Thursday, April 15, 2010

Eyewitness accounts of UC Berkeley divestment debate

More on the incredible UC Berkeley divestment debate: US Campaign Steering Committee member Sophia Ritchie writes from Berkeley:
"I write these words after staying up all night alongside many, many others as we awaited the decision from UCB ASUC senators as to whether they would overturn the veto on SB 118, calling on the UC to divest from GE and United Technologies, 2 companies profiting from Israeli war crimes. The original meeting which was to start at 7:30, was pushed back to a 10pm start and moved to a larger venue to accommodate the huge numbers of people who came out (at its height I believe there were more than 500 people). After hours of speakers, they finally moved into a vote. Not enough senators voted in favor of overturning the veto, due to abstaining votes the floor was opened up for further debate, filibusters were put in place, more speakers, confusion, drawn out attempts at "compromise" etc, etc. End result - the 'real' vote been tabled for another week and the veto still stands. 2:30, 4, 6:45....this went on and on. Despite the majority numbers of people who were in the room supporting the bill, it was so apparent how strong the intimidation tactics were in silencing some of the senators. I feel many things right now, tiredness, sadness, frustration, angst, which I could elaborate more on, but really it comes down to this: on tax day 2010, my money (our money) is going to continue being sent to Israel; the occupation, oppression and injustice continue and so, too, does our fight. On an 'up' note the list of speakers was phenomenal and included a Skype call from Richard Falk, moving speeches by Hedy Epstein and Judith Butler and testimonial by many of my truly amazing peers. The action this afternoon was also very powerful. Onward....."
The Daily Californian quotes ASUC Senator-Elect Waseem Salahi:
"Independent Senator-Elect Waseem Salahi said he felt the voices of those hoping to override the veto had not been heard, but that this meeting presented an opportunity for those opinions to be expressed. "People scream all the time, but it is the screams that have been muffled that are the most important to hear," he said. "These are the screams that are usually so quiet-a suffocated cry that we, decorated by our own privilege, can barely notice. But tonight these screams are not quiet, even though some have attempted to muffle them through manipulation and a seemingly unstoppable sense of entitlement." "
Helena Cobban quotes Berkeley Law student Liz Jackson at the Just World News blog:
"I'm bleary and weary at 2:45 am with public comment still ongoing. The crowd is finally starting to thin. At peak there was probably 2000 people here. Despite the cries of divisiveness, there is a beautiful large and diverse coalition here of students of color, Jews, Arabs, Palestinians- the voices we never hear in the mainstream- voices that finally get to be vocal and visible. Whatever the results of the vote (it's coming down to one sophmore senator who is still undecided) this is no doubt a huge opening for the bds movement. It's amazing to watch Jewish voices for accountability take off their muzzles and speak! Amazing to watch so many students of color bust out and have such a loud unified voice."
And Rae Abileah of US Campaign member group CODEPINK writes at Mondoweiss:
"A former IDF soldier is speaking out in opposition to the occupation of Palestine. An 85-year old Holocaust survivor testifies to the peril of waiting to make a decision rather than saving lives now by stopping war machines. A queer Jewish Latino speaks about his own journey from living in a settlement in East Jerusalem to coordinating a national organization opposing the occupation. A Palestinian student shares the story of his own family's loss and highlights the lost logic in the room. The Israeli Consulate General admits to the existence of an "occupation" and states that Israel wants to end it! An orthodox man calls in a metaphor of candlelight illuminating goodness, each of us a candle....It all went down in Berkeley, California on Wednesday night, April 14, as the world watched (and tweeted).... The 12-hour meeting ended on Thursday morning, April 15, Tax Day....How fitting for the local debate on war funding to end on this day, when taxpayers will fork over the funds to give Israel another $3 billion in military aid (which last year was used to break international law in Gaza) and potentially another $33 billion to fund the occupation of Afghanistan. While many may not yet be ready to engage in war tax resistance, or feel that Congress is listening to the call to stop funding war, local divestment campaigns such as the courageous bill in Berkeley offer an avenue for putting our community’s money where our values are - for justice and peace, not endless war and occupation."
Sound exhilarating? Sound like exactly what's needed to shake up the pro-occupation, pro-apartheid status quo? Find out how you can start this conversation on your campus today! Update: Check out video of UC Berkeley divestment debate, (h/t Palestine Video):