Student politicians from the University of California at Berkeley voted Thursday to divest from Israel. The Student Senate voted 16-4 to call on the university to divest its funds from General Electric and from United Technologies, because both companies produce weapons purchased by the Israeli army. The bill calling for divestment was co-sponsored by students Emiliano Huet-Vaughn and Tom Pessah, the latter an anti-Zionist Israeli citizen.
The bill noted the “complexity” of the Israel-Arab conflict, but went on to accuse Israel of violating international law with a “prolonged siege” on Gaza and “attacks on Palestinian and Lebanese civilians,” accusations based on statements from radical left NGO's critical of Israel such as Physicians for Human Rights and Human Rights Watch.
The vote was met with glee from anti-Israel activists. Radical anti-Israel activist and Tel Aviv University student Omar Barghouti expressed hope that the Berkeley vote would be “the watershed, the crossing of the threshold in the spread of BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions – ed.] across the US that many of us have been waiting to see.”
Prominent American attorney and political commentator Alan Dershowitz slammed the vote as “immoral” and “bigoted.” Divesting from Israel “encourages terrorism and discourages peace,” he said.
Dershowitz noted that divestment from Israel is illegal if done by a state university.
"We will fight back against this selective bigotry that hurts the good name of the University of California,” he said. “The misuse of the university's name does not reflect the views of students... Instead it represents the hijacking of the university for improper ideological purposes.”
StandWithUs: Vote Based on Discredited Report
The U.S. based pro-Israel student group StandWithUs noted that the Berkeley resolution was based on the Goldstone report, which has been criticized as biased and inaccurate by the United States government, among others.
“StandWithUs is shocked that the 16 senators based their decision on the widely discredited UN Goldstone report,” the group stated. “Liberal democracies condemned the Report for bias, misinformation, and distortion of facts, law, and legal reasoning.”
While supporters of the divestment bill claimed it was a response to recent events in Gaza, in reality, anti-Israel activists have been pushing for divestment from Israel since 2002, StandWithUs noted. “The Student Senate unfortunately was hijacked and capitulated to this bigoted campaign,” the group said.
If the Student Senate really opposed war crimes, it would focus on events in Darfur, the Congo, Iran, or Nigeria, “where human rights are constantly violated and the murder of innocents is systematic,” StandWithUs said. If the Senate truly wished for Israeli-Arab peace, it would condemn rocket attacks on Israeli civilians, and would condemn the Palestinian Authority for openly praising terrorism and giving honor to terrorists who murdered Israeli civilians, the group added.
"Apparently, the Student Senate no longer believes in 'speaking truth to power.' Instead, it has capitulated to the bigotry, falsehoods, and racism of anti-Israel campaigns encouraged and supported by oil-rich nations in the Middle East,” StandWithUs concluded.