Friday, May 1, 2015

*PLEASE don't forget to click on "March" and "February" on the right hand side to view more documents, newspapers articles, etc. documenting #UTDivest

APRIL 27, 2015
This Is Our Victory!
This is our victory. In this historic referendum 57.13% of the voting student body approved of ‪#‎UTDivest‬. Over 1,100 students voted YES to our university’s mission statement of “improving the human condition” by divesting from companies that violate international law and human rights. Despite all the tricks and maneuvers, the misleading lies and slander, the fear-mongering paid advertisements, and the unilateral changing of our referendum language, we still won a strong majority of the hearts and minds of UT students. Contrary to what the opposition to divestment would have you believe, it is not us who are marginal, it is them. It is not us who are a minority, it is them. In their celebration of the vote not meeting the arbitrary two-thirds requirement to pass, the opposition has proven nothing more than that they are exactly what they celebrate: a minority. Those who believe in social justice for the Palestinians are a majority on UT’s campus. The numbers cannot be more lucid.
One prominent anti-divestment ideologue put it this way: “[UT] was one of the most difficult campus BDS environments that those who are involved nationally in fighting the BDS movement have experienced.” His words speak volumes to mass popular sentiment in favor of divestment at our university. The opposition had to work with lies, half-truths, and misinformation to garner even the paltry minority vote they received. We are part of not just a national, but an international movement for social justice. As the great people’s historian Howard Zinn once said, “You cannot be neutral on a moving train.” The divest train is moving.
The tenacity, courage, and resilience of the students who put their hearts and minds to the task of making their university a better place and struggling for social justice cannot be underestimated. Every individual and every organization who took part in this movement should not only be proud of themselves for struggling against a hostile administration and a vicious propaganda machine, they should also take pride in the fact that in so many ways we have won. This is our victory, both as participants in #UTDivest but also collectively as students at the University of Toledo. We have received recognition of our movement not only from around the country; it has been celebrated all the way in the beleaguered Gaza Strip.
The obstacles we faced were enormous. The administration, in conjunction with at least one member of Student Government, unilaterally changed our referendum text without informing either us at #UTDivest or the Student Government representatives who voted on our original referendum. For the administration, changing the framing and context of our referendum was integral in their attempt to defeat it. In their altered language they presented divestment as an initiative by a small group of students in SJP, and not as a campus-wide issue that many student organizations supported (including, but not limited to, the Student African American Brotherhood, the International Student Association, the Muslim Student Association, the UT Feminist Alliance, etc.). Furthermore, they struck an entire paragraph documenting how divestment would align with UT’s mission statement of “improving the human condition,” and completely removed the fact that Student Government voted overwhelmingly (21-4) in favor of divestment. This undemocratic, opaque way of operating is not a new tactic employed by the administration.
At every juncture participants in #UTDivest fought for openness, for transparency, and for democracy on campus. In doing so we not only broke the flood gates for discourse about Palestine on this campus, we created a campus climate and culture conducive to open, democratic debate. We challenged every infringement upon students’ rights to participate in this process. Whether it was the reprehensible 5-4 judicial decision claiming our divestment resolution was unconstitutional, or the closed meeting that kept UT students from participating in this important discussion, #UTDivest has been on the side of the people.
The administration, non-student groups, and the student opposition worked in unison, putting forth a concerted effort to enervate one of the foundational principles of any academic institution, namely, to facilitate the intellectual growth of its student body. Consistent with the opposition’s desire to stifle debate and close discussion, the opposition celebrated the inability of student government senators to vote on the resolution. They were also integral in keeping the student body out of the meeting. They proclaimed it was inappropriate for student government to vote on something without hearing the student body voice. After student government eventually voted overwhelmingly in our favor, the opposition proclaimed that it was now inappropriate for students as a whole to vote on the referendum. The JFT, a non-student organization, mobilized all of its resources to try and kill the referendum before it went to a vote.
What has been very evident throughout this entire process is that the opposition simply did not want UT students to vote at all, in any capacity, in any circumstance. Both the 21-4 vote and the 57.13% majority we won explain why. The opposition fears democracy and detests social justice, as evident in their underhanded tactics to shut this movement down.
Coupled with administrative interference and the opposition’s attack on democracy, there was a slick well-funded propaganda machine that based its arguments on falsehoods and slander. The primary aim of the opposition was to portray supporters of divestment as anti-Semitic, a claim so tenuous it could not withstand the most basic scrutiny. Many Jewish students voted to divest, and Jewish community members and organizations, like Jewish Voice for Peace, wrote resoundingly powerful statements in favor of divestment. When it was clear this claim did not hold water, the opposition tried desperately to grasp at any rope they could. They moved quickly to explain how this would “harm” UT students, insinuating with their insulting and elitist advertisements that UT students would become fast-food workers if they voted for divestment. This is a direct insult to the millions of Americans striving to earn a living in low-paying service sector jobs. Despite the fact that there was no truth to the statements, and no historic precedent they could cite, the opposition tried hard to push this falsehood. Noticeably absent in their strategy was any defense of Israel or Israeli policies at all. They could not defend Israel’s actions, and so they avoided the issue completely.
In the email sent by Student Government President to UT students the morning of April 27 announcing the results of the vote, divestment was characterized as "contentious" and "an incredibly difficult topic.” While the opposition avoided the issue of Israeli policies and Palestinian suffering, we have not:
* Between 1955 – 2013, Israel has been the target of 77 resolutions condemning its actions.
* The UN estimates that there will be no drinkable water left in Gaza by 2016, and that Gaza will be *unlivable* by 2020 (Al Jazeera, April 18, 2015).
* One study conducted in 2012, before the most recent deadly attack on Palestinians in 2014, showed PTSD levels to be at 56.8% among adolescents in Gaza (Journal of Traumatic Stress).
* From December 27, 2008 through January 18, 2009, Israeli forces indiscriminately killed 1400 Palestinians, including some 300 children (21%) and hundreds of other unarmed civilians (Amnesty International).
* Over a period of 50 days last summer, 2192 Palestinians, including 519 children were massacred by Israeli forces. In addition, the “UN estimated that about 18,000 housing units were destroyed or rendered uninhabitable, leaving approximately 108,000 people homeless. A further 37,650 housing units were damaged” (Amnesty International).
* A 2013 report by Amnesty International describes restrictions on movement imposed by Israeli authorities to “[amount] to collective punishment of the population of Gaza and the West Bank, in violation of international law.”
We do not believe divestment is “contentious” or “incredibly difficult.” Society’s intolerable injustices do not require the search for a full consensus on what perfect justice looks like. We support divestment because we believe in human rights and international law. We believe UT should strive to actually implement its ethical and moral commitments, and adhere to its own mission statement of “improving the human condition.” The majority of UT students agree with us. #UTDivest has created a movement on campus, a movement so resilient that it will continue to grow, to learn, to evolve, and to win. We will continue to work with and organize alongside all organizations that support social justice, and will struggle to ensure that UT is a place where human life is more important than profit. Consciousness has been raised, bodies have been moved, hearts and minds have been won. The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice. #UTDivest will continue to move forward in the struggle for justice.
This is our victory!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015



