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Friday, April 12, 2024

ASUCD passes bill in favor of divestment from corporations ‘complicit in violations of Palestinian rights’

The $20 million ASUCD budget can no longer be spent on companies on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions list 

 

By RIVERS STOUT — campus@theaggie.org

 

On Feb. 16, the ASUCD Senate passed Senate Bill (SB) #52, which implements an ASUCD boycott of and divestment from “corporations complicit in human rights violations against Palestinians,” according to the bill’s language. This boycott is in accordance with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a nonviolent global campaign promoting boycotts against Israel and organizations that they have deemed “complicit” in Israel’s actions over the past few months, including Intel, Disney, Starbucks and many more.

Prior to the Senate meeting where the bill was considered, UC Davis Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) encouraged students to attend and speak during public comment in support of the bill through an Instagram post, which had more than 1,400 likes at the time of publication.

At 6:30 p.m., the time of the bill’s scheduled consideration, hundreds of students gathered in the Memorial Union Coffee House (CoHo) to share their opinions on the bill. 

“We have been given the opportunity to take direct action by passing this bill, and we need to take it,” one speaker said. “We are sick and tired of coming out here time and time again and seeing no material change. I am sick and tired of having lived the entirety of my life screaming the same chants and mourning the same losses.” 

The speaker elaborated, saying that by passing the Senate bill, which stops any ASUCD funds from being spent on items from companies listed on the BDS list, they believed UC Davis students would be “helping to stop the bombing of over 28,000 [Palestinian people] and the complete destruction of Gaza.” 

Another speaker provided their stance on the matter, specifically arguing against concerns that the bill could contribute to antisemitism on campus.

“BDS is not hate,” the speaker said. “It is a message for liberation and standing against settler-colonialism. BDS is not an attack on Jews, but an attack on settler colonialism and genocide. We, as students, have the power to be on the right side of history, so it is imperative that we support the divestment of Israel and stop supporting the settler-colonial and the apartheid, oppressive state.”

Some students, albeit a smaller group, attended the meeting in opposition to the bill. 

“There is not a single bone in my body that asked for this war,” President of Aggies for Israel Carly Klinger said. “There is no part of me that believes that this is how any conflict should be solved. It is without a doubt that innocent lives of Palestinians are being lost. However, this does not mean we need a warzone on campus. By integrating BDS into the bylaws, that is exactly what you will be encouraging.”

Speakers opposed to the bill also mentioned the monetary kickback of its implications. 

“Spending a large portion of your ASUCD budgeting on getting rid of printers, computers and software and replacing [them] will cost us our tuition money,” one speaker said. “A boycott of Intel would mean replacing all of the computers across all of the university.”

Others noted that ASUCD does not control all of the computers across the university and only controls those under the ASUCD domain. 

“This bill is not seeking to replace any equipment that ASCUD already has,” Senator Yara Kaadan said. 

Instead, according to Kaadan, the bill would block future deals with these companies. 

Another speaker in opposition to the bill noted that most affordable kosher food options on campus come from Israel-affiliated companies. 

“Sabra, for example, is a company that produces many kosher items, some of which are offered at the CoHo and campus stores,” the speaker continued. “If this bill were to pass, Sabra, among others, would be banned. By passing BDS, you are taking away on-campus kosher options from Jewish students. That is blatant discrimination on the basis of national origin, culture and religion.”

While this was a popular sentiment among those opposed to the bill, External Affairs Vice President Celene Aridin later rebutted this argument. She said that ASUCD is one of the only student governments that opens its own businesses, such as the several restaurants in the CoHo eating area, and it is therefore possible for these quick service stops to provide more kosher food products on the menus. 

Some UC Davis Law school students refuted the claims of discrimination on a number of grounds and told the Senate that they were more than willing to examine the legality of the bill and subsequent actions. 

“I stand before you queer, trans and Jewish,” a speaker in favor of the bill said. “I am a strong supporter of the divestment bill and of a free Palestine. The Jewish opposition here does not speak for me and will never speak for me. There are thousands of Jewish people across the country organizing every day with the same beliefs. Supporting the BDS bill is not anti-semitic, it is what is right.”

After public comment had ended, and the table had taken a brief break, senators voiced their thoughts on the bill. 

“I believe that SB #52 is in many ways very hastily written to surprise the Senate, half of whom are recently elected, and most of whom have absolutely no knowledge of [the history of] Israel and Palestine,” Senator Gabriel Gaysinsky said. “And why should they? [There are] a bunch of STEM majors and people who have nothing to do with this. Most people simply do not know.” 

Gaysinsky’s words were met with sounds of disapproval from many of the gathered attendees. Aridin called for silence and requested that people remain respectful.

 “It is not a question of intelligence,” Gaysinsky said. “Some of us have studied this for years and some are barely getting into it now because [the bill] was introduced [to the Senate table] six days ago. Unless distinct changes to the bill’s language and intent are made, it will continue to be an attempt to strongarm a vote to uplift one community at the expense of another.”

He moved on, speaking on Jewish people who had voiced support in favor of the bill.

“It is very telling that many of those who came to speak ‘as a Jew’ are those that I’ve either rarely seen or never seen active in the Jewish community,” Gaysinsky said, air-quoting the words, “as a Jew.” 

Kaadan then responded to Gaysinsky’s words. 

“This bill is very clearly targeting the actions of a nation-state and very exclusively stating it is not targeting a group of people,” Kaadan said. “If you have an issue with condemning genocidal violence, it’s not my responsibility or Palestinians’ responsibility to make you feel comfortable in your genocide denial or justification.”

Kaadan shared more on this thought. 

“I would really hope that everybody on the table agrees with me on this, as well as the public: we should all be condemning anti-semitism,” Kaadan said. “I also want to note that it’s not the Palestinian community’s responsibility to account for European and Western anti-semitism that […] we see on this campus.”

Kaadan also addressed comments that argued the bill was written from one perspective.

“This bill had over 30 endorsements from a very diverse coalition of organizations on this campus, and not just undergrads,” Kaadan said.

The bill was signed by many student associations, unions, clinics and other campus-affiliated organizations. 

“Also, I want to address some racist tropes that came up tonight,” Kaadan said. “Implying that Palestinians asking for their basic human rights be respected and supported would create a ‘warzone’ on campus is racist. Arabs are not violent, Palestinians are not violent, and we’re tired of having to explain that to you over and over again because you cannot break out of that stereotype. This bill is not targeting people, it’s targeting genocidal violence from the Israeli government.” 

Kaadan also made it a point to say that from the time the bill was written to the time of the bill’s consideration by the Senate table, the death toll of Palestinians in Gaza had to be amended by an estimated 5,000 people.  

After nearly six hours of both public comments and deliberation by the senators, SB #52 passed with a 12-1-1 vote, with one voting against the bill and one abstaining. 

 

Written by: Rivers Stout — campus@theaggie.org

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