After a ten hour debate that began Wednesday evening and continued through the night, the Student Senate at the University of California – Berkeley voted to divest University funds from three companies that profit from Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.Three years ago, UC-Berkeley’s Student Senate passed a similar resolution calling for divestment, but the then-President of the Student Union vetoed the measure. Thursday’s vote follows the narrow defeat of a similar divestment resolution at UC-Santa Barbara last week. Two weeks ago, students at UC-Riverside overturned a resolution they had passed the week before calling for divestment.
The heated debate at UC-Berkeley included the voices of dozens of Jewish and Arab students who supported the divestment resolution, and led some students to break down in tears as emotions ran high.
“There are few experiences more traumatic than losing your home or being forced out of the place you call home,” said UC Berkeley junior Kamyar Jarahzadeh, according to the student newspaper ‘The Daily Cal’. “This university’s money — our money — is complicit in the deprivation of human rights.”
In addition to the students, many community members attended the hearing – most were in favor of the resolution, but some opponents also attended. Pulitzer-prize winning author Alice Walker spoke in favor of the divestment resolution, as someone who participated in a flotilla to Gaza that attempted to break the Israeli siege put in place in 2007.
Students opposed to the resolution organized a party called ‘SQUELCH!’, aimed at stopping the divestment resolution from passing. In a comment to the Daily Cal newspaper, SQUELCH! Party chair Noah Ickowitz, “We will take home that this body takes divestment as a weapon of choice when that is not the only weapon in our arsenal.”
According to the Daily Cal, “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.”