UCI Students Vote To Divest From Israel
Cheers filled the Student Center at the University of California, Irvine as the Associated Students voted unanimously, 16-0 with no abstentions, to divest from several companies assisting the Israeli military in its occupation of Palestinian territories.
Among the companies targeted by the resolution were Caterpillar, a producer of bull-dozing equipment, General Electric Company, Hewlett Packard, Raytheon and SodaStream.
Tracy Ishigo, president of UCI's Associated Students, gave her full support to the resolution and the student organization's vote to pass it.
“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," Ishigo said in a press release. "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.”
The resolution is the first of its kind to pass at a California University -- students at the University of California, Berkeley shot down down similar legislation last year.
The Irvine campus was embroiled in controversy last year when student activists, dubbed the "Irvine 11", were found guilty of conspiring to disrupt the speech of Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren when he came to UCI in February of 2010.
UCI student Sabreen Shalabi, an author of the divestment legislation, says the win is a "symbolic victory" for the Palestinian cause.
"Despite the [outcome of the] Irvine 11 and everything that happened, we still stand, unafraid, against human rights abuses," said Shalabi. "We're still working towards ending the occupation."
Shalabi said that each company targeted in the resolution was researched thoroughly by herself and several other activists who presented it on Tuesday. The most prolific of the companies included is Caterpillar, which sells its yellow bulldozers and construction equipment to the Israeli state, said Shalabi.
"Caterpillar is responsible for bulldozing Palestinian homes in order to build settlements and that is also illegal," said Shalabi. "[The Israeli government] has been condemned... by the U.N. It's also been condemned by the U.S. administration but they continuously do it."
The resolution also targets General Electric, which "manufactures and supplies engines for A64 Apache Helicopters, systematically used by the Israeli military; in attacks on Palestinian civilians which constitute severe human rights violations and war crimes."
"Our resolution directly [says], 'These are the human rights violations that are happening. These are human rights organizations that have condemned these human rights violations. This is how the companies are contributing to the human rights violations,'" said Shalabi.
Despite UCI's historically heated relations between pro-Palestinian groups and Zionist groups on campus, the resolution passed in less than an hour, with no contention from opposing groups.
Reach Senior Staff Reporter Tasbeeh Herwees here.