Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PSCABI) in the Gaza Strip welcomes a resolution passed by the University of California Student Association (UCSA), representing students of all 10 UC campuses, that reaffirms the right of its members to organize in support of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, being this the nonviolent tactic chosen by Palestinians to gain their inalienable rights, including the right to self-determination, denied by Israel for over 60 years. The UCSA resolution condemns Bill HR 35, passed in the California State Assembly, that calls on the university authorities to curb student action in opposition to Israel’s three-tiered system of occupation, colonization and apartheid. Bill HR 35 is a reaction to the growing effectiveness of the BDS movement around the world in holding Israel accountable and its ability to expose the true nature of Israel’s oppression of Palestinians that run contrary to the narrative of Israel disseminated for decades in the US. To blur honest debate, pro-Israel lobby groups have resorted to smear tactics and intimidation to misrepresent the intentions of Palestine solidarity activists and to “lawfare”- a form of legal harassment – to stifle freedom of speech guaranteed under First Amendment rights.
The UCSA motion “encourages all institutions of higher learning to cleanse their investment portfolios of unethical investments in companies implicated in or profiting from violations of international human rights law.” UC students have been among the most vocal in calling on their administration to divest funds from companies that actively enable Israel’s occupation. In 2010, UC Berkeley students ran a high-profile divestment campaign on campus that showed through moving testimonies the consequences of UC’s investment in companies that are directly responsible for human rights abuses against Palestinians, a debate which found national projection and fostered much needed debate in the US. UC-wide divestment targets include Caterpillar Inc., supplier to the Israeli army of bulldozers used to destroy Palestinian homes, a war crime under the IV Geneva Convention; and Hewlett Packgard, supplier of biometric monitoring systems to Israeli military checkpoints inside the occupied West Bank and technological solutions to Israel’s army and illegal colonial settlements, contributing to the caging of Palestinians in fragmented ghettos.
In 2005 Palestinian civil society called on people of conscience around the world to implement Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) of Israel owing to decades of impunity and the failure of states to hold Israel accountable for persistent violations of international law. The global movement that from there emanated aims to reinstate in full the inalienable rights of Palestinians inspired by the belief in universal values which by definition rejects all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism. Students around the world have responded to the Palestinian BDS call with divestment campaigns to end all forms of complicit with Israel’s violations of international law. This mode of campus activism in US campuses is not new and is inspired by previous student struggles in support of equality, justice and human rights, among them the South African anti-Apartheid movement in which UC students played an important role.
As the South African Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu noted, students campaigning for divestment from Israel “are doing that which is incumbent on them as humans who believe that all people have dignity and rights, and that all those being denied their dignity and rights deserve the solidarity of their fellow human beings.” Echoing Tutu’s words, PSCABI salutes UC students efforts to bring the BDS debate to your campuses as an expression of principled solidarity with Palestinians and we look forward to more inspiring campaigns to end UC’s complicity with Israel’s protracted occupation.