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California's Largest Student Union Votes to Condemn Attempts at Silencing Dissent

[University of California Student Association logo. Image from ucsa.org] [University of California Student Association logo. Image from ucsa.org]

[The following statement was issued by the University of California Student Association on 15 September 2012.]

The University of California Student Association, which represents hundreds of thousands of students at all ten UC campuses, passed a resolution today condemning recent attempts to censure boycott and divestment efforts by Palestinian human rights activists on campus, and demanding that the UC stop profiting from Israel’s human rights violations.  The motion passed without opposition by a vote of twelve to zero (two abstensions).
The resolution follows a recent motion passed by the California Assembly, HR-35. While ostensibly aimed at protecting Jewish students from experiencing anti-Semitism on campus, HR-35 conflates legitimate, principled criticism of Israeli policy with anti-Semitism, raising concerns about free speech rights and academic freedom for students and faculty.

“HR35’s supporters wish to draw a protective circle around Israel and say you are exempt from the same criticism that we apply to other abusive state actors,” said Shahryar Abbasi, a voting member of UCSA representing the UC Berkeley campus. “Today’s vote is a statement that UC students believe in free speech and universal human rights, and that we don’t want to profit from gross human rights abuses committed by any country, including Israel. We hope UC Regents will hear and respect our decision.”
The resolution expresses “the UCSA’s opposition to all racism, whether it be the racism of campus and global anti-Semitism or the racism of Israel’s human rights violations, neither of which our campuses should tolerate, support, or  profit from.” Israel is engaged in a forty-five year-old military occupation and colonization of Palestinian land, which is illegal under international law. 

Currently, the UC holds millions of dollars in investments in Caterpillar Inc. and Hewlett-Packard. Caterpillar bulldozers are used by the Israeli army to destroy Palestinian homes and agricultural land, to build illegal Jewish-only settlements on occupied Palestinian land, and to construct the West Bank wall, deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice. Hewlett-Packard’s products are used by the Israeli navy to enforce Israel’s blockade of Gaza, also deemed illegal by the United Nations and international humanitarian organizations like the International Committee of the Red Cross.

In the hours following the vote, national peace organization Jewish Voice for Peace voiced its strong support for the resolution. "This vote is important because the student body of one of the world's great public universities has unequivocally repudiated efforts to use false charges of anti-Semitism to stifle criticism of Israeli policies,” said Cecilie Surasky, Deputy Director of Jewish Voice Peace. "Many Jewish UC students and professors have been very clear -- efforts like HR35 aren't about protecting Jewish students. They are about trying to protect the right-wing government of Israel from the criticism of others, many of whom are Jewish. "

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