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RESOLVING TO ​
DIVEST
THE HISTORY OF SJP AT UCLA’S
DIVESTMENT CAMPAIGN


 

Arturo speaks at divestment, Fall 2014 

ABSTRACT
- - - - X 
This article reviews the history of Students for Justice in Palestine at UCLA’s campaign to pass a
divestment resolution through the Undergraduate Students Association Council (USAC). In the
pages that follow, this article briefly historicizes campus Palestine activism, reviews the history
of SJP at UCLA, and then provides a detailed historical account and analysis of the divestment
struggle, from the first discussions of ethical investments in early 2013 to the ultimate passage
of divestment in November, 20141.

 ​
This article is the culmination of years of advocacy for the Palestinian cause as well as a conscious 
attempt to battle an ahistorical understanding of campus Palestine organizing that has allowed for persistent 
mischaracterizations of this strand of activism and relevant organizations. But many of the issues presented 
here are presently evolving, and information pertaining to the formative years of Palestine organizing in the 
US remains difficult to come by. The co­authors therefore consider this text to be a fluid archive, and invite 
all connected to the efforts recounted here to continue to share their stories and wisdom. 
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Background
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PART 1: SJP’S HISTORY  

 

A Brief History of Campus Palestine Activism
 

As Raja Abdulhaq writes in an article reflecting on the legacy and present status of the General
Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS), "From the very beginning, students have played an active
role in the Palestinian national movement2 ." The Organization of Arab Students (OAS), founded
in the US and Canada in 1952, was the first North American student organization to engage in
pro-Palestine activist work, which it carried out within the context of a larger, pan-Arab struggle.
However, GUPS would soon come to take the helm concerning student Palestine organizing.
Founded in Cairo in 1959, GUPS had "more than 100... branches worldwide." In her lecture,
"Historicizing the Palestinian Struggle," Jennifer Mogannam explains how the framing of
Palestine as an anti-colonial cause resonated with the internationalist bents of many
organizations3. North American branches of GUPS forged connections with other causes, a
pattern that continued up through the 1980's with GUPS at San Francisco State playing a
particularly crucial role. These developments occurred in tandem with the redefinition of the
campus as a critical setting for political activism that had been initiated by the Free Speech
Movement, which began at UC Berkeley, and the student-strikes of the late 60s/early 70s that
included addressing crucial gaps in educational curricula through the formation of Ethnic Studies
5
programs (among others) as a platform4,​
. Contemporary manifestations of inter-community
accompliceship around the Palestinian cause on campus were made possible by these early
legacies of joint struggle6.
 
But over time, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) shifted its focus from an
international anti-colonial struggle to a two-state solution, and following the Oslo Accords all
2

 Raja Abdulhaq, “Rebuilding a General Union of Palestinian Students” 
https://electronicintifada.net/content/rebuilding­general­union­palestinian­students/7821  
3
 Jennifer Moghannam, “​
Historicizing the Palestinian Struggle” 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D0KIORWHaUw  
4
 Calisphere, “The Free Speech Movement” 
http://www.calisphere.universityofcalifornia.edu/themed_collections/subtopic6b.html  
5
 Joanne Barker, “The Beginning and End of Ethnic Studies” 
https://tequilasovereign.wordpress.com/2016/02/22/the­beginning­and­end­of­ethnic­studies/  
6
 Jimmy Johnson, “Our Palestine statement draws on history of Black internationalism, says organizer” 
https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/jimmy­johnson/our­palestine­statement­draws­history­black­internationalis
m­says­organizer  

 


 
North American branches of GUPS eventually dissolved with the exception of the San Francisco
State chapter, which remains active to this day7 . Relatively little is known about the state of
campus organizing in the years directly following the decline of GUPS, but in 2001, the first
chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) was formed at UC Berkeley. In 2002, a new
national student coalition known as the Palestine Solidarity Movement was formed, holding
conferences at Berkeley, Michigan, Ohio State, Duke, and Georgetown. Although the organization
dissipated, by 2005 SJPs had sprung up at universities across the country. And in 2011, a new
organization named National Students for Justice in Palestine had been formed to continue
organizing national conferences and providing support for the roughly 100 chapters of SJP that
now exist across the country.
 
BDS work, primarily in the form of passing resolutions calling on universities to pull
funding from companies complicit in the occupation, began to take increasing priority in the
efforts of campus groups such as SJP and Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights (SUPER)
following Palestinian Civil Society's call in 2005. These early political formations and subsequent
domestic, international and ideological shifts remain a living component of the present state of
campus Palestine activism.
 

The Founding and Growth of SJP at UCLA
 

Although campus activism for Palestine had been taking place at UCLA for many years
prior to the foundation of Students for Justice in Palestine, records of this activity are spotty at
best. Palestine was certainly an issue on the campus, with the campus paper's editorial board
openly endorsing divestment as early as 20028. What is known is that by 2005, students on
campus had decided to establish an independent organization to carry out Palestine activism
work. Founded in 2005, SJP at UCLA began organizing events in early 2006. The organization's
first events included a talk on connecting Native American and Palestinian struggles with
Professor Robert Perez of UC Riverside, a Hip Hop for Palestine Event featuring Invincible, the
Nomads, and the Philistines, and a speakout with an IDF refuser. 2006 also saw the start of ten
consecutive years of Palestine Awareness Week on campus.
 
The early years of the organization were marked by energetic and creative protests and
actions, such as mobile mock checkpoints and impressive outreach efforts in classrooms. One
shortcoming, however, was a relative lack of focus - the organization's goals shifted depending
on the interests and goals of its leadership. This characterization of the organization may have
applied between 2005 and 2008, but Operation Cast Lead, and the student reaction to it, marked
an important shift in consciousness and strategy.
 
 SFSU GUPS ​
https://www.facebook.com/GeneralUnionofPalestineStudents  
 Daily Bruin Editorial Board, “UC must respect human rights, divest” 
http://dailybruin.com/2002/07/07/editorial19/  
7
8

 


 
Operation Cast Lead shifted campus activism in two important ways. First, SJP at UCLA
engaged with the political process on campus for the first time, working to pass a resolution
condemning Israel's assault on Gaza and its deadly consequences for the Palestinian people9 .
After a long debate, the resolution eventually passed overwhelmingly. It also enjoyed the
support of student groups from across campus. It was one of several resolutions of solidarity
passed at UCs after Cast Lead. However, despite the resolution's political importance, and the
high degree of work involved in getting it passed through the student government, the text did
not engage with UCLA's own institutional relationship to Palestine/Israel (namely, investments
in companies complicit with the occupation). Second, the post-Cast Lead period of student
organizing at UCLA focused on understanding and working to end institutional complicity with
Israeli human rights violations. In May of 2009 SJP at UCLA held its first event focused on the
BDS call. Although subsequent programming in the years after 2009 included a focus on BDS, it
took several more years for the debate to return to the level of student government. In that
period, other SJPs in the state were also beginning to pass divestment resolutions. In 2010, UC
Berkeley held a highly publicized divestment campaign which was vetoed by the student
government president. Other campuses, such as UC San Diego, also made multiple attempts to
pass divestment. In 2012, however, UC Irvine became the first SJP to successfully pass
divestment in California. It was followed by successful campaigns in 2013 by UC San Diego and
UC Berkeley, with other campaigns growing across the state10.
 
