Will Smelko’s veto on SB118 – where do we go from here

Last night, UC Berkeley ASUC President Will Smelko vetoed ‘A Bill in Support of UC Divestment From War Crimes,’ a bill which called on the ASUC and the UC to divest funds from companies enabling war crimes in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, among other places, and which was passed by the student senate in a 16 to 4 vote one week ago today. Many of you may be angry at the decision and its unprincipled rationale, as are we. Such a decision, however, does not change the fact that 16 out of 20 student representatives voted on the side of divestment, doing so after careful consideration of the facts and a 6 hour student debate with overflow capacity – a debate the ASUC President chose to miss while justifying his veto by claiming a lack of sufficient debate on the topic. If he had chosen to attend, he would have witnessed the broad-based coalition working to advance human rights in Israel/Palestine and social responsibility within our school’s own investment portfolio. Now is a time to recognize that movement, a movement not just at UC Berkeley but at schools and institutions around the country and the world, and to redouble our efforts to end the Israeli occupation and reassert the need for an ethical investment policy.

At the UC Berkeley’s campus, there will be a senate vote to override the President’s veto, to be held in the following weeks. We expect to win this vote, as only 14 votes are needed to override a veto and already 16 senators have stood against war crimes, Israel’s or otherwise. You can help prevent them from bowing to the pressure of the Israel lobby, which has been fierce and deceitful in its characterization of this bill, by

1) coming to the meeting to override Smelko’s veto (the date will be either April 7 or a following Wednesday – for updates see http://calsjp.org)
2) bringing your supportive friends and student group members
3) writing personal or organizational letters to senators (to senate[at]asuc.org, including ucbdivest[at]gmail.com in the bcc) when asked to do so in the weeks to come about why you support divestment as a tactic in general and in the case of Israel specifically (at this point, angry letters to the president do little and are discouraged).

Beyond this there is much to do in the broader public. This movement is not just about a victory for divestment at UC Berkeley. Rather it is more fundamentally about spreading divestment and the notion that all nations and corporations, including sacred cows like Israel, must be held to account for their gross violations of human rights, and that all people, Palestinians included, are deserving of basic human rights such as rights to life, property, freedom of movement, and a right to an education. Spread divestment to your church, your synagogue, your mosque, to other schools, to other institutions. And speak up in the press. Write a letter to the editor or an op-ed. Make the media know about the success at Berkeley and the successes to come. We’ll be in touch with next steps in the near future. Thank you so much for your solidarity.

Cal Students for Justice in Palestine

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