USAC Rules Against BDS
On February 26th, UCLA’s Undergraduate Students Association Council (USAC) voted 7-5 against an anti-Israel divestment resolution authored by Students For Justice in Palestine (SJP). The resolution was rejected 12 hours after the session began. Clearly, the highly divisive and contested resolution created a stir. Its consideration cut deeper into existing divisions between student organizations on campus and nationwide. This year, the student governments of UC Riverside and UC Santa Barbara rejected similar resolutions. Last year, in the fall of 2012, ASUCI passed a resolution for divestment. But what do these resolutions mean?
According to SJP, the resolution calls for “UCLA and the UC’s divestment from Caterpillar, Cemex, Cement Roadstone Holdings, General Electric and Hewlett-Packard,” companies “some students say are complicit in the human rights abuses of Palestinians.”
It also attacked Israeli policy, condemning Israel’s security fence bordering the “West Bank” (Judea and Samaria). Students were led to believe the fence and checkpoints were built to infringe on Palestinian rights, though they were constructed to defend from terrorism (suicide bombings). Neither Israelis nor Palestinians want these, but facts speak for themselves. Arab and Jewish lives are saved.
The resolution also condemned Israeli settlements, which only cover 1.7 percent of Judea and Samarian land. But according to U.N Resolution 242, they are not illegal, the proper term for the territory being “disputed,” not “occupied.” Additionally, pro-divestment speakers fabricated outright falsehoods, slandering Israel as a country that abuses Arab rights and practices apartheid, when anybody who has ever opened a book, let alone seen the region, knows this is a vicious lie.
Apartheid is institutionalized segregation, discrimination, and oppression on the basis of political views, race, gender, sexuality, or religion. Israel is not an apartheid state. It is a modern democratic nation in which citizens of all color, creed, sexual orientation, political, and religious beliefs are represented. Apartheid is where women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, where gays are publicly executed in Iran, and where sanctioned honor killings punish rape victims under the Palestinian Authority.
Apartheid is not in Israel, where citizens vote in free, fair, and regular elections, petition the government, and enjoy freedom of press and religion: concepts unheard-of in the Arab world. Arabs in Israel serve as party leaders in Parliament and Supreme Court Justices. This is a pluralistic liberal democracy. I urge you to find it in any of the 22 Arab countries surrounding Israel.
UCLA alumnus Ben Shapiro accurately said “there is only one reason why we are discussing Israel and not Saudi Arabia…or Iran…or Palestine… [or] the vast bevvy of human rights violations that happen every day in the Middle East exponentially worse than what happens in Israel.” That reason is anti-Semitism.
If the movement truly cared about repression, they’d target these countries instead of demonizing the only Jewish state in existence, holding Israel to a different standard than any other nation. Thus, “[pretending] the resolution is anything” but “despicable Jew-hatred is a lie.”
The director of divestments, boycotts and sanctions for SJP admitted “divesting is [indeed] a part of a larger global movement known as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, [BDS].”
The fact that the resolution for divestment is a direct extension of the larger BDS movement is more detrimental than supporters realize. It does more than marginalize students and damage campus climate. It means divestment is directly linked to the call for the de-legitimization and dismantling of the Jewish state and an American ally. This is because BDS movement leaders like Omar Barghouti, repeatedly express rejection for any Jewish right to self-determination. The BDS movement, to which campus divestment is partnered with, supports a single-state solution: eliminating Israel as the Jewish nation-state. The terrorist organization Hamas, whose founding charter calls for the annihilation of Israel and final solution for Jews, endorses campus BDS movements. This is the real face of divestment.
Why is this horrifying campaign infecting our campuses? Because people refuse to hear the full story. Case in point: when ASUCI Executive Vice President Melissa Gamble spoke at UCLA on behalf of divestment. She told council “to stand unapologetically for divestment,” because “you really know you’re challenging power relations, when a simple student government resolution garners internal attention.”
Aside from her statement being somewhat immature, it’s misleading. Attracting attention doesn’t make your actions respectable. Had Gamble been impartial she would have considered that perhaps the attention was related to divestment’s thinly veiled link to the BDS movement.
She had no right to use her title to essentially speak on behalf of the entire UCI undergraduate student body pressuring council to pass it, in full knowledge that students spent last year urging ASUCI to overturn the same legislation that created strife on her campus. She doesn’t represent me, she doesn’t represent the student body, and she should be ashamed.
I commend USAC for rejecting a resolution that at its core seeks to see the eradication of the Jewish state, but I am embarrassed for my student government, ASUCI, for not only passing such a despicable piece of legislation last year, but for even considering it.
Sharon Shaoulian is a second-year political science major. She can be reached at email@example.com.