At that time, SJP at UCLA did not see the orientation of the student government as
favorable to a divestment resolution, and chose not to engage in a specific campaign at that
point. However, the growing campus wide interest in divestment campaigns in general meant
that although SJP wasn't ready to propose divestment, the issue was coming to the campus
anyways. In spring of 2013, a coalition of student groups proposed something more broad,
namely an ethical investments framework that would enact criteria in regards to labor rights,
environmental justice, and human rights.

9

 UCLA’s 2009 Gaza Resolution 
http://www.sjpbruins.com/2/post/2009/02/text­of­2009­ucla­gaza­resolution.html  
10
 Rahim Kurwa, “BDS Campaigns Sweep UC Campuses” 
http://solidarity­us.org/pdfs/ATC\%20165­­BDS.pdf  

 


 

 
Early Photos from SJP at UCLA 

 


 

Part 2: Momentum Builds for Divestment 
The Beginnings of the Divestment Debate
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The Ethical Investments Resolution
 

"The USAC Resolution for Ethical Investments" proposed in spring 2013 called for the UC
Regents to pull funding from any company found to be complicit in practices harmful to the
environment, workers, and human rights. At the time, one student aptly qualified the collective
relevance of the resolution as follows:
 

 


 
"The USAC Resolution for Ethical Investments is in the interests of all students on campus and
is based on widespread public support for policies favoring human rights, workers' rights and
environmental sustainability11 .”
 

Although not specific to Palestine/Israel, it was common knowledge among concerned
parties that any effort to apply socially responsible criteria to the UC's investments would
necessarily touch on the UC's investments in companies aiding Israel's occupation of the
Palestinian territories.
Unfortunately, a largely conservative student council tabled "The USAC Resolution for
Ethical Investments," and later, at a forum dedicated to addressing public concern about the
resolution, pro-Israel students demanded a clause saying that Israel would be exempt from the
ethical investment framework. This demand revealed that even pro-Israel campus activists knew
Israel's actions were in violation of Palestinian human rights. But in a broader sense, pro-Israel
opposition to the ethical investments resolution demonstrates the hypocrisy of future
anti-divestment tactics: at this point in time, pro-Israel students attacked resolutions for being
too broad, whereas later on they would attack resolutions specifically focused on Israel/Palestine
as too narrow (usually by asking why Israel was being `singled out' when there were so many
other countries perpetrating human rights abuses). According to their stated logic, the broadly
construed ethical investments resolution should have been the perfect solution for those who
use this line of argumentation to oppose Palestine-related divestment measures. The fact that
pro-Israel students nevertheless felt compelled to oppose the resolution shows the artificiality of
the argument, suggesting that the ‘singling out' complaint is merely one out of a slew of often
contradictory and disposable rhetorical strategies used to disguise straightforward nationalism
as ethical vigilance.
 
At any rate, pro-Israel groups now knew that the issue of divestment had come to UCLA,
and that divestment measures specific to companies aiding Israel's occupation would likely
follow shortly. The ethical investment resolution had opened up a debate that garnered the
widespread interest of students. In May 2013 the student government passed a fossil fuel
divestment resolution, which served as yet another warning sign that more divestment
resolutions were to come12 . This prompted pro-Israel groups to try a new way to head off the
passage of divestment - positive investments.
 

11

 Jason Smith, “USAC treatment of ethical investment policy resolution fails to display unity” 
http://dailybruin.com/2013/04/15/submission­usac­treatment­of­ethical­investment­policy­resolution­fails­to­d
isplay­unity/  
12
 “UCLA Resolution to Divest from Fossil Fuels” 
https://www.usac.ucla.edu/documents/resolutions/UCLAResolutiontoUSACfortheDivestmentofFossilFuels.p
df  

 


 

The Anti-BDS Resolution
 

SJP-UCLA's first divestment-related victory was not the passage of a divestment
resolution, but rather the successful countering of an anti-divestment resolution authored by
then-USAC Internal Vice President (and later Student Regent) Avi Oved (who would later go on
to be one of the central figures in the Adam Milstein funding controversy)13. Titled, "A
Resolution in Support of Positive Steps Towards an Israeli-Palestinian Peace" (sic) the document
was presented as a "pro-dialogue" and "pro-peace process" measure that called for the UC to
invest in companies employing both Israelis and Palestinians - a concept labelled "positive
investments." But buried in the second page of the resolution were several clauses that actually
disavowed the tactic of divestment as harmful and counterproductive. The resolution was
transparently cynical. As we asked in an article at the time,
 
"How does ending our investments in companies that violate human rights, in Palestine
or anywhere else, harm anyone on campus? On the other hand, many Palestinian
students at UCLA and on other campuses have expressed great discomfort with the fact
that their tuition dollars are being funneled into companies that are harming their own
families in Palestine14."
 
Following a lengthy public comment portion (during which many student organizations
came out in support of SJP and against the resolution), as well as an extended editing session on
the part of the student representatives, the resolution was ultimately voted down by a 5-7
margin. The resolution lost its momentum once the clauses banning the student government
from considering divestment were highlighted, and once council members realized how
inappropriate it was to have excluded Palestinians from a resolution that claimed to speak on
their behalf. Further, many found it hard to believe Oved’s claims about having written it by
himself in good faith, having equally excluded pro-Israel groups and pro-Palestinian groups from
involvement. Momentum against the bill also shifted as the student body and many council
members defended the university's time-honored ability to use divestment as a tool to promote
social justice, and saw the anti-divestment clause in the bill as threatening that history. But after
these clauses were removed, there was no longer any impetus to pass the resolution, and Oved
and the resolution's sponsors made no effort to bring it back. This behavior suggested that the
other vague language around dialogue and promoting peace was less important than the
language around stopping divestment.
 

13

 Alex Kane, “Caught in a lie: E­mails prove right­wing pro­Israel donor Adam Milstein gave money to 
California student candidates” ​
http://mondoweiss.net/2014/07/milstein­california­candidates/  
14
 Rahim Kurwa and Omar Zahzah, “USAC bill fails to consider Palestinian view” 
http://dailybruin.com/2013/10/22/submission­usac­bill­fails­to­consider­palestinian­view/  

 

10 
 
What came out of the discussion was the news that one of the resolution's sponsors had
taken a free trip to Israel provided to him by the Anti-Defamation League15. Sunny Singh, the
student in question, denied that the free trip could in any way have inappropriately influenced
his views on the subject, but nevertheless continued to cultivate a relationship with the ADL,
including giving a speech at its annual gala. This revelation foreshadowed much extended
debate over the appropriateness of free trips offered to student government members by
lobbying groups16.

