This post is the sixth in a series of twelve exploring the student activism stories that are likely to make news on the American campus in the 2010-11 academic year.
Critics of Israeli government policies introduced resolutions in two University of California student governments this spring asking their institutions to divest from several companies that have contracts with the Israeli military. Neither of those resolutions was ultimately enacted, though one — at Berkeley — came close. (It passed by a wide margin, but was vetoed by the student government president, then was debated again several times before falling one vote short of an override.)
Even if they’d passed, the divestment resolutions wouldn’t have had any immediate practical effect. Student governments in UC don’t set university investment policy, after all. But the Berkeley resolution attracted a surprising amount of attention off campus, with Desmond Tutu, Noam Chomsky, and Naomi Klein making public statements of support while an AIPAC official declared that his group would respond by making sure that “pro-Israel students take over the student government” at Berkeley and wherever else such a resolution appeared.
It was all a little weird.
And it all happened weeks before the May 31 raid on an aid ship that was trying to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. That raid, conducted by the Israeli Defense Forces, left nine dead aboard the ship and sparked widespread international outrage.
A divestment resolution is unlikely to make much headway at Berkeley this year, as much of the new student government’s leadership has already announced its opposition. But given the amount of attention last year’s efforts garnered, and given the fact that a UN investigation of the flotilla raid is expected to release a preliminary report on that incident sometime next month, it seems a safe bet that we’ll be seeing this tactic again soon.