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May 18, 2018 3:01 pm

UC Santa Barbara Students Fail to Vote on Divestment Resolution Targeting Israel

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The University of California, Santa Barbara’s Henley Gate entrance. Photo: Ryosuke Yagi.

Student leaders at the University of California, Santa Barbara failed to vote on a divestment resolution targeting Israel on Wednesday, after a disagreement led half to walk out of a senate meeting.

The measure — which called on the school to withdraw investments from companies “that provide military support to the occupation of Palestinian territories” — was debated during a ten-hour long hearing, with nearly 90 speakers sharing their positions during a public forum, the student-run Daily Nexus reported.

Rabbi Evan Goodman, executive director of Santa Barbara Hillel, warned that the measure was only a front for the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign, which he said “is about demonization, delegitimization, and double standards against the one Jewish state in the entire world.”

“I believe that the BDS movement is antisemitic,” he shared. “That doesn’t mean that everyone who supports this resolution themselves is antisemitic, but I think that many go along with it because they think it’s innocuous. They don’t recognize the true depth of what the BDS movement is trying to do in making Israel a pariah among the nations.”

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Goodman added that he doesn’t believe “there is any other minority group on campus or in the country that experiences other people telling them so often what they should feel is discrimination against their own group.”

Another speaker — identified as Yousef Ahmed — spent his allotted time reciting the names of Palestinians who were killed in recent riots on the Israel-Gaza Strip border. The terrorist group Hamas has since acknowledged that the 50 of 62 fatalities reported earlier this week were its own members, while Palestinian Islamic Jihad claimed three others.

The senators came to a deadlock after the student government’s attorney general said that the resolution would be regarded as “positional” and not “directional” legislation.

Positional resolutions convey an official stance by the student senate, and require a two-thirds majority to pass. Directional resolutions direct members of the student government to take specific steps in support of a certain objective, and only need a simple majority to be adopted.

While 12 senators wanted to advance the agenda, which would have cemented the divestment measure as positional legislation, they were opposed throughout the night by 13 peers who rejected efforts to move the meeting forward.

“Seeing that they wouldn’t budge, the other 12 senators did not come back from a recess,” forcing an early end to the meeting due to a loss of quorum, the Daily Nexus reported.

The resolution is expected to be either delayed to next week’s meeting, considered at an emergency meeting, or subject to an email vote.

“By blocking discussion of the resolution and movement into the agenda, divestment supporters displayed the divisive tactics that were at the heart of the resolution,” Santa Barbara Hillel said in a statement following the meeting. “This is most likely not the end of our fight against campus [BDS] movements, but we are ready to stand up to the challenge now and forever. The Jewish community is united in that.”

In an earlier statement, a student coalition led by Hillel warned that the BDS campaign “has deepened divisions on our campuses and has created a hostile environment for many past, current and incoming students.”

The students warned that BDS campaign on other UC campuses “have repeatedly led to outright hate speech and discrimination against Jewish students,” noting:

After a divestment resolution passed at UCLA, a student applying for a judicial board position was questioned about whether she could remain unbiased, given that she was Jewish and a leader in her community. Before a vote related to divestment at UC Santa Cruz, a Jewish student senator was pressured to abstain due to his “Jewish agenda”. At UC Santa Barbara, a student government debate on divestment featured numerous examples of blatant anti-Semitic rhetoric. On campus, BDS seeks to increase polarization by producing an unsafe, exclusive and unproductive space for academic and personal growth.

Last May, a similar UCSB divestment resolution targeting Israel was shot down after a 10-hour meeting, with 16 votes in opposition, none in favor, and seven abstentions.  That was the fourth time divestment failed to pass at USCB since 2013, when the issue was first debated.

The school remains the only undergraduate UC campus to have not endorsed a BDS resolution.

UCSB Students for Justice in Palestine, which have spearheaded divestment campaigns on campus, published a series of images in March showing Palestinian women holding pistols, AK-47 assault rifles, and knives. One of the photos featured hijacker Leila Khaled, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which is blacklisted as a terrorist organization by the United States.

“Solidarity is the weapon and armed resistance is the catalyst,” SJP captioned the post. “Support all mujeres taking arms against imperialism.”

The violent images drew concern from Hillel and were later removed.

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