 

 
Pro Palestinian students line up to speak at the divestment hearing 

15

 UCLA SJP, “The Israel Lobby’s Use of Free Trips to Sway Student Government” 
http://www.sjpbruins.com/news­­opinion/the­israel­lobbys­use­of­free­trips­to­sway­ucla­student­government  
16
 UCLA SJP, “Judicial Board Case Summary” ​
http://www.sjpbruins.com/judicial­board­case­summary.html  

 

11 
 

SJP Launches its First Divestment Campaign
- - - - X 
 

By the end of 2013, the alternatives to a direct debate over the university's financial
involvement in Israeli violations of human rights were exhausted. Perhaps scoring an own-goal,
the pro-Israel community had sunk the broader student attempt to ensure ethical investments. It
then failed to mis-direct the student government through the positive investment/anti-BDS
resolution. All that remained was for SJP to construct its own divestment campaign.
Starting in December, 2013, SJP at UCLA began its first divestment campaign, drafting a
resolution calling on the UC Regents to pull funding from five companies complicit in the
occupation: Caterpillar, Cemex, Cement Roadstone Holdings (CRH), General Electric (GE), and
Hewlett-Packard (HP) 17. SJP also made sure to prioritize outreach with other student
organizations. Significantly, SJP did not limit our outreach to organizations that would
automatically agree with divestment or SJP's politics more broadly, but at the time believed that
it was important also to convey our position to student organizations with opposing viewpoints,
including pro-Israel groups. These groups stated that they did not object to the text of the
resolution, but would nevertheless oppose divestment anyways, even if further clauses that they
wished to see were added. As we described in another article, however, an atmosphere of
intense normalization led to such outreach being deemed insufficient, and everyone from
pro-Israel groups to student politicians who would later vote on the measure voiced the opinion
that mere outreach wasn't enough and that SJP should have actually allowed pro-Israel groups
to co-author the resolution18. This is, of course, a double standard to which no other group would
have been held. But it also promoted an idea that simply was not true. In private, these groups
admitted that they had no problems with the text of the resolution, but that they still could not
cooperate with SJP in any way, shape, or form. But in public, they claimed that their
non-cooperation was a product of a lack of outreach by SJP. This was finally made public in a
radio interview in which a pro-Israel leader admitted that the most her group would be willing to
cooperate on was a statement that the parties would agree to disagree19.
 
This is an important issue to reflect on because it represents another challenge
commonly encountered by students who organize around Palestine: the misconception that
Palestine solidarity work is inherently divisive, and so campuses should emphasize collaboration
17

 Kaleb Adney, “Our Money, Our Responsibility” 
http://www.sjpbruins.com/news­­opinion/our­money­our­responsibility  
18
 Omar Zahzah and Rahim Kurwa, “Good Faith or Good Tactics? How Some Anti­Divestment Groups 
Manipulate Public Discourse and Smear SJP” 
http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/17319/good­faith­or­good­tactics­how­some­anti­divestmen  
19
 Daily Bruin, “Long Story Short” ​
http://dailybruin.com/2014/02/25/long­story­short­february­24­2014/  

 

12 
 
and partnership with pro-Israel groups rather than allowing students interested in Palestine
activism to pursue their cause with full autonomy. Such attitudes are also connected, more
broadly, to the post-Oslo shift in official and popular discursive framings of Palestine/Israel from
an issue of anti-colonial liberation to a simple "conflict" best remedied by universal emphases on
the need for "peace," collaboration and co-existence, as neatly outlined by Joseph Massad20.
 
On February 5th, 2014, another divestment campaign came to the UCLA student
government - this time centered on private prisons which the UC system was invested in. The
campaign, led by the Afrikan Student Union, was extremely successful, and quickly earned an
22
overwhelming majority of votes on the council21,​
. At the discussion of the resolution, one of the
non-voting administrative assistants who sits on the council extolled the campaign for
presenting human narratives and stories that powerfully conveyed the need to divest from
private prisons as a strike against the broader system of mass incarceration which affects
communities of color in the United States and at UCLA as well.
 
20 days later, Students for Justice in Palestine presented its resolution to the same
student government that had just voted to divest from private prisons. In favor of the resolution
were several progressive and independent council members, joined by 19 student groups. Given
the size of the turnout (estimated at roughly 500 students), the hearing was moved to the
campus' largest public venue - Ackerman Grand Ballroom. The debate lasted over ten hours and
went until 6 in the morning the following day23. Of note was the intrusion of individuals from the
anti-Palestinian organization StandWithUs, who filmed pro-Palestinian speakers without first
securing permission until they were eventually kicked out. The atmosphere of intimidation
created by StandWithUs was compounded by the presence of IDF soldiers speaking out against
divestment and a string of violent and Islamophobic comments made by anti-divestment
speakers24. Intimidation also reached council members. As Daily Bruin columnist Eitan Arom
wrote in March of 2014,
 
“Three separate unsigned emails to USAC Student Wellness Commissioner Savannah
Badalich, who was seen as a swing vote on the divestment issue, made that comparison
[of support for divestment being anti-Semitic], with one saying “if you as a council
20

 Joseph Massad, “Palestinians and the Dilemmas of Solidarity” 
https://electronicintifada.net/content/palestinians­and­dilemmas­solidarity/14518  
21
 Kendal Mitchell, “​
USAC passes resolution calling for reevaluation of company investment​
” 
http://dailybruin.com/2014/02/05/usac­passes­resolution­calling­for­reevaluation­of­company­investment/  
22
 UCLA Private Prison Divestment Resolution 
https://www.usac.ucla.edu/documents/resolutions/USACPrivatePrisonDivestmentResolution.pdf  
23
 UCLA February 2014 Divestment Livestream Archive 
http://dailybruin.com/2014/02/25/watch­live­usac­discusses­divestment­resolution/  
24
 Press Release, “Muslim Student Association calls for prioritization of Diversity Requirement, 
accountability, and positive campus climate”  
http://www.sjpbruins.com/news­­opinion/muslim­student­association­calls­for­prioritization­of­diversity­requir
ement­accountability­and­positive­campus­climate  

 

13 
 
member vote for this you are undoubtedly anti-semitic.” Another wrote that those
pushing for divestment should “watch your backs25.”’
 

Although the leaders of the anti-divestment side claimed to reject Islamophobia, their
official presentations to student government were riddled with the same racist tropes they
claimed to eschew26. But putting aside the racism and intimidation present in the debate, the
core issues were relatively clear, and even the campus paper, shy to explicitly endorse
divestment, could not help but editorialize in favor of the resolution. In its editorial calling for a
broader student referendum, the editorial board wrote, "the moral core of the resolution is on
point – the University of California should not invest in companies complicit in human rights
abuse" and later added,
"UC investments in companies that support the military occupation of the Palestinian
West Bank and provide for the building of illegal Israeli settlements in the region are
deeply problematic and contribute to a status quo that threatens the ongoing peace
process27 ."
Despite the outpouring of support and the fact that the large majority of public comment
was in favor of the resolution and came from a diverse cross section of the student body, the
student government narrowly defeated the resolution28. Organizers in SJP were humbled by the
solidarity shown by a diverse array of student groups, activists and faculty who showed their
support by co-sponsoring the resolution, coming out for public comment, and issuing official
statements in defense of the measure. But in addition to the fact that every divestment
campaign, regardless of the outcome, is a victory in that it allows for coalition building and
outreach and forces student politicians to discuss the plight of the Palestinian people at the
hearing, the results of the night in question also illuminated two starkly different world-views.
On one hand, there was a wonderful outpouring of support of a wide swath of the UCLA
community. From groups with a deep history of cross-movement solidarity, to organizations
whose members quickly came to support the position of SJP, there was an outpouring of support
based on the commitment to human rights and desire not to contribute to the degradation of
25

