By Allie Bidwell
Thursday, March 18, 2010
The ASUC Senate considered a bill Wednesday night urging the University of California to divest from companies who have supplied the state of Israel with materials used in alleged war crimes.
A final vote, not available as of press time, was expected to be close, and numerous supporters both for and against the bill came to the meeting to voice their opinions. While proponents said the bill is the first step in an expected long-term process to convince the UC Board of Regents to pull total investments of about $135 million from five companies currently supplying Israel with electronics and weapons, opponents contended it unfairly targets Israel.
According to graduate student Emiliano Huet-Vaughn, a member of Students for Justice in Palestine who co-authored the bill, companies such as Hewlett-Packard and General Electric are supplying Israel with the technology necessary to allegedly attack civilian populations in Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
“Investments in companies militarily and materially helping to support war crimes and helping support systemic long-standing violations of human rights should not be companies the university supports,” he said.
However, senior and former senator John Moghtader, founder and co-president of Tikvah: Students for Israel, opposes the bill. He said it unfairly singles out Israel over other middle eastern nations.
“The bill is based on falsehoods, because, if you read through the text, it talks about alleged Israeli war crimes,” he said. “On a factual level, all the text in the bill doesn’t hold any water and it screams of racism. Why aren’t we talking about Iran or Darfur? Why are we focused on Israel, the one democracy in the middle east?”
Huet-Vaughn said the bill represents opposition to American companies investing in Israel rather than a statement against the Jewish people.
“It’s a misrepresentation to suggest at all that Israel is equivalent to Jewish identity,” he said. “This movement has very many Jewish and very many Israeli supporters.”
Huet-Vaughn said passage of the bill would be only the beginning of a longer process aimed at securing divestment from the companies.
Independent Senator Jonathan Gaurano, one of four ASUC senators-including CalSERVE Senator and Presidential Candidate Eunice Kwon, SQUELCH! Senator and Student Advocate Candidate Emily Carlton and Cooperative Movement Senator Christina Oatfield-sponsoring the bill, said his sponsorship and vote on the bill may change depending on what students say at the meeting.
“The premise is that it’s a divestment, as in boycott, of where the university invests money,” he said. “I did not think it was anti-Israeli at the time I sponsored it. I will hopefully make the right decision based on the facts.”
Huda Adem, an independent senator who represents Muslim students on campus, dropped her sponsorship of the bill before the meeting. She could not be reached for comment as of press time.