Why UCSB Should Support Divestment


Arturo Samaniego
Staff Writer

Recently universities across the nation have begun to divest from Israel over the country’s policies towards Palestinians. As reported on the Anti-Defamation League’s website, colleges like Loyola University, Northwestern University, and Stanford University have passed BDS resolutions calling for a divestment from Israel. In April of 2015, the University of California, Santa Barbara was presented with the same option to divest from companies that profit from human rights violations in Palestine/Israel. Ultimately, the resolution failed, coming down to a 12-12 deadlock with a tie-breaking vote in favor of not divesting coming from the senate chair.

The Israel-Palestine conflict can be traced back to when Israel was first established in the mid-20th century to the opposition of the Arab population in the region. Since then, violent confrontations have erupted in the region over whether Israelis or Palestinians rightly have ownership of the land Israel now occupies. Palestinians have expressed a desire to establish their own state but remain under Israeli occupation. Additionally, after a war in 1967 Israel gained control of the West Bank, where a large Palestinian population can be found. Currently, Israeli settlements have been built on the West Bank leading to the displacement of some Palestinians and an increase in tension between the two sides.

Taking into consideration the human rights violations, the use of excessive force, the destruction of Palestinian property, and the support of illegal settlements in the West Bank conducted by Israel, UCSB, like many other universities, should show its disapproval over these unjust acts by divesting from Israel.

As reported by Human Rights Watch on their website between Jan. 1 and Oct. 31, 2016, “Palestinians killed at least 11 Israelis … and injured 131 Israelis,” while, “Israeli security forces killed at least 94 Palestinians and injured at least 3,203 Palestinians … including suspected assailants, protesters, and bystanders, according to the United Nations.” It is important to acknowledge that there is violence on both sides of the conflict, but it appears that on Israel’s part there is a larger use of force. This use of force comes in addition to the destruction of Palestinian homes, discriminatory practices that limit Palestinians’ access to construction permits, and Israel’s continued support “for about 560,000 settlers residing in unlawful settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.”

Divestment is indeed the right move for universities, including UCSB, to make. Through supporting these companies we are turning a blind eye to the injustice in Israel. Divestment signals clear disapproval over Israel’s actions.  

Critics of the divestment movement are quick to label proponents of divestment as anti-Semitic, ignoring other nations that violate human rights. In an op-ed published in the LA Times Jack Saltzberg, founder and director of The Israel Group, states that, “it seems that U.S. students consider Israel the world’s foremost human rights violator — worse than Syria, China, Russia … ” Saltzberg does bring up a fair point that there are many other countries that engage in human right abuses just as bad, and in some cases worse, than Israel, but this still this does not excuse Israel’s actions. Universities should divest from any companies that profit from human rights violations occurring in any country, not just Israel.

The problem with Saltzberg’s claim and other arguments like his is that it does nothing to address human rights abuses conducted by Israel; it just shifts focus. Their argument also seems to make the assumption that we can only focus on the human rights abuses conducted by countries one at a time, when in truth we can confront these issues together with equal urgency placed on each violator.

Another point often raised against divestment is that it is anti-Semitic in nature. In truth, divestment concerns not wanting to support companies that profit from human rights violations. Divestment signals to Israel our disapproval; not because they are Jewish, but because they are violating fundamental human rights.

In terms of confronting human rights abuses in Israel, divestment is the best option for universities including UCSB to take. Though critics will argue it is anti-Semitic and ignores even worse violators, it is still important that we stop supporting companies that profit from human rights violations, not just in Israel but across the globe.


  1. DARVO strategy by the author and their ilk. Acronym of “Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender.” Self-defense is what Israel is engaged in. Surrounded by enemies including theocracies and dictatorships, they manage to survive. Divestment is the wrong move.

  2. What I don’t understand is why do they pick Israel when there are much worse offenders (e.g. Saudi Arabia, China, Russia). Israel is not morally right, but relative to much of the world it’s pretty civilized. So who is in charge of these organizations which are directed to single out Israel? It’s not about the financial impact (next to nothing), it’s about convincing college kids to be anti-Israel.

  3. Well reasoned and cogent piece. I agree, universities should not support any nation abusing it’s power over less powerful neighbors; especially not public universities, which are secular.

  4. This is a totally naive and somewhat ignorant piece. For one, the Human Rights Watch numbers you quote are very selective and ignore the number of bombings and acts of violence initiated by the Palestinians that the Israelis were able to thwart. The history and state of affairs in this region is extremely complex and the BDS movement does an injustice to paint it as a simple “David and Goliath” scenario, playing to ignorance and emotion. How about for starters, that “David” has pledged death to Jewish people and refuses to acknowledge the state of Israel as having a right to exist? And the underdog “David” uses schools, hospitals and day-cares to hide munition sites and bombing attack origination points. Not to mention the fact that the other Arab countries have long-refused to act to assist the Palestinian refugees in any major way, because they have an agenda to force the conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis for their own goal of obliterating Israel. Either get educated or get off this topic. My daughter attends UCSB, and even though we are not Jewish (or religious, or affiliated with Israel in any way), the level of ignorance around this issue is maddening for me to see. It’s only because there is an undeniable Anti-Semitic element to all of this that I feel I have to even state that we are not Jewish to qualify my reply here. Students energies and efforts could be so better spent in other ways, one of them being to simply get educated on the complex and historical conflict in this region. Get education on this topic. Find ways to broker peace and understanding. Stop wasting your time, effort and emotion on this. Face the fact that it’s hard for Jewish people not to perceive the BDS thing as Anti-Semitic when 1) the information that it’s based on is factually incorrect and incomplete and 2) there are so many other atrocities that are more clear-cut happening in the world, yet the focus is on this. There’s definitely a hidden agenda being acted upon and IMHO these students seem to be unwitting pawns.

  5. Never read a more bias piece in my life. This assumes that a Jewish state has no right to exist. Just a note for anyone who’ll read this; the Palestinian Authority is nearly run by a terrorist group Hamas. They refuse to sit at a negotiation table even with a mediator, sad, sad article.

  6. Although several university student boards have passed divestment referendums, not a single university dollar has been divested from Israel, so “Recently universities across the nation have begun to divest from Israel over the country’s policies towards Palestinians”, is a false statement.

    A student board is NOT a “university”. A University is the alumni, the current students, the staff, the Board of regents, the faculty, all together, not the 8 or 10 representatives elected to the student council in any one particular year.

    And unless a student representative is elected on a platform of “I’m going to spend student time, money , energy and goodwill on toothless foreign policy decisions”, a divestment resolution by any particular student board is NOT representative of the student body as a whole.

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