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Open Letter to Berkeley Students - Magda Hassan - 17-04-2010

Keith, another letter from you and Naomi to the Berkeley students might just push this through!
Quote:UC Berkeley divestment vote–it isn’t over yet
Posted: 16 Apr 2010 08:12 AM PDT

Being a part of the tremendous coalition effort to pass a divestment bill at Berkeley was quite simply an ecstatic experience.
As my colleague Sydney Levy said, "The movement grew by an enormous leap today."
First, the vote itself: after the UC Berkeley Student Senate originally voted on March 18, by a margin of 16-4, to divest from companies that profit from the occupation, that vote was vetoed by the Senate president. The Senate needed 14 votes to overturn his veto, but early this morning, after an epic 10 plus hour meeting, senators found they had only 13 yes votes with one abstention. So the students tabled a vote to overturn the veto. This means the veto stands but can still be overturned later--there will be much continued lobbying and activism in the coming weeks. (Meanwhile, some weeks ago AIPAC openly threatened to take over the UC government to block the bill.)
But in many ways, the vote itself was not the star of this story. For anyone who was there last night and until 7:30 this morning when the forum ended, it was clear what the future looks like.
For one, the smart money is on the members of UC Berkeley's Students for Justice with Palestine (SJP), the group leading this effort. They are a remarkable multi-ethnic group that seemingly includes every race, religion and ethnicity including Muslims and Jews, and Israelis and Palestinians. They are just brilliant thinkers and organizers and driven by a clear sense of justice and empathy. They spent a year researching and writing the divestment bill, and I can't express how much I love and respect them and how much hope they make me feel. And there are students just like them on every other campus in the world.
Second, the feeling on campus and in the room was electric. We filled an enormous room that fits 900. Most stayed through the entire night. If you can imagine, the evening started with remarkable statements by divestment supporters Judith Butler, Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, Richard Falk, Hatem Bazian and George Bisharat. And then the extraordinary parade of students and community members who spoke on both sides of the issue until it was past sunrise.
And though the final vote still hangs in the balance, the fact remains that the vast majority of the Senate voted to divest. The bill garnered the support of some of the most famous moral voices in the world, a good chunk of the Israeli left (9 groups and counting), nearly 40 campus groups (almost all student of color groups and one queer organization) plus another 40 US off-campus groups.
In addition, the room was filled with Jewish divestment supporters of every age including grandmothers and aunts and uncles and students. Our staff, activist members, and Advisory Board members like Naomi Klein, Judith Butler, Daniel Boyarin, Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb and Noam Chomsky each played critical roles in the effort. And of course, all of you who generated over 5,000 letters of support.
So much has changed since Gaza. Just 2 years ago we secured only 4 pages of Jewish endorsement letters for a similar selective divestment effort. This time, we put together 29 pages of major Jewish endorsement statements (which you can download here), and the list continues to grow by the day. We also made 400 bright green stickers that said "Another (fill in the blank) for human rights. Divest from the Israeli occupation" and gave every single last one away.
As attorney Reem Salahi said to me, "When I was a student here in law school 2 years ago, no one spoke about divestment. Now everyone is talking about it."
For those of us there, it was clear--the room was with divestment. The senators were with divestment. And given the endorsements that kept pouring in up to the last second, from Nobel prize winners, from Israeli peace groups, from leading academics and activists--it seemed like the whole world was with divestment.
There were a number of Jewish students who expressed seemingly real discomfort if the divestment bill should pass. (As it turned out, they were repeating these talking points almost verbatim, with histrionics encouraged.) Many said they wouldn't feel safe on campus, others said they would feel silenced, a few said young Jews would no longer want to come to UC Berkeley.
While feeling for their discomfort, it was difficult to watch how speaker after anti-divestment speaker seemed unable to distinguish between the discomfort of infrequent dirty looks, and rare nasty or bigoted name-calling, and the "discomfort" of having your home demolished or of having only toxic water to give to your family or of being shot or stuck at a checkpoint for hours in the sun.
They were unable to make the distinction between "feeling silenced" because the bill might pass against their wishes, and being silenced because you are jailed for your nonviolent activism or because you can't get a visa to travel or because your story is virtually invisible in film, in history books, in the mainstream media, everywhere.
I of course wasn't the only one who noticed this. Students of color, and one student senator in particular, beautifully articulated what it meant to come to campus "already marginalized." That is certainly a part of why so many student of color campus groups support the divestment effort, and why the links between being anti-racist in Israel/Palestine and anti-racist in the U.S. (and elsewhere) are particularly strong, clear, and important -- and these students know it.
Which makes the statements of the anti-divestment Jews all the more striking in juxtaposition to the statements of the many Jewish students who supported divestment, each of whom said, "I feel safe on this campus." And the progressive Jewish UC-Berkeley senator who said, "this divest bill will actually make me feel safe" and "this [bill] is creating space for Jews to have a community here. I've never been prouder to be a Jew."
And that, if anything, suggests the most exciting part of what happened here.
It's so clear to me how the organizing itself, and the ways it brought all of us, but especially Jews and Muslims and Arabs of every age together, is the solution. When peace happens, it will radiate outward from these relationships, mirrored in the Israeli-Palestinian relationships in places like Bil'in and Sheikh Jarrah. This was so apparent when I saw, on one side of the room, Jewish and Palestinian and Muslim students literally leaning on each other and holding hands for support--and on the other side of the room, a relatively small (and by their own admonition, fearful) group of Jews that seemed to mostly have each other. It was very jarring and poignant and deeply sad.
The future is clear and it's already here. It is a multicultural (and queer-integrated) universe bound together by a belief in full equality. Period.
Silence and apathy are the friends of the status quo. Sunlight, debate, facts, passion- these are what justice requires to grow. Open debates like the one UC Berkeley held last night simply must happen at campuses everywhere. The students of SJP have already won by making this debate happen. The whole campus is talking about Israel and Palestine. Last night's forum and vote will forever impact the lives of every person who was in that room. And the new connections made have strengthened the movement in ways none of us imagined.
No wonder Israeli Consulate General Akiva Tor stayed for the entire vote. If I were he and it were my job to protect Israel's occupation, I'd be worried. Very worried.
This morning, not hours after the meeting ended, I found an email in my inbox from an SJP group at another campus. "We want to introduce a divestment bill on campus and were wondering if you might assist us with speakers..."
Let this new stage begin.
Cecilie Surasky is the Deputy Director of Jewish Voice for Peace.

