.
“The legislation does not call for the end of Israel, nor the end of relations with Israel unilaterally. It calls for not partaking in human rights violations, not partaking in the illegal occupation of the Palestinian people. We are talking about not affiliating our campus, ourselves with over 147 resolutions that have been violated by the state of Israel,” Pinoui said.
The bulk of the audience was divided over the legislation because of how they sided on the issue of Israel and Palestine. However, there were also calls for the Council to remain neutral on the subject of the Israeli-Palestinian issue because some students do not hold an opinion, while others feared a polarized campus. The Legislative Council did not make a final decision on R48-15 and will come to a decision at a later time.