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UC Berkeley Votes in Favor of BDS

The Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC) voted to divest from companies affiliated with the IDF.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 4/19/2013, 3:12 AM

posters calling to boycott Israel
posters calling to boycott Israel
Flash 90

The Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC) voted 11-9 to divest from companies affiliated with the IDF on Thursday, the Daily Californian reported.

ASUC is made up of the elected representatives of the UC Berkeley student body.

According to the Daily Californian, the heated debate began Wednesday evening and carried on for 10 hours, continuing into Thursday. Hundreds of UC Berkeley students, faculty and community members engaged in a contentious debate regarding the bill, SB 160.

SB 160, authored by Student Action Senator George Kadifa, calls the UC system a “complicit third party” in what is called Israel’s “illegal occupation and ensuing human rights abuses” and seeks the divestment of more than $14 million in ASUC and UC assets from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Cement Roadstone Holdings.

According to the bill, these companies provide equipment, materials and technology to the Israeli military, including bulldozers and biometric identification systems.

The final vote, which occurred just before 5:30 a.m., was met with cheering, stomping and cries of joy by supporters of the bill, the Daily Californian reported.

Independent Senator and bill co-sponsor Sadia Saifuddin said she saw the vote as the culmination of years of struggle.

“Tonight is not about corporations,” she said. “It’s about asking ourselves before we go to sleep whether our money is going toward the destruction of homes, toward the erection of a wall. I am a working student. And I don’t want one cent of my money to go toward fueling the occupation of my brothers and sisters.”

Supporters of the divestment bill, which included Muslim and Jewish students alike as well as members of other campus communities, said they opposed the ASUC and university’s financial involvement with companies that benefit from alleged human rights violations perpetrated by the Israeli government.

“There are few experiences more traumatic than losing your home or being forced out of the place you call home,” UC Berkeley junior Kamyar Jarahzadeh said, according to the Daily Californian. “This university’s money — our money — is complicit in the deprivation of human rights.”

The senate passed a similar divestment bill in 2010, but it was later vetoed by then-president Will Smelko, the report noted.

Several universities in North America have passed motions endorsing the Global Campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel in recent months.

Last month, the York Federation of Students, the student union of Toronto’s York University, passed a resolution endorsing the BDS movement. The move was blasted by Jewish organizations in Canada, including the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.

Several weeks earlier the University of Toronto Mississauga Students' Union (UTMSU) Board of Directors voted overwhelmingly in favor of endorsing a 2005 call for a BDS campaign against Israel.

In December, the Graduate Student Union (GSU) at the University of Toronto also decided to endorse the BDS campaign against Israel.

At the same time the Oxford University Students’ Union (OUSU) recently rejected a motion calling for sanctions against Israel.

The OUSU motion calling for the Oxford student union to boycott Israeli institutions, goods and produce lost by a vote of 69-10, with 15 abstentions.

And the University of Manitoba Students’ Union voted this week to strip funding and official club status from Students Against Israeli Apartheid.