Open Letter to Berkeley Students - Keith Millea - 17-04-2010

I hope this story is right on,but I remain sceptical.The Pro divestment people lost three votes in the second round.That's not a good sign.I guess it's just a wait and see thing. :bebored:

Open Letter to Berkeley Students - Magda Hassan - 18-04-2010

From an email this morning.
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Jews for Justice <>
Date: 2010/4/17
Subject: update from Berkeley -- thank you for your ad, we will prevail...
To: Jews for Justice Now <>

Dear Jews for Justice,

Thank you. Your ad was extremely powerful. Many of the Senators were talking about our ad in the days before the vote[B], according to Israeli graduate student Tom Pessah, co-author of the divestment bill and board member of Students for Justice in Palestine.[/B]

Unfortunately, we didn't quite cross the threshold this time, and fell just shy of the 2/3 supermajority vote we needed to override the veto. But the momentum is clearly on the side of justice, equality, and human rights. After 8 hours of debate, the Student Senate tabled the bill for possible future re-discussion.

Below you will find an extensive collection of links to news and updates on the divestment bill...

A video of scenes from the vote:

News stories and blog posts:

Here's SJP's very articulate response to the veto:

And check out JVP's 30-page document compiling all the Jewish support we received for the Divestment Bill:

Yaman Salahi and Sydney Levy: Attack on Berkeley divestment bill dishonest and misleading

Daily Cal's blog report on Desmond Tutu:

If you have liberal Zionist friends who are unsure whether to support BDS in the future, you might want to forward them this link:


Matthew Taylor

Open Letter to Berkeley Students - Magda Hassan - 18-04-2010

Keith Millea Wrote:Magda,
I hope this story is right on,but I remain sceptical.The Pro divestment people lost three votes in the second round.That's not a good sign.I guess it's just a wait and see thing. :bebored:
Well, overall, people are disappointed about it, for sure, but there is lots of optimism too. It was great to get so far so soon. And more importantly, it is far from over. The battle is lost but not the war. Not by a long shot. Just the opening shot.

