Activism and BDS Beat 26 March 2014
After an intense, hours-long debate, watched by thousands of people, the University of Michigan student government last night defeated a motion calling for divestment from companies profiting from Israeli occupation and human rights abuses.
Just hours earlier, the student government at Loyola University Chicago passed a divestment bill for the second time, following a heated debate that pro-Israel students had demanded.
In the United Kingdom, the membership of the King’s College London Student Union also passed a motion last night supporting boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) by 348-252.
The motion calls, among other things, for the boycott of “products, companies and institutions that profit from or are implicated in, the violation of Palestinian rights” and for divestment from “corporations complicit in the violation of Palestinian human rights.”
The King’s College London administration issued a statement affirming that the college “does not support or engage in boycotts of academic institutions” and emphasizing that the student union “is constitutionally separate from, and independent of, King’s College London.”
Record turnout at Michigan
The Michigan vote – taken by secret ballot – was not close: nine student representatives voted for the divestment bill, while 25 opposed it and five abstained.
But the vote came after another night of extraordinary scenes and record turnout and mobilization by supporters of divestment at the university’s Ann Arbor campus.
Last night’s vote by the Central Student Government (CSG) followed a week-long sit-in by members of (Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE) and their supporters at the CSG offices.
The sit-in was to protest an 18 March decision by the CSG to “indefinitely postpone” consideration of the divestment bill.Last night’s CSG meeting was once again held at a massive ballroom in the Michigan Union building packed to capacity with an estimated 500 people.
With hundreds more watching by video in overflow rooms and a video livestream that had at one point more than 2,000 viewers, representatives acknowledged it as the largest such meeting they had ever witnessed.
While the CSG voted to reverse its decision not to consider divestment, the deck was stacked against divestment supporters, despite dozens of speeches for and against.
History professor Victor Lieberman was allowed to give a lengthy speech, which journalist Max Blumenthal, who was present at the meeting, called “a shockingly Israelicentric history of ‘the conflict’ ” that “tell[s] Palestinians their own history.”
CSG vice president Bobby Dishell gave an impassioned speech claiming that there had been threats of violence and invoking the Holocaust and Nazi violence against Jews to tar supporters of divestment. Dishell has previously spoken to the Israel lobby group AIPAC.
CSG president Michael Proppe was more reserved but said he didn’t think there was a “consensus” for divestment.
No student government executives spoke for the motion.
The divestment resolution itself was ably presented by University of Michigan students Suha Najjar, Bayan Founas, Yazan Kherallah and Farah Erzouki, who, with the help of law student Andrew Dalack, fielded questions from representatives before the vote.Following the defeat of the divestment bill, students rallied outside the union.
Loyola wins again
Hours earlier, students at Loyola University Chicago celebrated their second win for a divestment bill in their student government. Sami Kishawi has the story at his blog Sixteen Minutes to Palestine:
Loyola University Chicago’s student senate has passed a divestment resolution for the second time Tuesday evening.
Twelve senators voted in favor of the divestment bill, ten voted against, and nine abstained.
One week ago, campus group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) introduced a bill that urged the university to divest from corporations profiting from Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories. (Read our coverage here.)
The resolution initially passed on Mar. 18 with 26 student government senators voting in favor of the bill, zero voting against, and two choosing to abstain.
However, students opposed to the divestment measure pressured the student government into reconsidering the senate’s decision on the bill. A hearing, to be followed by a revote, was promptly scheduled for the following Tuesday, Mar. 25.
The second vote was preceded by almost five hours of discussion and debate. Campus police were stationed at all possible entrances into the discussion room and attendees were requested to turn off their WiFi connections and to shut down their electronics, including phones and laptops.
The tense atmosphere culminated with the final vote shortly before 9 pm. The results of the revote mark the second time SJP’s proposed bill has been passed by the student senate.
The divestment bill must be passed by another branch of the student government before it can be put into effect.
Permalink Janice Kelly replied on
I am so proud of the students supporting BDS. I am a retired English teacher. I encouraged my students to think about important causes and I always found that my best students were those engaged in a cause. Keep up the great work; it is having an impact.