We write to ask you to support ending our university's investments in violence against Palestinians.
We know. It doesn't sound like much but its a lot to ask. Given the Democratic Party’s position on this issue, it feels like a far fetched request. But we ask you to support divestment because in addition to being Democrats you are also students empowered with the ability to make your own decisions, and who surely do not want to see your university invest in and profit from the suffering of others. By now many of you know that you have Palestinian peers at UCLA who are affected by the violence this university is investing in, so this is a topic of great urgency.
Today, the leadership of the Democratic Party looks much like the Republican Party when it comes to blanket support for the Israeli government's most destructive policies. It puts no pressure on the Israeli government to end its destructive settlement enterprise, it votes against important resolutions supporting Palestinian statehood in the United Nations, and it threatens the Palestinians to force them not to pursue claims through the International Court. The Democratic Party voted this summer to support Israel's brutal war on Gaza in language so incredibly vicious that, as Peter Beinart noted, "it didn’t even acknowledge any Palestinians had died." Is this the Democratic Party you support? Is this the type of position you wish to carry on as the party's future leaders? Is this the attitude you take towards your Palestinian peers? We doubt those are positions you endorse because we know that at the grassroots, the relationship between progressives and Israel-Palestine looks much different than it does at the top. At the grassroots we see the 2012 convention’s delegate voice vote against including an extreme pro-Israel position in the party platform. We see protests of US senators who blindly support Israel to embarrassing degrees. And we see the "Obama coalition" of people of color, young people, and liberals rapidly shifting towards supporting justice rather than the occupation. According to the Gallup Poll, people of color opposed Israel's actions during Operation Protective Edge by a 24 point margin. People under thirty opposed those actions by a 26 point margin. And the traditional support that self-identified liberals once showed for Israel’s policies is evaporating, leaving them equally likely to support Palestinian freedom.
You know as well as anyone else that investing in violence is wrong. And if you've been keeping up with the news, you know that the peace process, which earlier you had posed as an alternative to divestment, is, to put it mildly, not producing results. Reports from the Obama Administration show that senior State Department officials attribute responsibility for the failure of the Kerry peace plan to the Netanyahu government's intransigence. But even if the peace process was showing signs of producing a just solution, that solution could not possibly include Caterpillar bulldozing homes and Hewlett-Packard servicing checkpoints throughout the West Bank. Regardless, in Kerry's own words, continuing down the path that the Israeli government is on is a recipe for apartheid conditions in Israel-Palestine. Unlike Kerry, we consider that term to already be applicable, but that difference isn’t particularly significant. The bottom line is that even from your perspective there should be no good reason to support business as usual - its killing Palestinians, making a mockery of American claims to support human rights, and turning Israelis into occupiers.
That means that now is the time to get a little courageous and make your party start to realize it has to change. If you want your party's leadership to take a more humane approach to this issue then you are going to have to make it do so.
We understand that you are unlikely to view your relationship to Palestine in the same way we do (ie: from a position of solidarity), but we still think that on your own terms, divestment is something that you should support. We encourage you to get involved in this process, to ask us any questions you want (even ones you're afraid to ask), to make suggestions about our resolution, and to endorse divestment and support it when it comes to USAC. We would love to continue this conversation in person in whatever way is most convenient to you.
SJP at UCLA Divestment Organizers