Berkeley student gov’t upholds divestment veto

NEW YORK -- Berkeley's student government voted to uphold the veto of a bill calling for divestment from companies deemed to be complicit in Israel's occupation of the Palestinians.
A vote early Thursday by the Associated Students of the University of California, Berkeley failed to garner the necessary two-thirds majority to overturn a veto of the bill by students' association President WIll Smelko, though the bill could be reconsidered as early as next week, according to a report by the student newspaper, the Daily Californian.
Following a lengthy discussion that began Wednesday night and concluded in the early hours of Thursday, the Associated Students Senate voted 12-7, with one abstention, to uphold Smelko's veto.
If passed, the bill would have required divestment of students' association assets from General Electric and United Technologies, two companies cited frequently by Israel's detractors for complicity in alleged war crimes and perpetuating Israel's occupation.
The veto was upheld despite high-profile support for the bill from South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor Noam Chomsky. In the wake of the initial 16-4 adoption of the bill in March, Jewish campus groups mobilized to engineer its defeat.
Hundreds attended the Wednesday-night session, including Israel's consul general in San Francisco, Akiva Tor.
Following the vote, a procedural motion resulted in two more hours of discussion. The Senate then moved to table the bill.
Despite the inconclusive outcome, Israel's supporters on campus pointed to the fact that in senate elections held last week, Smelko's Student Action party won a majority of seats after three years in which it had suffered sagging electoral fortunes -- a result the party interpreted as indicating substantial student opposition to divestment. The voting remains clouded, however, by fraud allegations against Student Action member and Associated Students Senate President-elect Noah Stern.