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May 27, 2021 12:48 pm

UC Santa Barbara Student Government Narrowly Rejects BDS Resolution After Contentious Marathon Debate

avatar by Jordan Esrig

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

University of California Santa Barbara (USCB)’s Associated Student Senate on Thursday narrowly voted against a resolution to divest university funds from companies that it argued profit from “human rights abuses and violence” against the Palestinians, after a contentious overnight debate. 

The vote entered the senate at approximately 7:50 pm Wednesday night and lasted nearly 11 hours. After a public forum session that included statements from over 100 students, faculty, and community members, student senators unsuccessfully motioned to indefinitely table the resolution. The resolution was then rejected by a single margin vote in a 12-13 secret ballot, at 6:37 am, according to Daily Nexus reporter Holly Rusch, who had been live-tweeting the vote. 

Hillel Santa Barbara Rabbi Evan Goodman and Executive Director Robert Ingrum praised the outcome in a statement, saying, “We are extraordinarily proud of our students for their resolve and integrity in the months, weeks and days leading up to tonight’s vote. After an exceptionally trying year of distance and isolation, they gave everything they had to fight this anti-Israel resolution.”

The statement also called the overnight session’s atmosphere “hostile,” relaying that one speaker shouted, “‘Israel isn’t a real State’ and ‘F… Israel’ which caused the senate chair to suspend the meeting while that person was removed.” Eventually, USCB’s Senate “abruptly halted” their Facebook Live Chat of the event after a litany of derisive comments against Goodman. 

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The bill “A Resolution to Divest from Corporations Violating Palestinian Human Rights,” made no explicit mention of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, but would have “direct[ed] the UC Regents to withdraw investments in securities, endowments, mutual funds and other monetary instruments with holdings in any of the aforementioned companies or subsidiaries thereof.”

The authors listed, “Boeing, Caterpillar, General Dynamics, General Electric, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon” as companies that have “violated the universal right ‘to life, liberty, and security of person’ [of the Palestinians] … as stated in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.”

In a statement released prior to the bill’s passing, UCSB’s Students for Justice in Palestine chapter claimed the bill would “reclai[m] student power” to “fight for liberation for Palestinians.”

“Belonging to a top-tier research institution,” SJP claimed, “it is our duty to combat racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, patriarchy, homophobia, transphobia, imperialism, colonialism, classism, and global inequality. We cannot exceptionalize the violations of human rights in Israel/Palestine.” SJP continues, denouncing Israel as “guilty of crimes of apartheid and persecution. It is guilty of deadly racism against Palestinians.” 

The resolution is the seventh attempt in nine years by students at UC Santa Barbara to pass a BDS resolution, with similar bills rejected in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2019, and a 2018 effort having failed to reach a vote. The previous 2019 BDS resolution would have halted nearly $100,000 dollars of the student government’s investments and was voted down by a vote of 10-14.

UC Santa Barbara’s Student Government is the only student government of the entire University of California system that has not passed a divestment resolution.

“This was one of if not the closest vote on a divestment resolution we’ve ever had,” the group Students Supporting Israel at UCSB told The Algemeiner. “The pro-Israel and Jewish communities really came together in a tough time and showed a tremendous amount of fortitude to persevere through a 12 hour meeting. We couldn’t have done it without every single public forum speaker along with every senator who voted against this resolution.”

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