Open Letter to Berkeley Students - Magda Hassan - 19-04-2010

The amazing Hedy Epstein speaks at the Berkeley teach-in for the divestment vote.

Here is the informed and articulate Richard Becker providing succinct background and analysis

Open Letter to Berkeley Students - Keith Millea - 29-04-2010

Well,if UC Berkeley doesn't have it with in themselves,maybe UC San Diego will enlighten them.......

UC divestment spreads – UC San Diego to vote on bill tomorrow | Mondoweiss

On April 27, 2010, In In The News, Op-Ed, Uncategorized, By ucsddivest

by Adam Horowitz on April 27, 2010[/url]

[url=]UC San Diego
will be joining Berkeley in holding a vote on divestment tomorrow evening. The San Diego bill under consideration is slightly different, and organizers seem to have learned from some of Berkeley’s challenges. From the UC San Diego newspaper The Guardian:
The resolution was drafted by members of several campus organizations — including Students for Justice in Palestine and the Student Sustainability Collective — and approved by Transfer Senator Adam Powers and Campuswide Senator Desiree Prevo. According to Associate Vice President of Enterprise Operations Rishi Ghosh — a co-sponsor of the resolution — the council was inspired by a similar effort at UC Berkeley, where the resolution passed 16-4 in the student Senate, but was eventually vetoed by Berkeley A.S. President Will Smelko.
The resolution calls for the UC system to stop investing in companies such as General Electric and United Technologies, which supporters of the resolution claim promote violence by providing technology — such as helicopters and aircraft engines — to warring countries around the world.
Sixth College senior Leena Barakat — who helped draft the resolution — said the UCSD version was altered to ensure that it condemned human-rights violations as a whole, and not specifically actions taken by the state of Israel.
Of course pro-Israel students and organizations are attacking the effort, and some of their arguments seem especially desperate – including comparing United Nations documentation of human rights abuses in Gaza to Holocaust denial (huh?!). Again from The Guardian:
A.S. Engineering Senator Adi Singer — a member of the pro-Israel community and creator of the Facebook group “Students Against ASUCSD Anti-Israel Bias and Resolutions” — said the resolution is a pointed attack against Israel.
“It’s a very thinly veiled political statement,” Singer said. “If it’s about all human-rights violations, why are there a ton of citings specifically about Gaza and very few about anywhere else?”
Although Ghosh said the resolution has received endorsements from groups such as Jewish Voices for the Peace and that information in the resolution regarding companies profiting from occupancy was provided by the United Nations, Singer maintained that the draft is biased.
“My main issue with this is that it’s very one-sided,” Singer said. “It’s not hard to find news sources that support your point of view. I can go on the Internet right now and find tons of sources that say that the Holocaust never happened.”
She added that the resolution would be detrimental to relations between Israeli and Palestinian interest groups on campus.
“Say what you want about it — the intent is clear,” she said. “The pro-Israel community has been trying really hard to build relations with the pro-Palestine community, and we would never bring up a resolution against Hamas.”
Tritons for Israel President Dafna Barzilay said it is not the council’s place to pass resolutions pertaining to international issues.
“We don’t support any such resolutions, even if it was pro-Israel or anti-Hamas,” she said. “It’s not the business of A.S. to support international problems that require that scale of spending and is not directly related to the university.”
In contrast, Ghosh said it is the council’s duty to be aware of global issues.
“If they believe that, why weren’t they there when we passed a resolution to support Haiti with allocations?” he asked. “Why weren’t they in the past, when we’ve been fighting for human rights in Sudan, fair trade in Africa?”
He said the resolution is meant to be a politically-neutral gesture.
“It is not anti-Israel,” he said. “Israel was very cleverly kept out of it.”
You can learn more about the UC San Diego effort, and what you can do to help, at their website UCSD Divest For Peace.