 Eitan Arom, “Nature of divestment talks reflects poor campus climate” 
http://dailybruin.com/2014/03/04/eitan­arom­nature­of­divestment­talks­reflects­poor­campus­climate/  
26
 SJP at UCLA,  
“SJP at UCLA Denounces Racism in Bruins for Israel Presentation to Student Government”  
http://www.sjpbruins.com/news­­opinion/sjp­at­ucla­denounces­racist­speech­by­bruins­for­israel  
27
 Editorial Board, “​
Editorial: USAC should let students vote on divestment issue” 
http://dailybruin.com/2014/02/24/editorial­usac­should­table­divestment­resolution/  
28
 Press Release, ​
Press Release: Students for Justice in Palestine Decries Failure to Support Palestinian 
Students and Human Rights at USAC Hearing” 
http://www.sjpbruins.com/news­­opinion/press­releasestudents­for­justice­in­palestine­decries­failure­to­sup
port­palestinian­students­and­human­rights­at­usac­hearing   
 
 

 

14 
 
Palestinians through our own university investments. A post-divestment meeting held just after
the resolution failed was a particularly remarkable moment, as tearful students explained how
the divestment debate had catalyzed them to action and strengthened their resolve to pass
divestment on the next attempt. In the weeks following the vote, students began a “second class
Bruins” campaign to highlight how the lack of respect for human rights affected Palestinian
students. Some Jewish students composed a statement encouraging more progressive views than
30
were present in their community’s discourse, prompting a response by SJP as well29,​
. On the
other hand, the leadership of the pro-Israel community saw the events in a different light. Rabbi
Chaim Seidler-Feller wrote the following in a message to the Hillel community after the vote:
"I look at it all and view it as a periodic ritual that different minority groups have had to
enact in order to legitimate their claim to victimhood. The ritual involves making the
case that your oppression was caused by the world's most recognized victims-the Jews.
And the goal is to establish that the ‘Victims’ are actually the most egregious victimizers.
Last night the Palestinians took the stage to attempt to gain their bona fides; and they
failed...The initiative and others like it thus had little to do with Israel and the
Palestinians. Rather, it was about one community at UCLA ‘getting' and outing another
community as racists and bigots, part of the oppressor class in America. This is a sick
remnant of the identity politics of the 90's."
Seidler-Feller's view of pro-divestment Jewish students was just as hostile. He wrote,
“[There were]... a host of Jews and Israelis who marched up to the mike [sic] in order to
announce that they were really moral human beings because they had the ‘courage’ to
publicly denounce Israel and distance themselves from their own community."
Those students later went on to found the UCLA chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace.
 
"When we first started organizing our divestment campaign in 2012, we 
were advised to give ourselves 10 years to get a divestment resolution 
passed. That's about how long it took to pass resolutions on divesting 
from SouthA
  fricaa
  tt
  heU
  Cs,s
  oi
  ts
  eemedl
  ikear
   ealisticg
  oal.I
  td
  id 
not take UCLA 10 years to pass a resolutiono
  nd
  ivestingf
  romc
  ompanies 
that violateP
  alestinianh
  umanr
  ights.A
  ndt
  os
  ayp
  assingd
  ivestment,i
  n 
such a short time­frame, was the biggest victory of our campaign would 
be a lie. We educated students and faculty about the realities of 
Israeli apartheid,b
  uiltac
   ommunityo
  nc
  ampus,a
  nds
  awi
  ndividualsf
  rom 
all walks of life join the movement for Palestinian rights. In my 
opinion, that was the biggest victory."­ Lila 

29

 “On the Israeli­Palestinian Conflict: A Statement by Progressive Jewish Students at UCLA,” 
https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1FN_nU9ru4ihkUvjKdsuS_z8n4iI2szzyOuo2wmLpRaA/viewform 
30
 “Open Response to Progressive Jewish Students at UCLA Statement” 
http://www.sjpbruins.com/news­­opinion/open­response­to­progressive­jewish­students­at­ucla­statement  

 

15 
 

The influence of outside anti-Palestinian groups on the campus
debate
- - - - X 
Free trips as a means of gaining influence
 

The divestment campaign also provided students with the incentive to begin looking into
the role of the Israeli lobby in student government. SJP uncovered a shocking pattern whereby
anti-divestment lobbying groups such as the Anti-Defamation League and American Jewish
Committee would actively recruit student politicians and provide them with free "educational"
trips to Israel with the expectation that these politicians would return to their respective
32
campuses to "apply what they learned”.31 ,​
Two of the USAC members who voted against SJP's
resolution had received such trips, a circumstance that provided the material for a subsequent
Judicial Board complaint filed by SJP against the two USAC members in question. The logic of the
complaint was that large gifts made in advance of a vote could sway elected leaders of student
government to consider the position of their beneficiary rather than the student body. The
Judicial Board ultimately ruled in favor of the two USAC councilmembers, maintaining that there
could be no conflict of interest when benefits were received prior to (rather than after) voting.
The narrow reading of the concept of conflict of interest was disappointing, but the case was
nevertheless crucial in calling attention to what had been a hitherto silent pattern of lobbying
groups trading benefits of an exorbitant financial value for political favors, primarily votes
34
against divestment resolutions33,​
. Exposing the extensive intervention of off-campus pro-Israel
forces in student political affairs became a pivotal component of SJP UCLA's work well into the
summer of 201435. 
 

 “SJP at UCLA ​
Charges Council Members Singh and Rogers with Conflict of Interest” 
http://www.sjpbruins.com/news­­opinion/press­release­students­for­justice­in­palestine­at­ucla­charges­coun
cil­members­singh­and­rogers­with­conflict­of­interest  
32
 Rahim Kurwa, “Coming to a Campus Near You: ADL recruits student politicians for Israel trips” 
http://mondoweiss.net/2014/08/defamation­recruits­senators/  
33
 “SJP at UCLA Concerned by Judicial Board Verdict and its Implications for Student Government” 
http://www.sjpbruins.com/news­­opinion/press­release­sjp­concerned­by­judicial­board­verdict­and­its­implic
ations­for­student­government 
34
 “The Israel Lobby’s Use of Free Trips to Sway Student Government” 
http://www.sjpbruins.com/news­­opinion/the­israel­lobbys­use­of­free­trips­to­sway­ucla­student­government  
35
 Omar Zahzah and Rahim Kurwa, “​
Lobbyists, politicians must not meddle in campus debates” 
http://dailybruin.com/2014/09/10/submission­lobbyists­politicians­must­not­meddle­in­campus­debates/  
31

 

16 
 

Funding student elections to create an anti-BDS bulwark
 
In the summer of 2014, leaked emails from the campus group Bruins United revealed that
an anti-Palestinian real estate mogul named Adam Milstein had been funneling off campus funds
from pro-Israel sources to Bruins United candidates for student government in an effort to
ensure that these students would be elected and not allow divestment to pass36. Milstein, it
should be noted, had also been funding the AJC trips to Israel given to council members for free.
What we know of the system is as follows: some members of Bruins United emailed Milstein
making general pitches for contributions to the Bruins United campaign. The pitches explicitly
stated that the election of pro-Israel candidates through Bruins United was the only thing
38
standing in the way of SJP 37,​
. Milstein then turned around and sent these solicitations to other
donors, directing them to make tax-deductible contributions to Hillel at UCLA, which would then
funnel the money to Bruins United. Those involved in the project were clearly aware of how
inappropriate it was. In an email to Milstein, Avinoam Baral wrote,
 
“I can not stress enough how discrete (sic) this initiative must be. If this letter or any
evidence of outside organizations involvement in these student government elections
were to be found by our opponents it would compromise our campaign, Bruins United
and all student government pro-Israel activism across America39.”

