Talks Fail to Bring About Compromise

Because the resolution was tabled during the committee meeting, it was not brought up during the council meeting last night, and will not be brought up again next year unless the resolution is rewritten and submitted as a new item.

Campuswide Senator and A.S. President-elect Wafa Ben Hassine, a member of the committee, said the issue was tabled because councilmembers thought it was repetitive to vote on an issue that had not changed since the prior debate.

“People used the rhetoric that we’d been through the same discussion last year, and since it was the same legislation, we didn’t want to go over it again,” Ben Hassine said.

Arts and Humanities Senator Omar Khan said he originally wanted to re-discuss the resolution at last night’s meeting, but withdrew it because he worried it would divide the campus.

“I tried to pull it from committee because I was unaware that this is an issue that could be brought up again,” he said. “I withdrew the motion because I realized that failing it or approving it would create a schism between the communities, and we want to continue the conversation.”

The resolution was first proposed at last week’s meeting, which drew an audience of over 200 students. During that meeting, councilmembers amended the original resolution to remove any mention of specific nations or companies, revising it to state that the council should condemn all war crimes in general. A special committee was then charged to review the resolution. It included representatives from both SJP and Tritons for Israel, the latter of which opposed the original language.

SJP member Leena Barakat, who helped draft the original resolution, said the two groups were unable to agree as to whether Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip could be considered human rights violations, or whether Israel should be classified as an occupying force.

“They couldn’t agree that internationally recognized, documented human rights violations have occurred,” Barakat said. “They tried to play it off as opinion. They have accused these organizations — United Nations, Amnesty International — of bias, and they have made it clear that they don’t believe in unconditional human rights.”

TFI member Lior Abramson said the issue is unrelated to whether a certain group recognizes Israel’s actions as human rights violations.

“I think the wording of the resolution implied that if you weren’t for it, you didn’t support human rights, and that’s not true at all,” Abramson said. “I support human rights, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t, but we cannot support divestment from a company that supports the Israeli Defense Forces, which are what keeps our friends and family safe back home.”

She added that TFI has not yet taken an official stance on whether “occupancy” is an accurate word to describe Israel’s actions in the Palestinian territories.

“The committee didn’t work because our goals were mutually exclusive,” Abramson said. “As a gesture, since no student fees directly go toward investment in Israel, it is anti-Israel — and we are a pro-Israel community.”

SJP member Chris Westling said that multiple students in the TFI community have expressed support for the resolution.

“There are at least 15 campus orgs that support our cause, and a very small number of one — one that’s fragmented anyway, and one in which many members support our resolution —  which is essentially exercising veto power,” he said.

TFI member Daniel Friedman and Abramson disagreed with Westling’s claim.

“As with all good Jewish communities, there’s a lot of opinions and a lot of things going on,” Friedman said. “But at the end of the day, when we sit down and discussed it, everyone came to the same consensus. On the TFI executive board, there were different opinions voiced, but it’s a democratic thing. We voted, and what came out of the vote is what was represtend by the elected officials at committee.”

Abramson said that, though there may be individual disagreements within TFI, the group itself remains united.

“We are 100 percent unified on this issue,” she said. “Of course, people have individual opinions, but we have a board that decides for the group, and if anyone was angered by our decision, they would have left and not been in our group.”

A.S. Associate Vice President of Enterprise Operations and SJP member Rishi Ghosh said he wishes to see the council continue pursuing the issue.

“My idea toward the council is that you can run but you can’t hide,” he said. “Good things have happened, and I’m excited to further work with the pro-Israel community, but I’m confident that people will continue to work for this.”

Friedman said the indefinite tabling of the resolution is a welcome end to the debate.

“It’s not the ideal thing, but it’s what [the committee] decided,” Friedman said. “Hopefully now the communities will start working together to have conversation about the topic and bring them together.”

Ghosh said it is possible that a similar resolution will be proposed to the 2010-11 council, which takes office next week.

“It might have more success next year with a new council, if those new senators are willing to read the legislation and not just listen to the rhetoric surrounding it,” Ghosh said.

Abramson said that TFI will continue to oppose the divestment resolution if it is reintroduced next year.

“If this resolution comes up next year, TFI will keep coming out and speaking out against it,” Abramson said.

Readers can contact Angela Chen at [email protected].

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