"BDS Movement grows despite UC-Berkeley divestment veto"
ARAB AMERICAN NEWS, page 18,
May 1-7, 2010
After a 16-4 original vote by student senators for divestment from two companies (General Electric and United Technologies) that are allegedly providing military technologies to Israel that were used in alleged war crimes, the University of California-Berkeley’s student senate seemed on its way to passing a historic bill.
But a March 24 veto by Associated Students of the University of California-Berkeley (ASUC) President Will Smelko put the passage in jeopardy.
The UC-Berkeley divestment bill saga ended at about 4 a.m. on Thursday April 29 when subsequent efforts to override the veto by two-thirds majority fell one vote short for a second time by a 13-5-1 vote with student action senator Anish Gala not participating. The meeting originally began Wednesday night and was reportedly attended by about 500 people.
Despite the inability to override the veto due to changed votes from ASUC members, ASUC Student Senator Emily Carlton said that the pro-divestment crowd on campus and in California remains upbeat and satisfied with the attention the proposed bill brought to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
"The bill was an encouragement for the region to divest and to start a movement so n that sense the veto was a really good thing," she said.
The divestment saga drew international attention as well as coverage from many local California outlets including the popular Democracy Now! radio show. Carlton said that the show refused to cover the divestment issue until Smelko issued the veto.
"When the veto happened, people started getting interested, we got 25,000 e-mails and the support of more than 40 student groups on campus."
Student Action Senator Parth Bhatt, who opposed of the bill, took issue its specificity according to The Daily Californian, Cal-Berkeley’s student newspaper.
"I personally disagree that this is just an issue regarding divestment from war crimes," he said.
The bill received support from the Jewish Voice for Peace organization, notable authors Naomi Klein and Noam Chomsky, and 85-year-old Jewish Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, whose hunger strike at the Gaza Freedom March in Egypt in January attracted the attention of the New York Times.
Carlton anticipates that the bill will be re-written and re-submitted at a future date.
In other campus BDS news, UC-San Diego’s student council voted 13-10-4 in favor of a similar bill on Wednesday night in favor of divestment, but a decision was delayed until next week after a meeting attended by "hundreds of students" according to The Guardian, UC-San Diego’s student newspaper.
Similar measures recommending divestment from companies that allegedly provide military support for Israel have also been passed during the 2009-2010 school year by the University of Michigan-Dearborn, the University of Wisconsin, and the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom.
Wayne State University's student council has also voted for total divestment from Israeli military suppliers in the past and the Irish Confederation of Trade Unions is also currently searching for ways to support the BDS movement.