Students of all races, ethnicities, and religions came together in celebration, on March 6th, in which a historic moment for the University of California Riverside took place. This marked the night that ASUCR Senate passed the Boycott and Divestment Sanctions bill, BDS, brought forward by Students for Justice in Palestine. SJP’s bill urged the members of the Senate chamber for support in helping divest and boycott from companies that assist in the illegal occupation of Israel in Palestine, and in the continued dehumanization of the Palestinians in their native land. A similar bill was passed several months ago in UC Irvine, in which a unanimous vote passed the bill. UCR became the second University in California to pass the divestment bill. The BDS movement is an ongoing cause that is practiced on an individual basis by many, but the passing of the bill will help expand the cause on an institutional level as well.

The University is not invested in companies that support the Palestinian struggle, in any form; therefore, it should not invest in companies that support the apartheid state of Israel either. Such companies include, but are not limited to, Caterpillar machinery, which is used to demolish Palestinian homes and uproot their olive trees (a primary source of food and money supply), and HP computers, which are used at the frequent checkpoints, limiting Palestinians’ freedom of movement. Their basic human rights are stripped away and their voices aren’t being heard, so the bare minimum that one can do is to step back and look at the issue from a neutral perspective. In doing so, one should choose not to continue to fund participating companies. The members of Students for Justice in Palestine, along with the support of over 35 different student organizations, feel that it is imperative for the University to play a neutral role in the politics of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. In passing the bill with a majority vote of 11-5, ASUCR Senate spoke on behalf of UC Riverside in condemning companies utilized in halting freedom for the Palestinians, at least on a symbolic level.

Students for Justice in Palestine was first founded at UC Riverside in 2004, and has been an active social justice group, raising awareness of the conflict in the region. Through tabling, weekly group meetings, screening documentaries, and setting up events around campus for Palestine Awareness Week, the members of the organization have been successful in reaching out to students and faculty members about the matter, with factual and historic credibility. After working to establish awareness about the conflict, Students for Justice in Palestine decided to join the BDS movement and aim to make a bigger impact through the organization.

It is amazing to see so many student organizations come together for a just cause and put so much effort to implement social change on a larger scale. One does not need to be Palestinian or affiliated with Palestine to empathize with their daily injustices and struggles. The divestment bill has been, and will continue to be criticized by opposition but, if thoroughly evaluated, the bill does not discriminate against any religion or student organization. In fact, many Jewish and Israeli students were in support of the passing of the bill as well. This is a humanitarian issue, not an ethnic/religious dispute of land ownership. The BDS bill was a necessary action put forward by SJP and in passing it, UC Riverside made the right moral decision. My hopes is that the chancellor will take action and do whatever is in her power to voice the decision of ASUCR and over 18 thousand students in the near future. I predict that the passing of the divestment bill will serve as a gateway to further social changes on campus, and that is the ultimate victory. Congratulations, Students for Justice in Palestine.

Reema Hantuli
Students for Justice in Palestine