Public comments fixate on BDS

Public comments

More than 15 people passionate about the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement came to Associated Students, Inc. Senate meeting to voice their beliefs about student government’s recent divestment resolutions in an extended public comments period.

During last week’s ASI meeting, student senators discussed a resolution suggesting the university divest from companies that gain at the expense of Palestinian people.

The resolution was initially intended to be discussed at yesterday’s meeting, but the senate tabled the reading until next week because one of the authors was out of town.

President Jane Close Conoley was one of the many commenters who spoke during public comments. Conoley, who is against the passing of the resolution, made her stance on the resolution public in a letter sent to ASI senate and the Daily 49er on Tuesday.

“I come here today to express my opposition to the resolution that will be read again next week,” Conoley said during the public comments. “I would like to emphasize is that my concern is for the safety on campus to those students who you [the senators] represent.”

ASI’s resolution calls for “socially responsible investing [in] companies complacent in and profiting from Palestinian oppression.”

Jeffrey Blutinger, co-director of Jewish Studies, also voiced his disapproval of the divestment resolution. He compared the resolution’s purpose to the efforts of the Arab League, an organization of Arab countries that boycotted Jewish companies in Israel and Palestine.

“Like the Arab League, the resolution before you defines all of Israel as a legal occupation,” Blutinger said. “This is not about advancing the peace process, but using economic weapons to damage another country. It’s not about two states meeting side by side in peace — Israel and Palestine. This resolution is not about the peace process. It’s about advancing the war process.”

Not everyone opposed ASI’s efforts.

Spencer Potiker, a Jewish American student, believed the atrocious histories of the treatment of Jewish people don’t warrant Israeli efforts to “form a settler colonial state and put Palestinians in refugee camps.”

Former senator of College of Natural Science and Mathematics, Bilal Zaheem said he wanted the senators to “separate emotion from logic.” Zaheem said he hopes the BDS movement passes on campus in the upcoming weeks.

“There were atrocities committed on both sides,” Zaheem said. “[One] must look at the state of Palestine and see how has there been over a 79 percent reduction in … Palestinian lands over the past 50 years.”

CSULB alumnus Jonathan Grunin said he was “very disturbed” by the resolution, and said it attacks the safety of Jewish students on campus. He criticized rhetoric that took place toward the beginning of the meeting and said that, while ASI senators insist that this is not an attack on Jewish students but rather a response to territorial occupation, they do not have the authority to determine what is and is not anti-Semitic.

“As someone who is Israeli, someone who is Jewish, someone who is gay, I would never, ever tell someone else how to take an attack on them,” Grunin said. “I don’t expect people who are not Jewish and [not in] our shoes to tell us what anti-Semitism is. The feelings that the Jewish students have on our campus when they say that BDS is an anti-Semitic movement are the ones who get to communicate to you what anti-Semitism is.”

After the first round of public comments, ASI Vice President Logan Vournas voiced their response to Conoley’s letter and said that students have put their trust in voting for senators to represent the student body.

“I value the input of all of our partners in the shared governance across CSULB,” Vournas said. “But my duty and role begins and ends in the representation and advocacy of student voices, especially those who have been systematically and continuously silenced in a system that benefits off the hegemonic control of those who are in charge.”

The ASI Senate has tabled the further readings of the divestment resolution until next week.

New business

Student senators also discussed myriad new senate resolutions during the meeting.

In a bylaw amendment for increased inclusivity, the ASI Senate sought to change pronouns in the bylaws to represent all genders. The pronouns “they/them/their” would replace “he/she,” “him/her” and “his/hers.”

In addition, ASI deliberated changing the second Monday of October from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day on the university calendar.

Senator-at-large Yasmin Elasmar called the university’s acknowledgement of Columbus Day problematic because “the university was built on indigenous lands.”

ASI also talked about a resolution to encourage the university to adopt “Books Not Bombs,” a petition that offers support to Syrian students.

The resolution would urge the university to offer scholarships to Syrian students, according to senator-at-large Hilda Jurado. She said that as a result of the ongoing war in Syria, many schools and universities were targets for bombings.

“Many Syrian students had to drop out of school,” Jurado said. “What our resolution is saying is we encourage CSULB to plan for at least two Syrian students to come to campus for free.”

Furthermore, student government talked about resolutions on the creation of a Middle Eastern Studies major and the installation of vending machines and hydration stations near the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

All these resolutions passed for their first readings.

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