UCLA is set to vote on the divestment bill soon. The divestment bill is part of the wider global campaign to pressure Israel economically to end its apartheid occupation of the remainder of Palestine. Here are some letters of solidarity from UCLA student groups (Israeli and Jewish, Iranian, and Armenian). The Armenian letter is so profound that I had to post it in full here: The Armenian Students’ Association of UCLA supports the “Resolution to Divest from Companies that Violate Palestinian Human Rights”. The executive body along with a considerable number of its members has decided to support this measure after long consideration and research on the practices of the companies listed. Our initial hesitation was due to individual friendships and prior associations with prominent opposition to the bill, Bruins for Israel at UCLA, with which we held a successful cultural event in the fall. But we have come to realize that this resolution does not seek to solve a divisive Palestinian vs. Israeli issue, but is rather a step in the ethical direction.
The Armenian people have a long shared history with that of the Jews and understand the pain of centuries of persecution. We respect the resilience and the premise of having an independent and secure state. But what we do not condone is the infliction of suffering on other ethnic groups, regardless of infractions. Freedom and safety should not come at the expense of innocent civilians. To brand all Palestinian civilians as threats is inherently racist. And so although we believe that the Israeli state has every right to be concerned about the safety of its citizens, its government cannot be exempt from criticism in the event of human rights violations. This is not a singling out of the Israeli government, but rather providing it with fair and equal feedback in order to improve its own human rights record.
We encourage criticism of even our very own Armenian government’s practices. The Republic of Armenia was also established against all odds nearly eighty years after the Genocide. The country is similarly vulnerable, because hostile neighbors surround it. But under no circumstances would the organization unconditionally support inhumane measures enforced by the government. We encourage our Israeli-American friends to remain critical of the nation they love, because improving Israel’s practices would improve the country’s image as a democracy in the region. Scrutiny over Israeli policies cannot be considered inherently anti-Semitic, because that thought-process perpetuates blind support and suppresses diversity of opinion. To address a commonly asked question – the organization undoubtedly condemns all human rights violations, but is especially opposed to being complicit in them through the university. For instance, bulldozing over civilian homes is not a defense tactic; it is an inexcusable act of the state. The ASA refuses to ignore such atrocities, as our university should not invest in oppressive companies. Lastly, we realize the emotional toll this resolution has taken on all who are invested, but offer our solidarity to the oppressed in this particular situation.
This resolution does not demonize Israel, slander its people or even call for divestment from Israel in general – it merely asks for our university to disassociate itself from the list of companies. The rhetoric concerned about sufficient context assumes that all students involved are ignorant or brainwashed. The conversations about safe spaces or divisiveness are common scapegoats which Armenian activists encounter. We do not seek to shy away from controversy for the sake of convenience. Any student calling for “humanity” without urging for divestment from ruthless companies is unaware of the word “irony”.