The student senate at the University of California, Irvine, passed a non-binding resolution last night calling for divestment from several companies that do business with Israel. The resolution, titled “Divestment from Companies that Profit from Apartheid,” requires the approval of the student government’s executive board before it may be sent to the administration for their consideration.
The resolution includes companies that have long been targeted by the anti-Israel divestment campaign, including General Electric, Hewlett-Packard and Caterpillar. It also includes lesser known companies, however, like Cement Roadstones Holding which sells cement to Israel, as well as Raytheon, a defense technology company. Raytheon recently partnered with an Israeli company to build the highly successful Iron Dome system that intercepts incoming rockets from Gaza.
Despite the passage of the resolution, the University of California system already has a clear policy against divestment. In 2010, when the Students for Justice in Palestine chapter at UC Berkeley put forth a divestment resolution, the UC board and President Mark Yudof issued a statement saying that the board would only support a divestment resolution “when the United States government declares that a foreign regime is committing acts of genocide.” The statement added, “The U.S. has not made any declaration regarding the State of Israel and, therefore, we will not bring a recommendation before the Board to divest from companies doing business with the State of Israel." The statement also noted that the resolution’s sole focus on Israel “greatly disturbs us.”
Last night’s vote took place with what appears to have been deliberate secrecy and little fanfare. A Web site and fan pages on Facebook and Twitter with the handle “Irvine Divest” were all set up less than 72 hours before the vote. It seems not many were aware that the vote was taking place until after it had occurred.
Jewish Voice for Peace, the largest Jewish anti-Zionist organization in the U.S., attended the meeting, according to reports on social media. Supporting boycott and divestment initiatives across the country has become one of JVP’s primary missions. The group has sent representatives to advocate for divestment on several college campuses in the past few years. JVP also delivered speeches at two church conferences over the summer where the organizations had been considering divestment. A Los Angeles organizer for JVP, Estee Chandler, even blogged about her experience watching the events of last night unfold and described the vote as “historic.”