Divestment Debate Stalls in Senate

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Naia Al-Anbar, a fourth year anthropology major and student sponsor of a resolution to divest from Israel-supporting companies, speaks at Wednesday night's A.S. Senate meeting. (Photo by Dominick Ojeda / Staff Photographer)

Lauren Marnel Shores
Campus Beat Reporter

After nearly 11 hours in Corwin Pavilion and several failed attempts to adjourn Wednesday night’s meeting, over half of the A.S. Senators and proxies walked out of the meeting when senators ultimately found themselves at an impasse while discussing a resolution to divest from Israel-supporting companies. This marks the newest chapter in an ongoing debate about divestment, in which Senate will vote on whether to divest for the fifth time in six years.

Currently, UCSB invests in nine companies that the resolution states has violated human rights: Cemex, CNH Industrial, United Technologies Corporation, Valero Energy, L-3 Technologies, General Dynamics, General Electric, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman.

Among these alleged violations are how Northrop Grumman signed a 23-year long contract that awards 17 countries, including Israel, up to $487 million for F-16 fighter fleets. Tensions in the Middle East have risen since Gaza border protests broke out earlier this week and clashes between Israeli and Syrian forces last week.

“This resolution aims neither to condemn a country, a people, or a community nor to determine a political solution or cast moral judgement, but is solely aimed at ending our University’s support of companies that enable human rights violations,” reads the resolution, authored by Off-Campus Senator Brandon Mora and On-Campus Senator Vanessa Maldonado.

Dozens of speakers, both for and against the resolution, came to public forum Wednesday night to speak about the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) movement. Public forum stretched past 3 a.m.

“I urge us to really focus on the specifics of this resolution. This is about companies that profit off international violations of Palestinians’ lives who are occupied,” stated communication professor Walid Afifi during public forum.

Speakers against the resolution spoke of anti-Semitism.

Gershon Klein, rabbi at UCSB Chabad, spoke at Wednesday night’s A.S. Senate meeting. (Photo by Dominick Ojeda / Staff Photographer)

“It’s clear that there’s a propensity to hate Jewish people. I don’t know why,” said Gershon Klein, rabbi at Chabad UCSB. “It takes many forms; it’s as ancient as ourselves and morphs and adapts to the time and circumstances. Divestment is the form it’s taken today.”

The main point of contention between senators revolved around the bill type of the resolution. Internal Vice President Jasmine Sandhu, at the recommendation of Attorney General Ali Suebert, changed the resolution’s bill type from a directional resolution to a positional bill. This would, according to A.S. Legal Code, bind the sitting senate to a certain position on a group’s action. For the resolution, this means that instead of only needing a 50 percent + one vote necessary to pass, the voting threshold would be raised to a two-thirds majority.

“The first time that this resolution was changed to positional, I was not consulted and I did not know. I only found out through the student sponsor, who was very upset,” said Maldonado.

Though she conceded that the lack of notice could be chalked up to busy schedules, she said that despite efforts to change the resolution in order to make it directional, the resolution was kept positional.

“There’s a lot of resistance against accepting this as a positional because this resolution was exactly not supposed to be positional and so, as one of the senators who helped write this, I will not accept this to be voted on as positional because it goes against what we wanted,” said Maldonado.  

After an initial failed vote to change the resolution from positional to directional, senators began stalling the meeting, continually failing to pass the agenda in an hour-and-a-half discussion during a motion to accept the agenda.

“We can still talk about making this directional or positional when we get to it after the agenda’s accepted. But right now, it seems like no one’s compromising,” said College of Letters and Sciences Senator Brooke Kopel, first proposing adjournment at 3:30 a.m. “I know I’m not compromising because I know this should be labeled positional and two-thirds, so honestly if we’re not going to change, I think we should adjourn.”

“We’re at an impasse and I think it might be our only recourse at this moment,” added Senator Stoddy Carey. “No one seems to be changing their mind; I’m definitely not going to be changing my mind.”

Senate voted in five failed motions to pass the agenda, each failing 12-13, before Senate moved into an eight-minute recess. Upon the meeting’s resumption, 14 of the senators or their proxies had left, leaving half of the table empty.

With only 11 voting members left at the table, Senate failed to meet quorum just before 5 a.m., forcibly adjourning the meeting. After the meeting, Sandhu stated that Senate would vote on the rest of the agenda, including the acceptance of the agenda, through an email vote in the coming week.

Dominick Ojeda, Fabiola Esqueda, and Minh Hua contributed reporting.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Anyone find it interesting how all these supposed pro-Palestinian advocates don’t have a bad thing to say about Hamas and Arab government’s policies towards the peace-loving, innocent innocent victim Palestinian people?

    3,500 Palestinians killed by the Syrian government, and while Israel was busy defending its borders against murderous riots calling for the killing of Jews (as admitted by Hamas), Syria was also shelling the largest Palestinian refugee camp in the country.

    https://syria.liveuamap.com/en/2018/24-april-6-palestinian-refugees-killed-in-shelling-on-yarmouk

    Meanwhile, Hamas commanders and political leaders who are organizing these riots against Israel live super oppressed lives in 5-star Qatari hotels.

    https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/04/unrwa-3500-palestinian-refugees-flee-syria-yarmouk-camp-180428125645986.html

    The Israeli government attempts to deliver goods and services to Gazans – often at no cost – and what do the Palestinians do? Burn down the crossings built solely to provide them with fuel, food, and water. Amazing:

    https://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-to-reopen-gaza-crossing-after-rioters-burn-it-for-3rd-time/

    You can’t make this shit up. I went to UCSB and remembered listening to all the ridiculous bullshit spouted from so-called pro-Palestinian professors in the various Middle Eastern studies electives offered. Whenever I inquired about Hamas and the various terrorist movements representing the Palestinians, they had nothing to say. War crime this, apartheid that. Fun stuff.

    How can one make an informed opinion on Israel’s supposed human-rights violations if you refuse to discuss Palestinian war-fighting behavior?

    It was obvious to me so many of these professors and some students just hated the shit out of Israel. Irrational, emotional hatred. Nothing is the fault of the Palestinians because they are brown-skin inferiors (in their heads) and thus should be forgiven regardless of how depraved their society may be.
    Militarizing children for war, stealing humanitarian aid, advocating the murder of Jews worldwide. Disgusting.

    One has to wonder if Israel started behaving like an Arab state would these BDSers feel the same way. We all know. Call for academic and cultural boycotts of Israel, but will take money and academic chairs from Arab countries that actually practice apartheid.

  2. Resolution is clearly positional. AS Senate cannot ‘direct’ the UC Regents to do anything. Sigh

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