UC student group says yes to BDS Stanford says no

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The board of the University of California Student Association, a coalition of student governments representing the 10 U.C. campuses, overwhelmingly passed a resolution demanding the U.C. Board of Regents divest from companies it says “violate Palestinian human rights.”

The vote came at a Feb. 8 meeting of the 16-member UCSA board at UCLA. After two hours of public comment and board debate, between 100 and 150 pro-Israel students walked out of the proceedings, chanting and singing as they exited. The vote came immediately after that, with the board passing the resolution 9-1 with six abstentions.

The resolution singled out Boeing, Caterpillar, Cement Roadstone Holdings, CEMEX, General Dynamics, General Electric, Hewlett-Packard, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and United Technologies as companies to target with divestment.


U.C. students after walking out of the Feb. 8 meeting at UCLA, before the divestment vote photo/joshua cahn

It calls upon the U.C. Regents to “respect and act upon the call of University of California students to withdraw investments in securities, endowments, mutual funds and other monetary instruments with holdings in the aforementioned companies [that] violate Palestinian human rights.”

The resolution did not once mention Israel by name, and reaction to its passage was divided.

In a written statement, the pro-Israel organization StandWithUs condemned “the slander uttered against Israel during the debate, as well as the anti-justice, anti-peace agenda the UCSA is now complicit in. Instead of promoting peaceful coexistence, the UCSA vote contributed to the fundamentally … anti-human rights agenda of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.”

In a tweet, Oakland-based Jewish Voice for Peace, which generally supports BDS measures, called the vote “undoubtedly the largest victory thus far in the campus divestment movement.”

The student-run UCSA represents the more than 225,000 U.C. students and their student governments. The voting board is composed of representatives from 16 student government associations from the U.C. system’s 10 campuses.

According to its mission statement, the association seeks to empower students “to advocate in their own behalf for accessibility, affordability and quality of the U.C. system.” Its agenda generally centers around tuition costs, campus safety and student health, but it routinely weighs in on political issues, from prison reform to climate change.

UCSA board member and U.C. Berkeley student Caitlin Quinn said in a written statement, “I’m so proud that we passed it, and thankful for and humbled by the years of organizing that went into this. The work is far from over, but finally UCSA has taken the progressive stance many students have been waiting for.”

UCLA graduate and former Bruins for Israel president Miri Kornfeld attended the UCSA meeting. She told J. that although the public comment and board debate was civil, pro-Israel U.C. students, many wearing identical “UC Students Against BDS” T-shirts, walked out before the vote. As they exited, they sang the Israeli national anthem, chanted pro-Israel slogans such as “Stop the hate against the only Jewish state,” and held signs urging the UCSA to “Stop dividing the UCs for an unjust cause.”

“The students planned this protest because essentially no debate was needed,” said Kornfeld, 25, who works for StandWithUs as its national high school program director. “It was understood the resolution was going to pass, and because of this, the students wanted to be inside to show there was a presence for Israel, and then protest outside against this hate-filled, one-sided resolution.”

At the same meeting, the UCSA board also passed a resolution condemning the governments of Brazil, Egypt, Turkey, Mexico, Russia, Israel, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and the United States for “human rights abuses and violence.” That resolution, which also passed 9-1 with six abstentions, called on the U.C. Regents to divest from those governments and to “dissociate itself from governments that engage or aid in systematic prejudiced oppression.”

BDS resolutions have been passed at several California college campuses and elsewhere around the country. The UCSA resolution, like all previous student-led BDS measures, will not be implemented as the U.C. Board of Regents has repeatedly stated it will not divest its holdings from companies that do business with Israel.

Still, pro-Israel activists such as Kornfeld remain concerned.

The UCSA resolution means “the pro-Israel voice is not welcome [at U.C.],” she says  “It’s quite terrifying for pro-Israel students on campus. BDS is very dangerous. What students don’t realize is it is part of a global movement to demonize Israel and wipe it off the map.”


In close vote, Stanford senate rejects measure

Thursday, February 12, 2015 | by j. staff

For the second time in three years, Stanford University’s undergraduate senate has rejected an Israel divestment resolution introduced by a pro-Palestinian group.

The latest measure came up for a vote at a Feb. 10 meeting of the Associated Students of Stanford University. Although the vote was 9-5 with one abstention in favor of the resolution, it fell one vote shy of the two-thirds majority it needed to pass.


Sign at Feb. 10 meeting photo/twitter

Sponsored by the student group Stanford Out of Occupied Palestine, the resolution demanded that Stanford’s Board of Trustees divest from corporations such as Caterpillar, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin for “maintaining the illegal infrastructure of the Israeli occupation” and “facilitating Israel and Egypt’s collective punishment of Palestinian civilians.”

In the weeks leading up to the vote, supporters of Israel in and around the Stanford campus formed a group called Coalition for Peace, which launched an online petition condemning divestment. More than 1,600 students, alumni and Stanford faculty members signed the petition, which was then presented to the ASSU senate.

After the defeat of the measure, Stanford student and Coalition for Peace co-chair Liana Kadisha said in a written statement, “The failed resolution is divisive for our Stanford student community. Representing only one side of an international conflict goes against our values as a university and will not bring us any closer to resolving the conflict. Also, Stanford isn’t directly invested in any of the companies being targeted, so this resolution is a strictly symbolic action to discredit Israel.”

A report issued a day before the vote by the Stanford Review, an independent paper, concluded that “Securities and Exchange Commission filings reveal that Stanford is invested in none of the companies SOOP targets for divestment.” Later, the report added an addendum: “SOOP has updated its resolution, one day before the ASSU will vote on it. They added a line recognizing Israeli security rights, and named one new company, Eaton Corp., in which Stanford was invested in March, 2014. This company, however, was recently named the No. 25 best corporate citizen in America by Corporate Social Responsibility Magazine.”

In March 2013, the ASSU voted down a similar divestment resolution proposed by Students for Palestinian Equal Rights. After three weeks of contentious debate, the bill was voted down 7-1 with five abstentions.

Users on social media noted that the vote was much closer this time around, gaining 64 percent approval when it needed at least 66.7 percent to pass. “Incredible campaigning by the heroic @StanfordSJP! [formerly known as Students for Justice in Palestine] Each year the movement gets stronger. We are winning,” Nora Barrows-Friedman, a writer-editor with the Electric Intifada, posted on Twitter. — j. staff 

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.