Milstein, for his part, lied to the press about his donations, stating that he did not give
funds to candidates. Another student government member, Avi Oved, who was being considered
as Student Regent at the time the emails became public, also issued contradictory statements to
the campus press. His claims that he did not know who was donating to his campaign were
contradicted by evidence that he personally solicited funding and was copied on emails in which
Milstein himself confirmed his own $1,000 donation. Finally, the Bruins United party lied by
omission, telling the public that it received funds from corporate sponsorships and from
candidates themselves, but omitting its pro-Israel funding sources. When these documents
became public, four of the five council members from Bruins United claimed no knowledge of
this funding scheme, and one disaffiliated from the party 40. Apparently aware of how
unsustainable their position was, Bruins United leaders slated a pro-divestment student to run in
special campus elections in fall 2014.
36

 Alex Kane, “Pro­Israel Muslim­basher Adam Milstein at center of storm over funding of California student 
elections” ​
http://mondoweiss.net/2014/07/milstein­california­elections/  
37
 Chloe Hunt, “Funds to UCLA student political party came from outside sources, leaked emails show” 
http://www.dailycal.org/2014/07/03/funds­ucla­student­political­party­came­outside­donors­leaked­emails­sh
ow/  
38
  Amanda Schallert, “Leaked emails reveal hidden sources of Bruins United campaign funds” 
http://dailybruin.com/2014/12/11/leaked­emails­reveal­hidden­sources­of­bruins­united­campaign­funds/  
39
 ibid 
40
 Amanda Schallert, “USAC councilmembers respond to campaign funding conflict of interest” 
http://dailybruin.com/2014/12/11/usac­councilmembers­response­to­campaign­funding­conflict­of­interest/  

 

17 
 

Afrikan Student Union makes public comment at the divestment hearing 

 
Unity circle outside Ackerman Union after the resolution fails to pass 

 
Pro­divestment students protest the outcome of the first divestment vote 
 

 

18 
 
 
"I would walk on Bruin­walk during fall quarter of2
  014a
  ndh
  earp
  eople 
I had never met before talking about what divestment was, which to us 
might beas
   impleo
  ro
  bvioust
  opicb
  utt
  oar
   egularc
  olleges
  tudenti
  sa
  
complex issueo
  fh
  umanr
  ightsa
  dvocacy.F
  ort
  hef
  irstt
  ime,t
  housandso
  f 
people ­ people I never knew and who were not in any social justice 
organizations ­w
  erec
  riticallyt
  hinkinga
  boutP
  alestine.S
  tudentsi
  nm
  y 
microbiology classes were discussing if the military occupation ofG
  aza 
and the West Bank was illegal. Students I met for the first time in a 
coffee housew
  oulds
  eem
  y‘
  UCLAd
  ivest’s
  hirta
  nda
  pproachm
  ea
  nda
  skm
  e 
questions about how UCLA was complicit in human rightsv
  iolations.E
  ven 
students who I knew were very polar right on the topic before, and 
unwilling to hear about the Palestinian struggle were finally moving 
more towards the center." ­ Ayesha 

 
 
“In the first iteration of #UCLADivest, the resolution did not pass. In 
the hour that followed the vote, I remember stepping outside to meet the 
sunrise, numb equally with shock and grief. It was all too easy to feel 
as though our countless hours  had gone to waste. But I'll never forget 
what my friend told me. He said "if I had known at the beginning of the 
year that by the end of this, we would have gotten dozens of student 
group endorsements, hundreds of new members to our list­serve, and every 
corner of this campus talking about Palestinian human rights, I would 
have done it over and over again­­regardless of the vote." ­ Reem 

 
 
"In my four years at UCLA, the biggest achievement of SJP was not the 
passage of divestment, but  the shift in political conversation on 
Palestine. When I got to UCLA, I would presume that besides SJP and 
organizations advocatingf
  orm
  inoritiesa
  ndc
  ommunitieso
  fc
  olor,n
  oo
  ne 
really knew much about Palestine at all. Many people might have had a 
very skewed perception that was dictated by a biased media or were 
merely ignorant. Through the divestment campaign, and the events and 
efforts  of  SJP,  the  atrocities  in Palestine  were brought to the 
forefront of our campus. You could even say a regular UCLA student now 
had something of an understanding about the violation of Palestinian 
human rights and how UCLA has a role to play. This is huge. I couldn't 
have dreamed of this...The resolution failing for the first time was a 
blessing in disguise. It gave us the opportunity to educate the campus 
and raise awareness about why Palestine deserved attention; why it 
deserved justice. The shift in campus conversations and awareness on 
Palestine wasS
  JP'sb
  iggesta
  chievementa
  ndIc
   ouldn'th
  aveb
  eenp
  rouder 
to have been there to watch it happen."­ Ayesha 

 

19 
 

Part 3: Passing Divestment 
After Protective Edge, Divestment Passes
- - - - X 
 

Following the return to campus after Israel's latest assault on Gaza, Operation Protective
Edge, SJP UCLA again undertook a divestment campaign, drafting a new resolution that added
Boeing, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and United
Technologies for these companies' role in servicing the IDF with the weapons and technologies
42
used in Protective Edge41,​
. As before, outreaching to student groups was a priority. SJP at UCLA
reached out to over 50 groups and made roughly that many presentations. Sometimes, those
presentations redounded to endorsements of divestment. Other times, those presentations
helped decrease the level of opposition of other student groups. One example was the Bruin
Democrats, which openly opposed divestment the first time, but decided to remain neutral the
 ​
Students for Justice in Palestine at UCLA Announces Fall 2014 Divestment Campaign 
http://www.sjpbruins.com/news­­opinion/for­immediate­release­students­for­justice­in­palestine­at­ucla­anno
unces­fall­2014­divestment­campaign  
42
 SJP Divestment Page ​
http://www.sjpbruins.com/divest.html  
41

 

20 
 
second time. This shift might be attributed to ongoing engagement with the group, even though
it ostensibly shared little in common with SJP's core principles. In addition, SJP held regular
teach-ins, showing Roadmap to Apartheid regularly, as well as explaining the principles of
divestment and walking students through the arguments for and against the campaign.
 
One change from the first campaign bears examination, however. Although SJP’s first
divestment campaign was transparent and open, the second effort was significantly more so, and
particularly because of a growing public interest in the issue from students across campus who
had little formal contact or membership in SJP. In other words, once the debate had been
brought to the forefront of campus, a much larger subset of the student body became invested in
it. Students from around campus engaged in the debate about Palestine with their peers without
prompting by SJP or its members. This flowering of public discourse was remarkable, and
included the creation of student initiated projects to demonstrate support for divestment, from a
creative YouTube video counteracting pinkwashing to a campaign highlighting the international
support for Palestinian freedom through the creation of divestment-flag icons for use on social
media platforms like Facebook and Twitter43.
To support and keep up with this dynamic, SJP made the process more inclusive by providing an
online forum for students to give feedback about what they would like to see in a divestment
resolution and hosting a Town Hall attended by roughly 100 students designed to consolidate
the feedback and allow any and all interested students to voice their opinions of the resolution
45
and help shape it to fit their interests and concerns44,​
. While during the first campaign, SJP
reached out to the pro-Israel community to discuss the resolution in private, this time the entire
process was conducted publicly, with pro-Israel students included in the larger cross-section of
students providing their input and feedback. Ultimately, these efforts helped to demonstrate the
strength of the ideas undergirding divestment and allowed other students to participate and take
ownership of the resolution. It also put the lie to the claims that SJP was not open to talking to
pro-Israel groups. SJP also moved its annual Palestine Awareness Week up in the yearly calendar,
using it as a teaching week to build education and momentum for divestment. The week
highlighted featured talks by Sherene Seikalay and Nasser Barghouti about the history of
Palestine/Israel, the current facts on the ground, and, most importantly, students' responsibility
to address the issue through campus BDS work46.
 
