Moral Low Ground


UC Irvine Student Gov’t Votes 16-0 to Divest from Companies Linked to Israeli Apartheid

The University of California, Irvine student government has unanimously voted to request divestment from corporations that assist or directly profit from Israeli apartheid and other crimes against humanity in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The Jewish Week reports that the Associated Students of University of California Irvine (ASUCI) voted 16-0 on Tuesday to approve a non-binding resolution titled ‘Divestment from Companies that Profit from Apartheid’ that calls on the university to dump holdings in eight corporations that do business in Israel.

The targeted companies are: Caterpillar, Cement Roadstones Holding, Cemex, General Electric, Hewlett-Packard, Raytheon, Sodastream and L-3 Communications.

These companies, ASUCI claims, are all complicit in Israeli apartheid and other crimes against humanity in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Irvine Divest issued a press release calling the vote “an historic move that could initiate a domino effect across America’s campuses.”

ASUCI member Sabreen Shalabi, who co-wrote the divestment resolution, hailed the measure’s passage.

“I am very proud of my fellow council members and of the students at our university,” she said in a press release. “Our work today stands tall in the noble tradition of students advocating for justice, joining the ranks of those brave and visionary students who demanded that our universities divest from the terrible crimes of South African apartheid.”

“The decision made by ASUCI’s legislative council tonight clearly shows the strength and integrity of students utilizing their collective power to protect human rights on a global scale,” ASUCI President Traci Ishigo said. “I stand firmly by the students who believe it is their responsibility to have a voice on matters that urge the UC to be an institution that treasures human dignity.”

ASUCI’s divestment vote comes just over a year after 11 Muslim UC Irvine students, known as the ‘Irvine 11,’ were convicted of disrupting a campus speech by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren.

Pro-Israel groups slammed ASUCI’s action.

“This is extremely disappointing and divisive to the students on campus,” Roz Rothstein, CEO of the right-wing Israel advocacy group StandWithUs, is quoted in The Jewish Week. “We sincerely hope that the executive board of the student government will reject this extremist resolution.”

If the executive board approves the measure, UC Irvine will become the first California campus to do so. Other schools, including Hampshire College and Arizona State University, have passed divestment resolutions. Numerous religious groups, including the United Church of Christ and the World Council of Churches, have also approved divestment measures.

The UC Irvine vote, while historic, was largely symbolic. According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, university administrators have already rejected the proposed divestment. “Such divestment is not the policy of this campus, nor is it the policy of the University of California,” a statement from the administration said.

Other Israel supporters took issue with the language of the resolution, especially the accusation that Israel is practicing apartheid.

But numerous prominent international figures, including former US President Jimmy Carter, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Northern Irish peace activist Mairead Maguire— all of them Nobel Peace laureates– have accused Israel of apartheid. Carter said that Israeli apartheid is “worse than we witnessed even in South Africa,” while Mandela, who calls the Palestinian struggle for justice “the greatest moral issue of our age,” goes further, accusing Israel of “ethnic cleansing.”

Even some Holocaust survivors believe that Israel is guilty of apartheid and ethnic cleansing.

“The Palestinians are victims of ethnic cleansing and apartheid,” Suzanne Weiss, whose parents were killed after the Nazis occupied France when she was a little girl, told “The Israeli government’s actions toward the Palestinians awaken horrific memories of my family’s experiences under Hitlerism: the inhuman walls, the checkpoints, the daily humiliations, killings, diseases, the systematic deprivation.”

“There’s no escaping the fact that Israel has occupied the entire country of Palestine, and taken most of the land, while the Palestinians have been expelled, walled off and deprived of human rights and human dignity,” Weiss said.

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