Divestment bill vetoed at Berkeley

NEW YORK (JTA) — The student government president at the University of California vetoed a bill calling for divestment from two companies doing business with Israel.

Will Smelko, the president of the Associated Students of the University of California, Berkeley, shot down the bill Wednesday, the Daily Californian reported. The association’s Senate had passed the bill last week by a 16-4 margin. 

The bill, which singled out United Technologies and General Electric for supplying Israel with technology used to perpetrate war crimes, was widely condemned by Jewish campus groups. 

"While the ASUC as a body has stated convincingly that it does not want ASUC and UC dollars going to fund weapons, war crimes, or human rights violations, this veto has to do with the mechanism by which the ASUC achieves its mission of building peace and goodwill in a way that avoids the shortcomings of the bill, [such as a] … selective, one-sided focus on a specific country that lacks important historical context and understanding," Smelko said in a statement.

Smelko also said that the bill was perceived "as a symbolic attack on a specific community of our fellow students."

Though divestment efforts are a cornerstone of the so-called BDS movement — shorthand for boycott, divestment and sanctions — the Berkeley bill was the closest any American campus has come to divesting specifically from companies doing business with Israel. 

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