As with the previous campaign, there was no shortage of challenges to our efforts: it was
eventually revealed that UCLA Hillel staff had hired an outside PR firm, 30 Point Strategies, for
 ​
Queers Divest, “It Gets Better: Coming Out as Pro­Divestment” 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNIWXUVRqAY  
44
 Alejandra Reyes, “​
SJP announces campaign for new divestment resolution” 
http://dailybruin.com/2014/11/03/sjp­announces­campaign­for­new­divestment­resolution/  
45
 Chandini Soni, “​
SJP members address divestment resolution at town hall meeting” 
http://dailybruin.com/2014/11/12/sjp­members­address­divestment­resolution­at­town­hall­meeting/  
46
 ​
Zachary Micheli, “SJP’s Palestine Awareness Week seeks to educate students” 
http://dailybruin.com/2014/11/03/sjps­palestinian­awareness­week­seeks­to­educate­students/ 
43

 

21 
 
advice on how to combat the prospect of divestment passing on the UCLA campus47.
Interestingly, and in contrast to previous anti-divestment efforts, the ‘advice’ consisted of urging
anti-divestment students to refuse to engage SJP or those in solidarity with SJP directly, instead
dismissing SJP and its allies as a collective of "isolated graduate students" and asking all third
parties who would listen to consider why SJP "doesn't condemn ISIS." Regardless of these tactics,
SJP made a serious effort to engage with pro-Israel students on the question of divestment48 .
 
These tactics represented the crumbling of a cohesive and compelling anti-BDS narrative.
Despite narrowly defeating divestment the first time around, it had become clear that their
earlier tactics, which included appeals to authority such as a statement of opposition to BDS
from Samantha Power, had little effect on free-thinking students49. The strategy the second time
around had changed in an obvious manner - if you can't win the debate, attack your opponents.
But this strategy of attack was not only reserved for SJP: pro-Israel students also applied it to the
entire student council. The pro-Israel group "Bruins Against BDS" created a cynical campaign
called "Students First" that argued that by debating divestment the student government had put
other interests above the interests of its own students. This strategy backfired as many on
campus noted that Palestinian students were affected by the Israeli occupation and that students
themselves had initiated and brought forward the divestment campaign. To erase divestment as
a student concern was to erase Palestinian students. On the night of the divestment hearing,
pro-Israel students did not show up, holding an alternative meeting instead. Instead, they sent
four representatives from "Bruins Against BDS" to make a public statement denouncing the
council as "unrepresentative" of UCLA students for voting on a measure that was so "irrelevant"
to student life and well-being, despite the fact that a much more diverse and numerous crowd of
students had mobilized in support of the resolution. One representative from J-Street protested
that the resolution for divestment was insufficiently deferential to the two-state solution
because the divestment logo used the historic map of Palestine, rather than one that delineated
only the Occupied Territories. Nevertheless, having failed to convince the student government,
they declared that they would reject student government50 . These tactics left greater space for
the pro-divestment side to make its case, including one important moment when a video appeal
by Palestinian students from Birzeit University was played for student government members at
the hearing51.

47

 Alex Kane, UCLA Hillel partners with PR firm to fight BDS movement 
http://mondoweiss.net/2014/10/hillel­partners­movement/   
48
 “Letter to Students Opposed to Divestment” 
http://www.sjpbruins.com/news­­opinion/open­letter­to­students­who­may­be­opposed­to­divestment  
49
 Samantha Powers’ statement against BDS, 
http://static1.squarespace.com/static/533b1dc6e4b09e45fee141f3/t/533b9c3fe4b04aa62c005c35/13964155
51495/SamanthaPowers.pdf  
50
 Bruins for Israel, “UCLA Students Reject USAC” 
http://www.bruinsforisrael.com/blog/2014/11/19/ucla­students­reject­usac  
51
 “Palestinian Students' Video Address to USAC,” ​
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kcyqg3hfgks 
 

 

22 
 
In the end, all these strategies proved ineffective, as the new divestment resolution was
successfully passed by an 8-2 margin, making UCLA at the time the 6th out of 9 UC campuses to
have passed a resolution calling for the withdrawal of UC funds from companies profiting off of
53
the oppression of the Palestinian people 52,​
. To be sure, myriad factors contributed to this
result, chief among which is, as always, the staggering displays of solidarity on the part of scores
of student groups and individuals of conscience. As SJP wrote in its year in review,
 
"The overwhelming show of support from the students who came out to provide public
comment as well as the fact that 32 student organizations endorsed our resolution and
15 co-sponsored it as equal partners was a definitive blow to the tired myth of
divestment being ‘divisive.’ It's impossible to even count how many students contributed
to divestment's success in some way - through educating their peers, sharing information,
attending the town hall, talking to council members, presenting to student groups, and
so on. Tellingly, groups opposed to divestment failed to make a case against the
substance of the resolution itself, resorting instead to attacking the process and
organizations supporting this cause54."
 
To this primary factor, one might also add moral indignation at Israel's actions in
Protective Edge; the general shift rightward of the Israeli political scene; increasing skepticism
and criticism of third-party involvement in student political life; the overall transparency of SJP's
campaign; the failure of `dialogue' and `positive investments" as compelling alternatives to
divestment; and the comprehensively stronger set of arguments on the pro-divestment side as
key components that facilitated the passage of the resolution55. To wit, the eight votes for
divestment included both independent council members and one member of Bruins United. In
his statement preceding his vote in favor, this particular council member (Carlos Quintanilla)
noted that he had been conflicted on his position up until the start of the hearing - having been
torn between the claims and pressures of both sides. But hearing the case presented by students
giving public comment, seeing the broad support for the resolution from groups across campus,
and finding no error or fault in the resolution's text, he felt compelled to vote yes56. This was a
particularly poignant moment as SJP had no expectation that he would vote to support the
resolution, assuming that his position as a leader of Bruins United would outweigh other factors
of social justice and moral concern. Indeed, when he made the announcement, the public in the
room reacted in stunned shock.
52

 “A Resolution to Divest from Companies Engaged in Violence Against Palestinians” 
https://www.usac.ucla.edu/documents/resolutions/USAC%20Divestment%20Resolution%20(11­13­2014)_n
o%20sponsors.pdf  
53
 Adam Horowitz, “In landslide, UCLA student govt votes to divest from Israeli occupation” 
http://mondoweiss.net/2014/11/landslide­divestment­resolution/  
54
 SJP at UCLA's 2014­15 Year in Review 
http://www.sjpbruins.com/news­­opinion/sjp­at­uclas­2014­15­year­in­review  
55
 Avinoam Baral “The Real Winner in Israel's Election: BDS” 
http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium­1.648009  
56
 UCLA Divestment Livestream ​
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F01jTkwwzMU&feature=youtu.be  