Other audio and video:

#UTDivest on The Hampton Institute's podcast "A Different Lens:

#UTDivest on WPFW's radio program Shay wa Nana (episode - Wednesday, March 11, 2pm):

#UTDivest on Electronic Intifada podcast:

#UTDivest team members:

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Statements of Solidarity with #UTDivest, Chronologically Ordered

February 15th, 2015

Jewish Voice for Peace Statement of Support for Divestment at the University of Toledo
Written and endorsed by the Jewish Voice for Peace Detroit chapter

As members of Jewish Voice for Peace, a rapidly-growing organization of American Jews supporting a just peace in the Middle East, we wholeheartedly endorse the #UTDivest campaign at the University of Toledo.

There can be no exceptions when it comes to human rights. The Palestinian people are subjected to a system of ethnic segregation, discrimination, violence and military occupation by the state of Israel. These abuses have been extensively documented by human rights organizations and the United Nations, and are clearly illegal under international law. The University of Toledo endowment is invested in corporations which supply arms and equipment used in these human rights violations, or otherwise profit from them, and #UTDivest justly demands an end to these unethical investments. Toledo's Palestinian students shouldn't be forced to help pay for bombs dropped on their friends and family in Palestine.

In seeking divestment from these corporations, #UTDivest joins a movement of students across the United States who refuse to accept their tuition dollars funding oppression. This growing movement has passed divestment resolutions at several universities, including seven of the University of California system's ten schools. Jewish Voice for Peace supports this movement for equality and justice, comprised of students from a wide variety of ethnic and religious identities, including Jewish students.

We reject the accusation that this movement is anti-Semitic, a baseless claim that dishonors victims of real anti-Semitism and dangerously cheapens the term. It is not anti-Semitic to divest from companies that support and profit from the official policies of a nation state that violate international law and human rights. The false invocation of anti-Semitism for political ends, much less to defend corporations violating human rights, is cynically exploitative, and we condemn it as such.

Standing proudly in the Jewish tradition of fighting for justice, we refuse to be silent while oppression is carried out in our names. We urge the University of Toledo student government to honor Palestinian human rights by passing #UTDivest.

