UC Berkeley student senate passes divestment bill 19Apr13 April 19, 2013

by Nora Barrows-Friedman     -    The Electronic Intifada    –     18 April 2013

imagesThe student senate at the University of California at Berkeley voted early Thursday morning in favor of a bill calling on the UC administration to divest from companies which profit from Israel’s occupation.

In a meeting that lasted nearly ten hours, the Daily Californian reports that:

Anna Head Alumnae Hall overflowed with hundreds of UC Berkeley students, faculty and community members engaging 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 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.

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.”

Support from Angela Davis, Alice Walker, student groups

Earlier on Wednesday evening, I attended a talk given by author, educator and iconic civil rights activist Angela Davis in an event sponsored by the Middle East Children’s Alliance. Davis spoke passionately about Palestinian prisoners — it was Palestinian Prisoners’ Day — and the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. At the end of the evening, she asked the packed audience of hundreds if we could support a resolution she quickly drafted to support of the UC Berkeley divestment bill. Davis’ resolution passed unanimously as the crowd erupted into cheers.

After the Angela Davis event concluded, some audience members walked over to the nearby UC Berkeley campus to the hall where the divestment resolution was being voted on. The Daily Californian reported that Pulitzer prize-winning author and activist Alice Walker was amongst the hundreds of supporters in the campus hall.

In the lead-up to the divestment vote, several pro-BDS op-eds were featured in the Daily Californian, including one by UC Berkeley junior Waj Bhatti comparing Israel’s discrimination policies to the Jim Crow laws in the US south; and a strong statement by the on-campus Organization of African Students explaining why they unanimously supported the divestment bill.

UC Berkeley’s divestment initiative came exactly three years after UC Berkeley’s student senate voted in favor of a similar resolution, but the bill was vetoed by then-student senate president Will Smelko a week later. Before the senate met again to vote to override the veto, it was revealed that Zionists on campus, aided by Israel lobby groups, had pressured and intimidated senators to reverse their original votes — and the veto stood.

Three years later, as the tide around the country and around the world continues to swell in favor of divestment, UC Berkeley has taken a stand for justice, equality and human rights.

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