 

23 
 
This moment made concrete an understanding held by many on campus: the
anti-divestment side of this public debate had no credible case to make. This fact, implicitly
acknowledged by opponents of divestment, is likely what drove individuals to solicit Milstein’s
funding to capture seats on USAC; to rely heavily on anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiments in
their public appeals; to solicit outside PR agencies’ support; and what drove them to ultimately
abandon the cause and fail to show up at the second divestment hearing. For all the advantages
that this well-funded effort might have had, it could only hold back the tide of public opinion for
so long. Summarizing the meaning of the campaign, James Mroz wrote the following:
 
"The victory of this resolution is not just important for what it means to Palestinian
students and those who stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people. It is not just
important for what it means to human rights and the responsibility of all nations to
preserve the human rights of all people. This resolution proves that the students at UCLA
are powerful. It shows that groups cannot simply rely on money or the influence of
outsiders to achieve their goals. Only students can decide the fate of their university, and
that makes me proud to be a Bruin57."

 
"Last lesson. Don't be complacent. Even though I wasn
  evers
  uperv
  ocal, 
in myf
  irsty
  eari
  nS
  JPIg
   ainedt
  hec
  onfidencet
  os
  peaku
  pa
  bouti
  ssues 
and speaka
  boutw
  hatIk
   nowi
  sr
  ight.A
  ndIt
   hinkt
  hati
  nau
   niversitya
  
lot of people want to blend in and just get by. You want to not bet
  oo 
controversial, and just have fun, not be serious. SJP changed my life 
and I am so grateful for it, because Il
  earnedt
  on
  otb
  ec
  omplacenta
  nd 
to speaku
  p.In
    evert
  houghtI
  'dl
  earna
  boutP
  alestinea
  sa
  ne
  ngineering 
student. And SJP changed that. And I'm so grateful for it." ­ Rasha 

57

 James Mroz, “The Hidden Actors in UCLA’s Divestment Campaign” 
http://chicagomonitor.com/2015/07/op­ed­the­hidden­actors­in­uclas­divestment­campaign/  

 

24 
 

Part 4: Looking to the future 
 

In the University of California, 8 out of 9 campuses in the UC system have passed
resolutions calling for divestment from companies that supply arms to Israel and/or profit from
the occupation58 . In early February of 2015 the University of California Students Association, the
statewide body representing the 240,000 students of the UC system, passed a similar resolution
calling for the Regents to divest from these companies59. In December 2014, in response to a call
from Palestinian labor organizations, local UAW 2865, the local union representing over 14,000
student workers, presented a resolution calling on the UC and the UAW International to divest
 SJP West ­ BDS Campaigns ​
http://sjpwest.org/bds/sjp­west­bds­campaigns/  
 On to the Regents: In Historic Vote, UC Student Association Endorses Call for Divestment in Support of 
Palestinian Rights 
http://www.sjpbruins.com/news­­opinion/on­to­the­regents­in­historic­vote­uc­student­association­endorses­
call­for­divestment­in­support­of­palestinian­rights  
58
59

 

25 
 
from the occupation and weapons manufacturers that passed by a 65% majority with a
higher-than-usual voter turnout60. 52% of voting members also signed on to a personal,
non-binding pledge to uphold the academic boycott of Israeli institutions. At the time, this made
UAW 2865 the first major US labor union to back BDS, though the UAW International Executive
Board, responding to an appeal filed by an anti-BDS rank-and-file UAW member, opted to nullify
the vote in December 201561. Though this nullification has since been upheld by the UAW 2865
Public Review Board62, scores of organizations and individuals have expressed their support for
UAW 2865's vote. Across the country, more than 25 campuses have passed divestment motions
through their undergraduate student governments, and major student coalitions such as
Movimiento Estudiantil Chican@ de Aztlan (MECHA), and United Students Against Sweatshops
64
(USAS) have endorsed BDS63,​
.
In January of 2016, one of the UC’s corporate divestment targets, the Irish cement firm
CRH, revealed that it was officially ending its relationship with Israeli cement companies. CRH
had been a divestment target because of its work with the Israeli cement industry to provide
cement used to construct the wall and settlements in the occupied West Bank. CRH’s departure
was hailed as a major victory for both Irish and international divestment campaigners65 .
 
UCLA's divestment victory was an incremental outcome, the result of years of cumulative
student activist efforts. It is also part of a current, wider momentum driving BDS campaigns
forward, even as official instances of repression on all levels become more pronounced66 . But it
is also clear that there is much more work to be done. In the case of South Africa, it took myriad
forms of organizing, including inside and outside the university's political structures and at
60

 “Historic: UAW 2865, UC Student­Worker Union, Becomes First Major U.S. Labor Union to Support 
Divestment from Israel by Membership Vote” 
http://www.uaw2865.org/historic­uaw­2865­uc­student­worker­union­becomes­first­major­u­s­labor­union­to­
support­divestment­from­israel­by­membership­vote/  
61
 ​
Ben Norton, “With help of corporate law firm, small pro­Israel group derails historic UAW union vote 
endorsing boycott” 
http://www.salon.com/2016/01/25/with_help_of_corporate_law_firm_small_pro_israel_group_derails_historic
_uaw_union_vote_endorsing_boycott/  
62
 Palestine Legal, “Union officials suppress member support for BDS” 
http://palestinelegal.org/news/2016/5/25/union­officials­suppress­member­support­for­bds?platform=hootsuit
e  
63
 “National MEChA Endorses Palestinian Boycott Call Against Israel” 
http://www.nationalmecha.org/archives/2012/03/national_mecha_endorses_palestinian_boycott_call_agains
t_israel.php  
64
 “Students kept busy at USAS Summer Convention” 
http://usas.org/2014/08/27/students­kept­busy­at­usas­summer­convention/  
65
 ​
“Irish firm CRH, key target of UC SJPs’ Divestment Campaigns, ends its financial complicity with 
violations of International Law and Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” 
http://sjpwest.org/2016/01/20/crh­divestment/  
66
 Greatest Threat to Free Speech in the West: Criminalizing Activism Against Israeli Occupation 
https://theintercept.com/2016/02/16/greatest­threat­to­free­speech­in­the­west­criminalizing­activism­against
­israeli­occupation/  

 