Open Letter to Berkeley Students - Keith Millea - 30-04-2010
Council Delays Decision On Human Rights Violations – UCSD Guardian

On April 30, 2010, In In The News, News, By ucsddivest

After emotional public input and a complete rewrite of the divestment resolution, proponents plan to reintroduce original language next week.
Posted on 29 April 2010 by Angela Chen
[Image: AS-meeting-300x200.jpg]John Hanacek/Guardian

Hundreds of students gathered at the A.S. Forum last night to watch the council debate a controversial resolution calling for the University of California to stop investing in companies providing military technology to Israel. The resolution identified the Palestinian territories as being occupied by a military force guilty of committing human rights violations against the Palestinian people. The council ultimately voted 13-10-4 to create a committee to further discuss the resolution.

The resolution, which was modeled after a similar effort at UC Berkeley, called for the UC Board of Regents to divest endowment funds from corporations such as General Electric and United Technologies. According to the resolution, these companies manufacture technology used in military weapons and vehicles, such as helicopters, used in war crimes in the Middle East.

According to Associate Vice President of Enterprise Operations Rishi Ghosh — who helped draft the document — the resolution is not the first of its kind. However, Ghosh said, if it had passed, it would have been the first recognition of Israel’s war crimes to be approved at a public university.

Hampshire College, a private college in Massachusetts, has already divested entirely from the state of Israel. (The resolution considered by the council last night only advocated a break from corporations said to profit from Israel’s alleged war crimes.)

The bill drew students from campus groups such as Tritons for Israel and Students for Justice in Palestine, who spoke during the public input period at the beginning of the meeting.

Campuswide Senator-elect Elizabeth Elman said the resolution encouraged the university to adopt a neutral stance in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by divesting from companies that support Israel’s actions in the conflict.
“I’ve heard that passing this resolution will divide our UCSD community on an issue that is far removed from this campus,” she said. “I would argue that we are already divided. I believe that discussing this resolution is the first step in reuniting our community. This resolution divests from American companies whose business solely benefits the war efforts of one side in this conflict will help restore the neutrality that our student body so vocally desires.”

However, Tritons for Israel President Dafna Barzilay argued that the legislation was biased and that passing it would alienate the pro-Israel community on campus. She said that the pro-Israel committee had been unfairly excluded from the drafting of the resolution and that the pro-Israel community had only three days to formulate a response before the vote at last night’s A.S. Council meeting.

“My community is feeling threatened, and we’re feeling unsafe,” she said. “One thing I would like to urge is that this is not a pro-peace resolution. It is marketed to be one — however, I would like to maintain that peace incorporates talks, negotiations and respects from both sides of any conflicted forces and this kind of movement should not be one that’s done overnight.”

According to A.S. Director of Policy Initiatives Mac Zilber, the money invested into G.E. and United Technologies does not come from tuitions or student fees — as the resolution states — but instead is derived from private donations. In addition, he said that the investment money supporters the capital unit of G.E., which is a commercial leasing unit of the company and is not involved in providing military technology overseas.

Following public input, councilmembers began to discus whether the resolution was an appropriate topic to discuss. A motion by Campuswide Senator Katie Hall to table the motion indefinitely failed 13-16-2 with 13 members voting in favor of tabling, 16 voting against and 3 abstaining.
Vice President of Student Life Ricsie Hernandez proposed that the original version of the resolution be amended and instead be replaced with a version created by Campuswide Senator Tobias Haglund. Haglund’s version removes all mention of Israel or Palestine and instead states that the council does not condone the financial support of companies that invest in military occupation in any country.

Ghosh said he would support the amended version of the resolution.
“That version was terribly watered down and a lot of people in our community weren’t happy with it, but I would have voted for it,” Ghosh said.

The amendment passed, but the issue was eventually voted to be discharged into a committee chaired with Speaker James Lintern, who resigned from the position at the end of the meeting.
“I didn’t volunteer for this position and this committee is going to fail in a big way,” he said. “I didn’t have good experiences with the council on this last year, and nothing’s going to happen with it.”

Hall, who voted for the issue to be discharged, argued that the debate should be resolved only once both groups have had equal input into the resolution.

