Debate Over Israel Divestment Bill Continues

Text of President Smelko's Veto »

Click here to view the text of ASUC President Will Smelko's veto of the senate's Israel divestment bill.


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In the wake of a presidential veto, the debate within the ASUC student government on whether to urge divestment from two companies contracting with the Israeli military is far from over.

ASUC President Will Smelko vetoed a bill Wednesday-passed by a 16-4 vote in the senate a week before-that called for the ASUC and UC to divest from General Electric and United Technologies because the companies, according to the bill, provide Israel with the technology used to attack civilian populations in Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. While some senators said they will seek to override the veto with a two-thirds majority vote, other senators are reconsidering their support for the bill.

A possible senate vote to override the veto will likely not take place until on or after April 14.

The bill had drawn national attention, spurring more than 2,000 e-mails to senators from proponents and opponents worldwide. Some senators said the additional input may lead them to vote against overriding the veto.

"I really thought I was doing the right thing ... but in hindsight I think we should have talked about it more," said Nhu Nhu Nguyen, a Student Action senator who voted for the bill.

The vote at the March 17-18 meeting followed about six hours of discussion and 80 speakers for and against the bill. But Smelko said in a veto statement that the bill did not adequately outline an effective divestment strategy or address possible effects on UC and ASUC finances and "the perception of the bill as a symbolic attack on a specific community of our fellow students."

SQUELCH! Senator Emily Carlton, a sponsor of the bill, said it was "some of the best work" the ASUC has done this year, adding that senators had adequate opportunity to discuss the bill.

"President Smelko was not in attendance," she said. "In this case it is not democratic for one voice to silence the 16 who were better informed."

Smelko-who could not be reached for comment Sunday-said in a veto statement that the bill has a "one-sided focus on a specific country that lacks important historical context and understanding".

Tom Pessah, a member of the UC Berkeley chapter of Students For Justice in Palestine and an author of the bill, said that the bill should not be construed to be a condemnation of Israel but rather as an action against General Electric and United Technologies for their involvement in alleged war crimes.

But the bill may be in violation of the ASUC Constitution, according to Attorney General Kevin Gibson who filed a charge sheet last week alleging that the bill should have been scrutinized by the senate finance committee prior to a vote by the entire senate.

The Judicial Council rejected the charge sheet because the bill has been vetoed and is not in effect. Gibson said he will refile the charge sheet should Smelko's veto be overridden.

Tags: ISRAEL, ASUC PRESIDENT WILL SMELKO, STUDENTS FOR JUSTICE IN PALESTINE, TIKVAH: STUDENTS FOR ISRAEL, PALESTINE, GENERAL ELECTRIC, UNITED TECHNOLOGIES, ASUC JUDICIAL COUNCIL, ASUC SENATE


Zach E.J. Williams is the university news editor. Contact him at [email protected]



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