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May 3, 2016

CC Members Explain Their Divestment Votes

Some representatives asked to give explanations of their votes on the divestment amendments in response to The Maroon’s poll.

The two amendments (the resolution can be found here):

Cottrell’s Amendment: Insert between the two “let it be resolved clauses,” "Let it be further resolved that the resolved that the College Council of the University of Chicago affirms the right of Jewish self-determination and the continued existence of Israel.”

Viola's Amendment: Delete the paragraph “WHEREAS, in 2005, Palestinian civil society…” and the following 4 paragraphs.”

First-year representative Salma Elkhaoudi:

Cottrell’s Amendment (No): Calvin’s amendment made the resolution political, as if we (or the resolution) were at any point contesting the legitimacy of the Jewish state of Israel. Even more than that, it would have brought about an unnecessary wave of ambiguity and discussion as to which borders constitute “Israel” in his amendment. To quote the resolution itself:

“WHEREAS, this resolution does not advocate for a specific political solution (one-state, two-state, etc.) to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, and, WHEREAS, this resolution seeks not to condemn a country, a people, or a community, but has the sole intent of ending our University’s support for corporations that engage in and profit from human rights violations in Palestine; WHEREAS, this resolution condemns, in the strongest possible terms, all manifestations of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia; therefore,”

Viola’s Amendment (No): Mike’s amendment to remove four clauses from the resolution introduced historic inaccuracy to the resolution. This divestment resolution didn’t materialize from a campus-led initiative. It was derived from the Palestinian call in 2005. The UChicago divestment resolution would have never existed if the BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] movement hadn’t begun, and the BDS movement would have never been initiated had the Palestinian people not called for BDS in 2005.

First-year representative Qudsiyyah Shariyf:

Cottrell’s Amendment (No): Personally, I certainly recognize and honor the right to Jewish self-determination, but I had problems with the lack of definition of Israel. I did not feel comfortable voting yes to this amendment because I wanted Israel to be specifically defined as “Israel defined by the United Nations 1947 ruling.”

Viola’s Amendment (No): I did not support the deletion of the paragraphs referencing BDS, because divestment resolution came about as a result of the Palestinian civil society calling for BDS. In voting to support the amendment and the resolution with this amendment, I would have been suggesting a false sense of ownership over the idea of divestment as a means to free the Palestinian people.

Second-year representative Preethi Raju:

Cottrell’s Amendment (Yes) and Viola’s amendment (Yes): I voted yes on both because several students were concerned the original amendment was hinting towards anti-Semitism because of the connection to BDS.

Second-year representative Calvin Cottrell:

Cottrell’s Amendment (Yes) and Viola’s amendment (Yes): The reason I proposed my amendment, and the reason I voted for Mike Viola’s amendment, is because I feel they were common sense compromises meant to address claims of anti-Semitism around the BDS resolution. I feel that approving these two amendments would have addressed many of the concerns brought to us by anti-BDS students. I also feel the failure to include these compromise amendments speaks volumes.

Second-year representative Michael Meng:

Cottrell’s Amendment (No): I voted no to the amendment of “Let it be further resolved that the resolved that the College Council of the University of Chicago affirms the right of Jewish self-determination and the continued existence of Israel” as it does not equally acknowledge the state of Palestine. Additionally, the resolution itself does not seek to condemn a nation or people but this would create that intent.

Viola’s Amendment (No): I also voted no to the amendment to delete the paragraph “Whereas the Palestinians as a society…” and the following four paragraphs because it makes the resolution nonfunctional.

Third-year representative Peggy Xu:

Cottrell’s Amendment (No): I opposed the first amendment because I had qualms about removing the divestment resolution from the very movement that gave rise to it. I understand the concerns that many students have with the BDS movement—and have problems myself with the political stances that many of its leaders have taken—but I do support the (narrower) 2005 Palestinian BDS call to which the resolution responds, which is a rights-based call with three demands of Israel that makes no mention of a one-state or two-state solution. Taking the proposal out of its organizational context as a response to the 2005 Palestinian BDS call would have dramatically weakened its ability to achieve anything at all by way of human rights.

Viola’s Amendment (No): I opposed the second amendment because I thought that the already-added clause that “this resolution does not advocate for a specifically political solution” better represented my desire to keep the language of the resolution distinctly rights-based. The concerns voiced by CC [College Council] members after the initial proposal of that amendment (i.e. what we would mean exactly by “Jewish state” in terms of geographical boundaries, whether we should then add an affirmation of the Palestinian right to self-determination as well) reinforced this desire. I support the right to Jewish self-determination and the continued existence of a Jewish state, but I opposed the amendment in order to keep the language as rights-based and free of political ambiguities as possible.

Third-year representative Katherine Shen:

Cottrell’s Amendment (Abstain) and Viola’s amendment (Yes): My stance on BDS is that it’s not in the purview of CC to comment on any sort of political issue and I hope my votes reflected my attempts to de-politicize Student Government.

Fourth year representative Mike Viola:

Cottrell’s Amendment (Yes) and Viola’s amendment (Yes): My yes vote on Calvin Cottrell’s amendment and my proposal of my own amendment were meant to reconcile the goal of ending the occupation of Palestine with the right of Jewish students on campus to feel safe and the right of Jewish self-determination. On the Friday before the vote, an individual who presented the BDS resolution to College Council told me that I should vote for her resolution because, in her words, any Jew who did not support BDS was “brainwashed.”

As someone who does not identify with Jewish culture, this immediately signaled a central sentiment of hatred and hypocrisy behind the original proposal that could have been mitigated had we passed such amendments that would have disaffiliated us fromBDS but left us in pursuit of the positive goals that were also in this resolution.Unfortunately, most of College Council did not agree with this and ultimately cast anti-Semitic votes in favor of BDS. After our vote, the same individual who made that remark to me sent an email to College Council thanking us and claiming that we “had not caused the oppression of another group. Seeing that this movement still believes that it can speak for how Jewish people should feel about our rejection of the notion of self-determination for Jews only proves the necessity of the amendments that Calvin and I proposed. 

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