UCSB Votes Down Divestment from Israel

For the third time in a year and after 40 combined hours of public debates — this one ending at 4 a.m. — UCSB’s Associated Students Senate voted again to remain invested in American companies involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The April 23 vote commenced at 6:30 p.m. and lasted through nine hours of discourse among the senators and students for and against divestment from companies located in Israel.

Promoters of the resolution argued that student funds are going toward war profiteering in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza and pleaded with the Student Senate to urge UC Regents to pull their investments out of such companies. The main campus group supporting the bill, Students for Justice in Palestine, stated they were acting in alignment with the movement Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions.

Students against divestment argued that the resolution was too one-sided and would lead to a negative environment for students. Rabbi Evan Goodman, director of Hillel, stated after the meeting, “A divestment resolution such as this creates a polarized climate on campus. Unfortunately, it is set up to determine a winner and a loser. It doesn’t move the Israelis and the Palestinians any closer to peace, and it harms the campus climate for students at UCSB.”

Sponsor of the resolution Student Senator Scott O’Halloran authored another resolution in response to the idea that “divestment from companies that profit from the military occupation of Palestine is divisive or one-sided.” The new resolution “asks the Regents to put in place a system of rating the companies they invest and publicly disseminating reports on those ratings” without any mention of Israel or a specific country or region of the world in general. In addition, O’Halloran calls for “members from both communities and whomever else to meet and discuss a kind of University standard for investments that we can suggest to the Regents.”

Second-year student Guy Singer argued against O’Halloran’s bill, saying it forced the Senate to choose between two groups of students. “When dealing with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, it’s important to remember that this issue exists not in black-and-white terms, but rather in a grey area that is extremely difficult to deal with. How can one stack up the safety and rights of one nation against those of the other?”

Goodman noted, “Fortunately, people remained civil and respectful throughout most of the lengthy debate last night. In the end, many senators encouraged students on all sides of this issue to work together. That is certainly our hope, our message, and what we continually work toward.” Students for Justice in Palestine resolved, “The vote notwithstanding, Students for Justice in Palestine is happy to declare a victory for vigorous and critical discourse on a crucial issue” and that despite their defeat, “efforts in solidarity with those under occupation will continue.”

The Senate meeting was one of many regarding a complex and much-disputed topic and is likely not the last UC Santa Barbara will see. But Singer shared O’Halloran’s hope for the future, stating that “the pro-Israel community urges the Senate to spend the time creating a bipartisan bill that addresses the need for evaluating the morality of UC investments, without taking a stance on a complex conflict that divides the UC community.”


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