Historic Opportunity at Hand

By Anfal Awwadh, Benjamin Balthaser, Oliver Burchill, Amar Dalmar and Aaron Dimsdale

Task Force, A.S. Divestment Resolution2009

We have a historic opportunity to stop our university from contributing to the violation of human rights. This is a controversial issue, as all movements for social justice are.

But let us be clear: The controversy surrounding the Peace and Neutrality Through UC Divestment From U.S. Corporations Profiting From Occupation resolution has not been created by any student group on campus, but by the University of California’s decision to invest in corporations involved in tremendous violations of international law.

Two of these corporations are General Electric and United Technologies. They were mentioned in the resolution for their involvement in well-documented human-rights abuses in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. These are not casual accusations: These corporations have been well-researched, and the fact is that our university has invested $136 million in General Electric and its subsidiaries, which contributes to the manufacturing and delivery of weapons in these occupied territories. Because many students have relatives who live in occupied territories, such investments force them, in effect, to fund the bombs that are dropped on their families. This is not a choice any student should have to make.

Due to the UC system’s involvement, the conflict in Israel and Palestine may be a difficult one to hear about, but it is not a difficult one to understand. The Palestinian people suffer from the longest ongoing illegal military occupation in the world. No matter how you spin it, a military occupation by another power implies the curtailment of civil liberties and the lack of democracy.

So why write a resolution that references Israel, one might ask? The answer is simple. The U.S. gives the Israeli government approximately $8 million a day, and the vast majority of that money is spent on its military. That sum is more than we give to any other country in the world. This money is often used for illegal war materials such as white phosphorus, which was banned by the 1980 Geneva Convention because it creates horrific burns that continue long after contact with human flesh.

After the 23-day Gaza siege last year resulted in 1,400 deaths at the hands of the Israeli military, institutions such as Amnesty International and the Red Cross confirmed that white phosphorous bombs were indeed used. But this does not do much to describe the daily abuses of Palestinians in the occupied territories: Palestinians must endure long waits at check points, illegal searches and seizures, the demolition of their homes, “Israeli only” bypass roads, a lack of access to clean water, skyrocketing unemployment, a wall separating farmers from access to their fields and the humiliation of another nation deciding the budget on everything from schools to roads.

Our Associated Students now have the opportunity to stand up against the injustice inflicted against the Palestinian people, and to demand that our university is never involved in a single bomb being dropped on a fellow human being ever again.

Many will say this resolution is biased — and we could not agree more. This resolution is biased for human rights, justice and equality. It is biased against bombs and military occupation. Many will also try to argue that this resolution is singling Israel out, and is therefore anti-Israel. However, this bill does not condemn one oppressive apartheid regime more than any other. If Spain were occupying Palestine, then this resolution would note that Spanish occupation and seek to divest from it.

This week Chris Cruz, chair of A.S. Resolution-Writing Committee On Peace and Neutrality, will publicly meet with the nine-person committee to discuss whether or not the Peace and Neutrality Through UC Divestment From U.S. Corporations Profiting from Occupation resolution will remain the same.

But do not fall victim to the fiction that the current military policies of the state of Israel represent the Jewish identity. There are an increasing number of Jewish and Israeli voices calling for an end to the occupation, including organizations such as B’Tselem, Jewish Voice for Peace, Meretz-Yachad, Gush Shalom and many others. These organizations see the occupation as both morally wrong and harmful to Israeli society. These broad coalitions include Holocaust survivors, rabbis and many other people of conscience who object to the terrible indignity that is forced upon the Palestinian people by right-wing extremists in their name.

In fact, occupation is a right-wing political platform in Israel. Many Jewish citizens oppose it. So, if someone tells you that he is “for Israel” but only represents this side of the controversy, he’s not telling you the full story.

Let this resolution become the piece of legislation that defines our generation. Let it be known that UCSD will not go on one more day until the money that is spent toward the oppression of Palestine is not in its hands any longer. We must remember that UC students have a long history of standing up for human rights. When Nelson Mandela was let out of prison, he thanked the UC students for their relentless work in divesting from the apartheid regime in South Africa.

We have a legacy; we have a place in the struggle that we cannot ignore any longer. It is time that the UC students take our rightful place in the fight for human rights. We can no longer sit idly by as our university supports the alienation and the racist treatment of a group of people, no matter who they might be. Yes, it will mean an uncomfortable conversation about things we’d rather not think about — but when has that ever stopped us before?

I'm a teacher, writer, and activist based in Bangalore. I am dedicated to various issues including #BDS and Palestine, living Zero Waste, and reversing the effects of climate change.

Posted in Divestment, Student Organizing, U.S. Academica
%d bloggers like this: