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UC Irvine student leaders urge UC to divest from some companies

November 14, 2012 |  4:37 pm

Elected student leaders at UC Irvine passed a resolution Tuesday urging university officials to divest from  companies that they say profit from anti-Palestinian Israeli policies.

The legislative arm of the Associated Students of UC Irvine passed the resolution unanimously and listed Caterpillar, General Electric, Hewlett Packard, Raytheon and others as companies that “profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestine.”

The resolution now goes to the student government’s executive and judicial boards. It must pass both before being presented to the administration, said Sabreen Shalabi, a student representative on the board and author of the the measure. 

Even if the resolution passes those panels, it is unlikely to be accepted by campus administrators. University officials said in a statement Wednesday that such a divestment is not the policy of UC Irvine or the University of California system as a whole. 

A similar piece of legislation worked its way through UC Berkeley’s student government in 2010, before being vetoed by the student president. A vote to override the veto later failed.

After previous efforts, university officials cautioned that divestment is a complex matter that should be pursued rarely and only when the U.S. government deems that a foreign regime is committing genocide. 

"We firmly believe that if there is to be any discussion of divestment from a business or country, it must be robust and fair-minded," wrote three UC leaders — Board of Regents Chairman Russell Gould, Vice Chairwoman Sherry L. Lansing and UC President Mark Yudof — in a May 2010 letter.

"We must take great care that no one organization or country is held to a different standard than any other," they wrote. In the resolutions, the letter said, Israel has been the "sole focus." 

"This isolation of Israel among all countries of the world greatly disturbs us and is of grave concern to members of the Jewish community."

Shalabi said university students — especially those at UC campuses — have historically been leaders in social justice.

The resolution points specifically to the role of student activists in challenging apartheid in South Africa, an example illustrating that "it is imperative for students to stand unequivocally against all forms of racism and bigotry globally and on campus, including but not limited to Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, homophobia, patriarchy and Israel's system of apartheid."

Shalabi sees the push to divest as a natural progression of those earlier efforts for social justice.

“And the students," Shalabi said, "are finally calling for the end of the human right violations happening in the occupied Palestinian territories."

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— Stephen Ceasar and Rick Rojas 

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