SJP and MSU Hold Phonebanking Session in Opposition to Anti-Divestment Bill

Dozens of members of UCI’s Muslim Student Union (MSU) and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) voiced opposition last Wednesday to AB2844, a newly-passed California bill designed to prevent state businesses’ divestment from Israel and to stop “discriminatory actions taken against individuals of the Jewish faith under the pretext of a constitutionally protected boycott or protest of the State of Israel,” according to the legislation.

The bill was passed by Governor Jerry Brown on Saturday, Sep. 24. Students at UCI joined SJP students statewide in protesting the passage of the bill by calling Governor Brown’s office last Wednesday and telling state employees and interns, “I’d like to voice my opposition to AB2844 because it violates my first amendment rights.” According to several UCI participants, many students’ calls were placed on hold due to the volume of calls statewide. Students who spoke to interns were told that Governor Brown had already passed the bill.

Ghiyath Alazzah, a member of UCI’s SJP, says that AB2844 has direct implications on the UC system, as all UC campuses, except UC Santa Barbara and UC Santa Cruz, have already divested. UC Irvine’s Legislative Council under ASUCI voted to divest in 2012.

“Basically as a public institution, UCI and the other UCs and CSUs now cannot divest because they do business with the state,” said Alazzah. “What the law says is that anyone trying to do business with the state cannot divest from Israel.”

According to the legislation, “California has significant influence in the marketplace. The state at times operates not as a market regulator, but as a market participant, and in this latter role it may determine that companies engaging in discriminatory actions in the conduct and operation of their business adversely affects the state’s procurement activities and places the state in a position of supporting activities that could be seen as a violation of the nondiscrimination policies of the State of California.”

Further, “It is the intent of the Legislature to ensure that taxpayer funds are not used to do business with or otherwise support any state or private entity that engages in discriminatory actions against individuals under the pretext of exercising First Amendment rights.”

Celine Qussiny, another UCI SJP member, said that UCI’s divestment from Israel was “merely symbolic, and shows that the student body is financially against supporting Israel.” However, she said, students are still concerned about the impact the bill will have on their first amendment rights to oppose the State of Israel through boycotting, divestment and sanctions (BDS).

SJP at UCI is currently considering a letter campaign to the state to further express their opposition to the bill.