UC Davis Student Leaders Repeal ‘Unconstitutional’ Israel Divestment Resolution
The student government of the University of California, Davis unanimously struck down a divestment resolution targeting Israel on Monday, calling the measure “unconstitutional.”
Senate Resolution #17 (SR17) — originally passed with a vote of 10-0 and two abstentions in May 2015 — called for divestment from four companies over their ties to Israel and complicity in alleged human rights violations against Palestinians.
An earlier divestment resolution was adopted by the Associated Students of UC Davis (ASUCD) in January 2015, but was repealed the following month for violating the student government’s constitution.
Yet SR17 — which, like its predecessor, was seen as an extension of the anti-Zionist boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign — was upheld until this semester, when students Sydney Hack and Daniella Aloni petitioned the ASUCD Judicial Council to overturn the measure.
A ruling delivered by the Council’s majority on Monday, following a hearing on May 8th, confirmed that SR17 contravened a section of the ASUCD Constitution that commits the Senate to “promote the welfare and interests of the members of the ASUCD.”
“The ASUCD Senate must promote student welfare, meaning it cannot hinder the welfare of any student,” the ruling stated. “While this Resolution caters to the welfare of a group of students, it does so at the expense of the welfare of other students.”
SR17 was also found to be in breach of the ASUCD Student Bill of Rights, which rejects “discrimination and harassment on the basis of … ethnicity … national origin … or political belief.”
“The passing of this Resolution has led to the discrimination and harassment of students whose ethnicity, national origin or political beliefs are in opposition to the content of the Resolution,” the ruling read. “As discussed during the hearing, the verbiage within the Resolution has caused harassment against many students.”
The repeal was likewise supported by the Council’s minority, which found that “Senate ought not legislate on concerns that transcend that of its fiduciary responsibilities.”
Aloni, a former student senator and current executive at the Zionist campus group AgPAC, told The Algemeiner on Wednesday that she and Hack were spurred to petition against the resolution as the “climate on campus has become more hostile towards Zionist and Jews.”
Hack is a former member of the Judicial Council and the current president of AgPAC.
“Comments such as ‘The needs of Jewish students have been prioritized for far too long on this campus’ have been stated in public forums by current ASUCD representatives and never apologized for,” noted Aloni.
In an op-ed last month explaining his resignation from the ASUCD, student Noah Pearl acknowledged hearing a fellow Senate member proclaim at a town-hall discussion “that the needs of Jewish students have been prioritized on this campus for far too long.”
Pearl then recounted facing hostility in other instances due to his identification with Zionism, the movement that supports the Jewish people’s right to national self-determination in the Levant.
His op-ed was published in the campus paper on April 30th, the second day of an “Anti-Zionism Week” organized by the Muslim Student Association and Students for Justice in Palestine at UC Davis. The programming also coincided the following day with Yom Hashoah, Israel’s Holocaust remembrance day.
It was against this background and concerns of another resolution supporting the BDS campaign, which leading Jewish groups in the US have denounced as discriminatory, that Aloni and Hack testified before the Judicial Council. The session was held behind closed doors to prevent disruptive protests.
“It is our opinion that it’s time pro-Israel activists on campuses become proactive, not reactive when it comes to BDS/anti-Zionism and acts of antisemitism,” Aloni shared.
The duo’s arguments before the Council, supported by another student’s testimony of facing antisemitism while engaging in pro-Israel advocacy, highlighted the divisiveness of the BDS campaign.
“[If] anything BDS alienates Jewish and Zionist students from any productive conversations,” Hack said.
Monday’s ruling places UC Davis alongside UC Santa Barbara as two of nine undergraduate schools in the UC system whose student governments have rejected resolutions linked to the BDS campaign.
BDS resolutions have often been criticized for heightening campus tensions and making Jewish and Zionist students feel targeted based on their identity. Supporters say they raise awareness of challenges faced by Palestinians and aim to fight injustices against them.
Like elsewhere in the country, UC administrators have not implemented Israel focused divestment measures passed on their campuses. In December, all UC chancellors spoke out against academic boycotts targeting Israel, a key component of the BDS campaign.