26 
 
several levels of university activity (including undergraduate, graduate, and faculty votes for
68 ,69
divestment) to build enough pressure on the Regents to divest67 ,​
​. Indeed the organizing
around South Africa, and the contemporary work of groups working for fossil fuel and private
prison divestment show the pathway forward for Palestine solidarity campaigners. The passage
of divestment actions against major coal polluters and private prisons have shown that
consistent and persistent advocacy can result in victories for contemporary student divestment
71
movements (Fossil Free UC and Afrikan Black Coalition)70,​
. It seems clear that campaigners at
UCLA and across the UC system will need to continue expanding the range of divestment
advocacy to bring a comparable level of pressure to bear on the University before it too divests.
But what is also clear from the experiences of this campaign and the lessons gleaned from past
movements is that the process of engaging in this organizing is itself tremendously important. It
was through the divestment campaigns that SJP organizers were able to reach and educate the
most students on campus, to activate its largest numbers of students into contributors in some
form or another, and to move the debate about Palestine forward in a significant manner.
It must be said that SJP's campaign worked hard to center Palestinian voices in numerous
ways. Presentations to student groups, meetings with student senators, and presentations during
divestment hearings were all led by Palestinian students, deliberately. The experiences of
Palestinian students vis-a-vis the occupation were also instrumental to explaining to the campus
why the issue of Palestine mattered in their local context. These efforts put into practice the
idea of resituating Palestinians in the US as a group with claims that should be heard alongside
the claims of Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza strip, and '48 territories. Moreover, the success
of this campaign rested in large part on the support of other groups on campus. This pattern
highlights a framework of organizing that Loubna Qutami has called the Palestine analytic: a
philosophy that recognizes the liberation of Palestine as inextricably bound up in the liberation
of all oppressed peoples72.
While the growing number of adherents to the cause for Palestinian freedom and
self-determination, as well as the attendant surge of BDS victories are cause for celebration, the
possibility for the student solidarity movement to translate these gains into effective pressure on
Israel rests on the ability to continue this organizing work and build upon it. Divestment
67

Mahader Tesfai, “UC Divestment From South Africa” 
http://scalar.usc.edu/works/livinghistoryproject/uc­divestment­from­south­africa  
68
 Michigan State University “African Activist Archive Project” http://africanactivist.msu.edu/ 
69
 Clarity Films, “Have You Heard from Johannesburg?” 
http://www.clarityfilms.org/haveyouheardfromjohannesburg/episodes.php  
70
 Fossil Free USA, “University of California Begins Fossil Fuel Divestment” 
http://gofossilfree.org/usa/press­release/university­of­california­begins­fossil­fuel­divestment/  
71
 Afrikan Black Coalition, “Afrikan Black Coalition Accomplishes UC Prison Divestment!“ 
http://afrikanblackcoalition.org/2015/12/18/afrikan­black­coalition­accomplishes­uc­prison­divestment/  
72
 Loubna Qutami, “Rethinking the Single Story: BDS, Transnational Cross Movement Building and the 
Palestine Analytic” 
http://socialtextjournal.org/periscope_article/rethinking­the­single­story­bds­transnational­cross­movement­b
uilding­and­the­palestine­analytic/  

 

27 
 
campaigning both moves public opinion and translates that opinion into institutional pressure
to end the occupation. By continuing to push divestment at the graduate and faculty level on
campuses, and by working to translate those votes into changes in UC investments, campaigners
can do exactly that. That is a long and difficult road, and one that will continue to present many
challenges, but the progress made in the past several years indicates that significant change can
be accomplished on campuses in a relatively short period of time, and that more progress is
indeed possible.

 
 

 

28 
 
 
“Watching our first divestment resolution not pass the first time we proposed it was 
incredibly draining, bothm
  entallya
  nde
  motionally.W
  eh
  adw
  orkedt
  irelesslyb
  uildinga
  
strong base withinS
  JP,s
  trengtheningc
  onnectionsw
  itho
  therc
  ommunitieso
  nc
  ampus,a
  nd 
meeting with studentc
  ouncilm
  embersa
  crosst
  hep
  oliticals
  pectrum.W
  eh
  add
  edicateds
  o 
much time and energy to shifting the conversations on Palestine around campus, and 
though the resolution did not pass that first time, Id
  eeplyb
  elievei
  tw
  asah
   ugea
  nd 
necessary success. I will never forget sitting in Ackerman GrandB
  allroom,t
  hel
  argest 
space on campus, watching hundreds of students gathering to discuss Palestine for 12 
hours straight. Hundreds of students from so many diverse communities came to support 
our efforts, and not just a surface support ­ people were incredibly passionate and 
well­educated on the issue. That night, we saw the fruits of our efforts, and we 
witnessed a shift on campus, one we would be unable to predict, even a year earlier. 
Everyone was talking about Palestine. Random students in classes, inc
  ampuse
  levators, 
on Bruin Walk, were talking about Palestine and the divestment vote. I had never 
experienced anything liket
  hat,a
  ndIk
   newt
  hatw
  ew
  ouldo
  nlyc
  ontinueb
  uildingo
  nt
  hat 
awareness. 

 
 
After the resolution first failed, I was overwhelmed with emotiona
  nde
  xhaustion.A
  sa
  
Palestinian student, Ic
  ouldn'tc
  omet
  ot
  ermsw
  itht
  hef
  actt
  hatac
   ouncilo
  fs
  tudents, 
after being educated on the issue for months, would actively choose to continue 
investing in an occupation that my family lived under. To be honest, it became 
difficult to come to campus for quite some time. Ih
  adn
  everf
  elts
  ou
  nwelcomea
  ndo
  ut 
of place. I was very frustrated with student politics, with people prioritizing 
party­line loyalty over human lives, over the lives and rights of my family members. 
Despite knowing Palestine had widespread support across so many communities, I didn't 
know how to grapple with the fact that those in positions of power were ready to 
undermine our efforts any chance they had. 

 
 
The second time we proposed divestment, we had been building on so much momentum. The 
second vote was an expansion of the education and cross­community solidarity we had 
been prioritizing overt
  hep
  reviousf
  ewy
  ears.T
  hen
  ightt
  hatd
  ivestmentw
  asb
  roughtu
  p 
in November 2014 is one of the most memorable to me, and one of my proudest as an 
organizer. I had been organizing with SJP at UCLA for over four years at that point, 
and watching our efforts come full circle and culminating in an overwhelming majority 
vote in favor of divestment was so empowering. Seeing the further shift in campus 
discussion even from the first vote in February 2014 tot
  hatN
  ovember,w
  asi
  ncredible. 
When  we sat in Ackerman and watched student after student give public comment 
supporting divestment, withn
  os
  tudentso
  pposingi
  t,Ik
   neww
  ithoutad
   oubtt
  hatw
  eh
  ad 
reached a tipping point. Those opposing divestment could no longere
  ngagei
  nal
   ogical 
discussion around Palestine and divestment. We had won the logicala
  rgument,1
  00%,a
  nd 
it was so clear that night, when even a council member on the conservative slate 
unexpectedly voted in favor of divestment. I knew there was no going back after we 
reached that point.”  
­ Dana 

 

29 
 

 
With many thanks to the student Groups endorsing 
divestment 
Afrikan Student Union
American Indian Student Association
Al-Talib Newsmagazine
Armenian Student Association
Asian Pacific Coalition
Bengali Students Association
Bhagat Puran Singh Health Initiative
Black Law Students Association
Bruin Feminists for Equality
FEM Magazine
Fossil Free UCLA
Improving Dreams, Equality, Access, and Success (IDEAS)
Incarcerated Youth Tutorial Project
Indus
Jewish Voice for Peace
Law Students for Justice in Palestine
MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán) de UCLA
Mentors for Academic and Peer Support (MAPS)
Muslim Law Student Association
Muslim Student Association
Native Roots
Pakistani Student Association
Project One
Queer Alliance
Samahang Pilipino
Social Awareness Network for Activism through Art (SANAA)
Student Coalition Against Labor Exploitation (SCALE)
UMMA Volunteer Project
United Afghan Club
United Arab Society
Vietnamese Student Union
Womyn of Color Collective at UCLA Law School
 
Contact us at sjpucla1@gmail.com