Cal on Palestine - Page 2

UC Berkeley Student Senate passes divestment measure, but pro-Israel opponents pushing hard for veto

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Cal student President Connor Landgraf, shown here on a free trip to Israel last year, will decide the bill's fate.

Speaking at American Israel Public Affairs Committee's annual policy conference in 2010, Leadership Development Director Jonathan Kessler vowed to nip the divestment movement in the bud: "How are we going to beat back the anti-Israel divestment resolution at Berkeley? We're going to make sure that pro-Israel students take over the student government and reverse the vote. This is how AIPAC operates in our nation's capital. This is how AIPAC must operate on our nation's campuses."

Leading up to last week's vote, pro-Israel organizations moved to build on campus opposition to divestment. AIPAC flew out student senator and divestment opponent Mihir Deo to its annual policy conference in February.

"Divestment is very extreme, it's equating Israel with Sudan and South Africa," Deo told the Guardian following the vote. "The Jewish community is pretty hurt over this." Deo clarified that his experience at the AIPAC conference did not motivate him to vote against divestment. But he does think that Landgraf should exercise his veto. Landgraf's change of thinking may have also been influenced by a brief trip he took to Israel in January 2012 with Project Interchange. The project, founded by the American Jewish Committee (AJC), sends up-and-coming student leaders to Israel. The trips are free and intended to allow participants to "experience Israeli society, connect with their Israeli counterparts, and learn about Israel's extensive contributions in their field."

Despite photos of Landgraf on the organization's Facebook page, the student body president would not confirm that he participated in the trip, calling it a "personal matter." But since the passage of the divestment bill, the AJC's Israel Action Network issued action alert calling on Landgraf to veto the bill.

On April 18, UC Chancellor Robert Birgeneau announced his opposition to divestment, promising the bill would have no effect of the UC's investment decisions.