On December 4, graduate students at the University of California will have the opportunity to pursue justice by exercising their vote on two related issues. The first is whether our union, Local UAW 2865, should join the global movement for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) to be enacted against Israel until that nation-state has complied with international law and respects the rights of all Palestinian people. The second measure asks each of us to personally commit to participation in the academic boycott against Israeli educational institutions.
As a grad student, a labor activist, and as a Jew, I will be voting yes on both questions.
If the first question passes, we will call upon the University of California and the UAW International to divest from and decline to conduct business with Israeli state institutions as well as the international corporations that are complicit in the human rights violations committed by Israel against the Palestinian people. Our Local will also call upon our federal government to end military aid to Israel.
As we are reminded at every turn, 2014 is the quinquagenary of the Free Speech movement. Our institution is grounded in the belief that educational excellence can model respectful, civil communication and promote mutual respect. (Regents Policy 4400) If UC is to accomplish these objectives, it cannot simultaneously invest in entities that are structured to do exactly the opposite.
What does BDS mean?
This proposes both a traditional consumer boycott of goods and products, and an academic boycott. What is the latter? We are asked to pledge that we will personally refuse to take part in research, conferences, events, exchange programs, or other activities that are sponsored by Israeli universities complicit in the occupation of Palestine and the settler-colonial policies of the state of Israel. The boycott is directed against institutions, not individual scholars. In fact, we are actively encouraged to collaborate with individual Israelis, Palestinians, and others in the region who oppose the occupation of Palestine and related policies of the state of Israel.