UCSA Passes Israel Divestment Resolutions

The UC Student Association recently passed two resolutions to divest from American companies accused of profiting from numerous human rights violations of Palestinians on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Its meeting was held at UCLA on Sunday, Feb. 8.

The resolutions to divest were passed with a nine-to-one majority and six abstentions. 

The UCSA Board consists of representatives from 15 of the 19 undergraduate and graduate student governments within the UC system and works to advocate for students on various issues.

UCSA President Jefferson Kuoch-Seng stated in a Feb. 9 press release that the passing of the resolutions was a reflection of the UCSA’s willingness to support students’ values. 

“With this vote, UCSA reaffirms its role as a space where students can advocate, educate and organize in support of the human rights, environmental and social justice issues which they deem important,” Kuoch-Seng said. “We will continue to engage with students on these issues in the pursuit of a quality UC system that reflects the values of UC students.” 

The first of the resolutions, named the Resolution Calling for UC Regents to Divest from Corporations Violating Palestinian Human Rights, pushes for divestment from certain companies in Israel. This resolution was initially proposed in November by members of Students for Justice in Palestine, a national student activism group, but was tabled for several months. 

The second, the Resolution Toward Socially Responsible Investment at the University of California, divests itself from appropriating government bonds issued by states believed to have violated human rights, such as engaging in brutality against protesters and repression of ethnic minorities. Among those listed were Brazil, Egypt, Mexico, Indonesia, Russia, Turkey, Sri Lanka and the U.S. 

The resolution calling for divestment from governments was put forth by Rebecca Ora, the external vice president of UC Santa Cruz’s Graduate Student Association, and was proposed because human-rights violations seemed evident in these countries. It was further meant as a compromise for students who believe the first resolution is too harsh on Israel and associated businesses. 

A multitude of reasons were given for including the U.S. on the list of countries within the resolution, such as the drone strikes that have killed over 2,400 people in Pakistan and Yemen. 

Hundreds of students gathered both in the meeting and at rallies outside. A time for public input  was also allocated before the vote took place and over 30 UC students spoke.

Some students, such as UCLA student Safwan Ibrahim, expressed the feeling that the resolutions offered a change in the conversation surrounding the violation of Palestinian rights. 

 “As a Palestinian student in the UC system, it’s incredible to see the amount of intersectional solidarity across campuses and to witness the shift in conversation regarding support of Palestinian human rights,” Ibrahim told the Alternative Information Center, a news outlet focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  “It is especially inspiring to see the UCSA representatives take up the responsibility of carrying our voices to the regents.”

Similar resolutions to divest from companies doing business with Israel were presented in both May 2010 and March 2013. In 2010, the UC Board of Regents decided that divestment would only be possible if the United States government had declared the regime in question responsible for acts of genocide. 

The decision was then reiterated in 2013, and concerns about a similar outcome were voiced after the most recent vote on Feb. 8.

A press release issued by the UCSA following the vote also called upon the University of California to establish a means of implementing greater student oversight in investment policy.

“The UC is a global force with a $13.2 billion endowment,” Kuoch-Seng said. “Students have a right to see these funds invested in a way they deem to be ethical and just.”

Further steps by the UCSA include taking the resolutions to the UC Office of the President and the regents and fostering discussions with them.