Anti-Israel divestment motion at center of controversy
Anti-Israel protesters recently shut down a student government meeting at the University of California, Santa Barbara, disrupting a planned anti-Israel vote for the second time in a week and apparently railing against the proposed divestment policy for not going far enough.
This marks the fifth instance in six years of a failed anti-Israel “divestment” vote on the campus.
The controversy began last week when 12 of UC Santa Barbara’s Associated Student Senators deserted a Senate meeting ahead of an important vote on whether to divest funds to companies that profit off of alleged human rights violations in Israel. The proposed resolution demanded the university and its investment affiliates withdraw funds from companies “that provide military support to the occupation of Palestinian territories.”
The Daily Nexus reported that the walkout happened after a drawn-out debate over whether the divestment proposal would be “positional” or “directional.” A positional motion “endorses, sponsors, or supports a group’s actions or events” while a directional one “directs members of A.S. Personnel, Boards, Committees, and/or the Senate to specific duties.”
The resolution was not voted on at subsequent meetings. The final gathering of the 68th Associated Student Senate, which took place last Wednesday, was sparsely attended, with 15 senators having boycotted the meeting, The Nexus reported. Later that evening the recently elected 69th Senate convened with 11 students, including the newly elected vice president absent.
When it came time to vote on the controversial divestment resolution, student protesters stormed on stage and grabbed microphones. Protesters screamed phrases like “Shut it down!” The Senate later deemed these chants acts of “civil disobedience.”
The protest was apparently motivated by the debate over the divestment resolution the week before. Justice Dumlao, a senate proxy, had argued at the first meeting prior to the walkout that the resolution should be directional. At the recent protest he told the disrupted Senate: “If you are upset with what is happening, you now share our frustration with last week.”
Video of the event, posted on Facebook by the university’s chapter of Students Supporting Israel, shows student protesters storming the meeting while chanting “shut it down.” At one point a protester claims that the demonstration is the result of “years of desperation” in part because the senate allegedly does not let “black and brown bodies” speak at meetings.
The College Fix reached out to numerous student senators through email and Facebook, but these queries went largely unresponded.
One Senator, Alexandra Gessesse, told The College Fix via Facebook Message that senators may be forbidden from discussing ongoing policy with third parties. “I do not have the power to do that according to Robert’s Rules of the Order,” she stated.
Robert’s Rules of the Order is a U.S. parliamentary procedure handbook. Asked if the other senators were subject to those rules, Gessesse responded: “I am not entirely sure.”
Reached via email, Rabbi Evan Goldman, the executive director of the university’s pro-Israel Hillel chapter, told The Fix that the group “stands in firm opposition to the divisive BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) resolution that was brought to the UCSB student senate on the evening of Wednesday, May 16th.”
“We support resolutions and projects that build bridges between Israelis and Palestinians,” he added.
Goldman said the group was “pleased that this year’s 68th UCSB Student Senate is now complete and BDS once again failed.”
“The disruption of the opening meeting of the newly elected Senate was offensive and disrespectful, and demonstrates how divisive BDS is to the campus climate,” he said.
Supporters of the resolution disagree with Goldman, arguing that corporations such as General Electric selling military equipment to Israel shows “implicit support” for deaths of Palestinian civilians. Divestments, supporters of the resolution say, will punish companies for their culpability in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Nexus reports that this was the “fifth time in six years” that a divestment vote failed on the campus.