It”s never popular to stand up for justice. It especially isn”t popular if you”re doing so while getting threats from powerful lobbying groups and vocal students. That”s why the student senate at UC Berkeley is tasked with a pretty difficult job. As students and community in support of Palestine continue to urge the senators to overturn the President”s veto of the Resolution to Divest from companies providing military equipment to Israel, and as the opposition makes claims of feeling silenced and marginalized, the senate is asked to remain neutral – impossible. You are either willing to stand for justice or to give into intimidation tactics and stand silently as your campus invests in crimes against humanity.
It may not seem like the most popular thing to do. Sure, it may not seem like the easiest thing to do. But it is the responsibility of UC Berkeley, a campus that espouses the legacy of the civil rights movement to uphold the spirit of justice. All attempts to silence the divestment movement and to threaten the student senators supporting the resolution are merely the tactics of maintaining the status quo. It is another way to normalize what is wrong and to criminalize the fight for much-needed change.
All those who are today saluted for their leadership in paving the road to justice were once criminalized or jailed. From Rosa Parks, Malcolm X to Mandela, they were all willing to stand principled rather than sit silent. While the stakes are not nearly as high for the UC senators, the ultimate objective is the same – to stand up for social justice and against war crimes ultimately challenging the status quo.
What would Malcolm X, Rosa Parks and Mandela say? If they were standing in Pauley ballroom at UC Berkeley until 7:30 am listening to anti-divestment students crying about how a bill that condemns occupation and war crimes silences them, would they have comforted them with a hug? When other anti-divestment students claimed that it is not UC Berkeley student government”s job to take sides and that international issues were not matters to be decided upon at a University campus, would Mandela have applauded? Those who stood up against those in power and put their lives on the line for justice would have instead demanded that the vote be upheld. They would have been appalled at the audacity of privileged students to cry marginalization while those at the receiving end of racism and injustice were silenced with a veto. They would have maintained that divesting from corporations that profit off war crimes is not a foreign affair. Divestment is a stand against state violence; it is a stand for peace, dignity and justice.
Lara Kiswani is a member of the Palestinian American Community