On October 22nd, the UCLA Undergraduate Students Association Council voted to defeat a resolution that threatened the ability for students to pursue divestment from companies tied to the Israeli occupation. The resolution, entitled “A Resolution In Support of Positive Steps Towards an Israeli-Palestinian Peace" framed divestment as a source of tension on campus, while also calling for "positive investment" in a basket of companies loosely affiliated with both Israelis and Palestinians. . During the effort to defeat this bill, we received solidarity statements from around the world, explaining the futility of the bill's "positive investment" clauses and the importance of divestment as a non-violent response to the occupation. For more, please see our press release. Here is a statement signed by many members of Jewish Voice for Peace's Rabbinical Council:
As rabbis, communal leaders and members of the Jewish community, we oppose the positive investment bill currently being considered by the student council at UCLA. Israel's system of illegal Occupation is acknowledged as a reality by the international community, the United States, the United Nations and hundreds of thousands of activists around the world, including tens of thousands of Jews in this country, Europe and Israel. The question for many of us: how do we most effectively pursue the end of Occupation?
The economic impact of Occupation includes Israel's exploitation of Palestinian natural resources, creating a cheap labor pool, captive markets (due to imposed restrictions on Palestinian trade), destruction of farmland and infrastructure, and the creeping annexation of Palestinian territory in the West Bank and inside the green line by Israeli settlement, all of which are enforced by Israel's military rule. Occupation requires responses designed to end this system of economic, political and social repression and not actions that serve to entrench the status quo. Positive investment is not the right antidote to Israel's violations of international law because it does not address Israel's suppression of Palestinian economy, welfare, culture, human rights or the abrogation of Palestinian dignity.
In addition, the Israeli military establishment and settlers regularly destroy Palestinian property and infrastructure, including farmland, wells, water cisterns, and irrigation equipment. Gaza, according to many researchers, will soon become uninhabitable as the result of Occupation. Students and universities would be better served in supporting the strategy and tactics preferred by the Palestinian community of the holy land which has asked the international community to use economic pressure of nonviolent boycotts, divestment and sanctions to target illegal and repressive state policies described above, as well as targeting corporations that profit from Occupation. While there are many legitimate efforts to positively support Palestinians to remain on their land such as Palestinian initiated partnerships between Palestinian villages and religious groups, they are not represented by the so called movement for positive investment such as the one described in this bill.
Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, Rabbi Alissa Wise, Rabbi Joseph Berman, Rabbi Brian Walt, Rabbi Rain Zohav, Cantor Michael Davis from the Rabbinic Council of Jewish Voice for Peace