Student Government at UC Davis Divests from Israel
February 22 2024
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Students at the University of California (UC), Davis, have passed a bill that directly divests student government funds from the Israeli regime, mandating that the expenditure of student fees will now be compliant with the principles of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. 

According to an Instagram statement released on Saturday, Feb. 17, by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at UC, Davis in collaboration with the Palestinian Youth Movement, the divestment bill passed will “institutionalize a boycott of [Associated Students, University of California, Davis (ASUCD)] funds in accordance with BDS guidelines.” 

The 2023-2024 ASUCD budget ran just over $19 million dollars, with the recent BDS decision redirecting those funds to ventures outside of the BDS National Committee’s list of companies linked to Israel: 

“The bill that was passed prevents any of the $20 million in the ASUCD budget from being spent on companies complicit in the occupation and genocide of Palestinians, as specified by the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions movement. From McDonald’s to Sabra to Chevron, none of our student fees that fund ASUCD operations will be used to financially support 30+ companies that are complicit in Zionist violence,” the Instagram post read. 

While this divestment does not impact the university’s operating budget, only the student government’s, this divestment victory was long-fought according to the SJP group at the university. 

“In 2021, our student government joined countless governing bodies across the country in passing a resolution in support of the BDS movement Universities nationwide continue passing resolutions supporting BDS, but this is no longer enough. We attend an institution that directly funds the genocide of our people back home in Palestine.”

The UC, Davis student body utilized their 2021 resolution as a springboard for the monumental decision made last week, also using their student government as the avenue to enact this change — the passing vote demonstrating the power of the collective will of the student body over Zionist funding: 

“Our UC, Davis student body has made history in directly cutting monetary ties with Zionist organizations, with an overwhelming 12 out of 14 voting yes. We said NO MORE MONEY FOR GENOCIDE and demanded that our student government listen, and they did. We have turned out words of resolution into actions of divestment.” 

This is not the first time that the UC, Davis student government voted in favor of divestment. In 2015, a resolution to divest from corporations profiting from Israel’s Occupation passed with eight voting yes, two against, and two abstentions, according to The Electronic Intifada. In 2019, however, the resolution was deemed ‘unconstitutional’ by the student government’s judicial council. 

The 2024 decision, however, comes on the heels of a national divestment campaign launched by National Students for Justice in Palestine, the Palestinian Youth Movement, and Dissenters on Thursday, Feb. 15. 

The campaign demands that universities across the U.S. immediately divest from companies complicit in Israel’s Occupation of Palestine, end of university support for the Occupation and war profiteering, and protect Palestinian students and pro-Palestinian activism. The campaign also calls for an immediate ceasefire to end the genocide in Palestine and the end of all U.S. military aid to Israel. 

UC, Davis now leads this charge, and the university’s SJP group has called for other universities to follow in their footsteps: “Now that we know that real divestment from genocidal companies is possible, we urge you all to follow suit in creating a domino effect of divestment nationwide.”

Movement responses to the decision have been celebratory and have ultimately declared the decision a victory, one that builds momentum toward movement goals. A viral X post in response to the passed bill notes that “university divestment efforts played a massive role in ending South African apartheid.” 

Other social media users offered clarity on the decision: “This is a victory worth celebrating, but it isn’t UC Davis divesting, it is the student government, which in total has a $20M budget. The portion that goes to boycott companies is much smaller, eg. the gas used in student-run buses.”

Ultimately, the decision to divest from Israel represents a powerful turning point in the national campus fight for Palestinian freedom and signals popular student support for the Palestinian cause. SJP at UC, Davis echoes this sentiment: 

“The Palestinian liberation movement at UC, Davis has only grown more powerful and unified with the unwavering support of our community members… We could not have done this without you.” 

Students and faculty across the country have been actively campaigning to urge their universities to divest from Israel. Some, like UC Los Angeles and the University of Michigan, succeeded in passing such resolutions, but whether university leadership will heed their call is yet to be seen. Others, like students at Brown University, Northeastern University, and Princeton University, have had their calls denied or ignored. Protests continue across campuses in the United States as students raise the pressure to divest, including at Stanford University, Rutgers University, Georgetown University, Boston University, and the University of Minnesota, among others.

About The Author: 

Anna Rajagopal is a South Asian Jewish organizer and writer based in Houston, Texas. Anna's work focuses on the geographies of colonized identity under and in resistance to empire.

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