“My problem is that there are members of Students for Justice in Palestine on this council, but there are hardly any members of Tritons for Israel on this council to have their voices be heard on this resolution,” Hall said.
Ghosh said that he was disappointed with the outcome since the original resolution had already been so radically altered.

“The last compromise really could have been passed, it was very transparent,” he said. “They knew it was about to pass so they voted it into committee where people can keep bringing up new things.”

Ghosh said that he would bring up the resolution again at the 2009-10 council’s final meeting of the year, which will be held next week.
“Next time I won’t bring up the compromised document but instead the original document,” he said. “I’m just going to keep bringing it up again and again and it might take 10 years, but divestment will pass.”

Readers can contact Angela Chen at

Open Letter to Berkeley Students - Magda Hassan - 03-06-2010

Just minutes ago, the students at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, the alma mater of Rachel Corrie, announced that the whole student body voted overwhelmingly in favor of divestment from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation and in favor of making their campus Caterpillar-free.
What's more remarkable is that the decision was not made by a student council and thus vulnerable to veto by just one person, as we saw in Berkeley. No, it was decided through a campus-wide vote. No one, not the promoters of the divestment policy, not its detractors, knew how the students would vote in complete privacy.
The results? The divestment vote won by a landslide 79.5%! The Caterpillar vote by an equally impressive 71.8%!
The Evergreen College Board of Trustees and Board of Governors actually hold the purse strings of the Evergreen College and the Evergreen Foundation respectively. You can imagine the pressure that will be brought upon them to ignore the student votes.
We need you to email them right and ask them to respect the voice of the students and divest!
Board of Turstees Direction Carver T. Gayton (
Foundation Vice President Lee Hoemann (

Also, go to to sign a petition in support of the students!
Immediately after the student vote, the student union passed a unanimous resolution requesting full disclosure of all corporations, including those held through mutual funds, in which The Evergreen State College Foundation and The Evergreen State College are invested and asking the Board of Trustees and the Board of Governors to make public a plan of action for divestment from companies that profit from the occupation of Palestine.

Please email Mr. Gayton and Ms. Hoemann today and ask them to divest.
Many of you followed with baited breath the struggle for divestment at the University of California at Berkeley and San Diego. We sent you this report about the inspiring students from Berkeley Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). Well the attacks on the bill's supporter's, including Jewish Voice for Peace, were vicious and predictable, so we decided to respond and also document what we had learned about how the anti-divestment groups work. We think it's important reading for those working on other campuses.

Most important, we interviewed the UC Berkeley student supporters of divestment so you could hear them in their own words. We can't possibly convey how incredibly inspired we were by them, but we think this ten-minute video clip will do the job for us. One thing is certain. If you want to know where today's smart, compassionate, curious and socially engaged students of all backgrounds are gravitating to, it's the campus divestment movement.

Congratulations Evergreen. During these very painful times when we see peacemakers being attacked on the seas outside Gaza, in B'ilin and N'ilin and Sheik Jarrah, it's hugely inspiring to see that real change is happening with an entire new generation.

Sydney Levy
Director of Campaigns
Jewish Voice for Peace

PS: A lot of information and misinformation is going around about the Gaza flotilla. Here's a good primer to share with friends and family: Lying About The Gaza Flotilla Disaster

Open Letter to Berkeley Students - Keith Millea - 03-06-2010

Evergreen State Collage is a smaller liberal arts school.I am glad to see that they have taken these measures,but without the major Universities doing the same,this will likely lead to not much of anything.I'm still pissed at UC Berkeley.I put a curse on them that Stanford will kick there butt in every major sport on campus.That's what really matters to these young up and comers.

Open Letter to Berkeley Students - Dawn Meredith - 04-06-2010

Keith Millea Wrote:Evergreen State Collage is a smaller liberal arts school.I am glad to see that they have taken these measures,but without the major Universities doing the same,this will likely lead to not much of anything.I'm still pissed at UC Berkeley.I put a curse on them that Stanford will kick there butt in every major sport on campus.That's what really matters to these young up and comers.

Good for Evergreen. It is a step and sets an example. Hard to believe Berkley has so changed.