University of Toledo Muslim Student Association
Sunday, February 22, 2015

To President Naganathan, Student Government President Notestine, and Members of the UT Student Government:

We, the University of Toledo Muslim Student Association, support UT Divest. On Tuesday February 17th, 2015, our members and other supporters gathered to attend the Student Government meeting to further enlighten ourselves on the issue of divestment and to hear from our Student Government. As University of Toledo students, we were appalled by the treatment we were faced with that night for merely exercising our right to attend a Student Government meeting.  Declaring the meeting as closed and forcing us to watch a debate from a live stream in an entirely separate room was already difficult to deal with. The addition of increased police presence and the usage of police dogs further served to humiliate and crush our sentiments.

             Many of the notions pushed that night were irrespective of the true nature of the divestment campaign. The debate seemed to be creating a correlation between the divestment campaign and an escalation of tension between people of Jewish and Muslim faith. The sight of divestment supporters from different faiths, colors and creeds could have easily altered such baseless claims. However, since it was a closed meeting, Student Government was not granted the right to see or hear the voices of the supporters, thus allowing this notion to linger.

Furthermore, the assumption made by some of the Student Government members showed a lack of concern for the student body. This was especially true for those UT Palestinian students and their families who have suffered and continue to suffer from the abuse of resources provided by these corporations that the University invests in. Palestinian students were completely disregarded by Student Government. Likewise, Student Government ignored those members of the student body appalled by the misuse of their tuition money to support companies who so wholly violate human rights.

Finally, the abhorrent claim that divestment from these corporations would lead to an increased harassment of Jewish students on campus is both unrelated to the resolution being debated and a dangerous claim to make. This dehumanizes the Muslim students on campus by painting them as oppressors, as well as alienating the Jewish students by singling them out as victims.

As members of the Muslim community in a post 9/11 America, we understand the daily treatment of harassment, discrimination and alienation. It’s due to these experiences that we stand shoulder to shoulder with oppressed communities. We disagree with the religious narrative that was painted during this debate, and continue to fully support the UT Divestment campaign. This is not an issue of religion but an issue of human rights. We support a campaign that works towards a world free of discrimination and harassment for all. UT MSA demands that Student Government rectify the situation they created by allowing an open meeting where the entire student body can participate in democratic debate surrounding this issue. UT MSA is in support of UT Divest. UT MSA is in support of peace.

US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation

Sunday, February 22, 2015

End the Occupation
Sunday, February 22, 2015   

Sign & Share PETITION: Support Open Debate & #UTDivest!

What a month it’s been! Just this past week, the student governments of two of the country’s most prestigious universities -- Stanford andNorthwestern -- voted to divest from companies involved in the Israeli occupation and abuses of Palestinian human rights. Two weeks ago, the University of California (UC) Student Association became the first multi-campus student association to endorse divestment in a landmark, landslide victory. Just 10 days prior, UC Davis became the seventh UC campus government (out of ten) to vote in favor of divestment. Last December, UAW 2865, the UC student workers union, became the first major U.S. labor union to endorse divestment, while more than half the voting membership pledged to support the academic boycott of Israel. And on, and on...

But at the University of Toledo (UT) in Ohio, students were barred from attending a meeting to debate divestment, and at the meeting, the student government was barred from voting on it! WILL YOU SIGN THIS PETITION TO SUPPORT THE RIGHT TO DEBATE AND VOTE ON DIVESTMENT AT UT?Here’s what happened: On the same night that Stanford celebrated a hard-earned victory last Tuesday, studentsat UT presented their divestment resolution to the Student Government for debate and vote. But the student body was not allowed to attend, and the Student Government allowed only Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Hillel representatives to speak -- effectively redefining a pluralistic issue along religious lines. Testifiers for and against divestment were forced to sit in separate rooms and prevented from hearing one another’s arguments. This was done in the name of preventing violence, painting divestment and the predominantly Muslim and Arab UT bases behind it as somehow violent. In fact, divestment opponents even cited the recent Chapel Hill shootings of three Muslim students as an example of why divestment should be rejected!  Amidst the emotional, but peaceful debate, the UT student government’s Judicial Council suddenly convened a meeting of its own and ruled the resolution "unconstitutional" on grounds that it was "discriminatory" and "one-sided," so no vote could even be taken. The Jewish Federation of Toledo boasted about "working diligently with Hillel and the University administration to defeat the motion."

Students at #UTDivest need your support! Please sign and share this petition calling for transparency, democracy, and the right to vote on divestment!
Campus Divest 2015
We are truly reaching a turning point,with more than two dozen campus boycott and divestment victoriesnationwide and seemingly more campaigns launchingwith every passing week! 

As the incredible power and momentum of these student-led campaigns gets stronger, so will the desperation and nasty tactics of those wishing to defend Israel's aggression. We must all be ready to rally to support these brave students when the time comes, and now is one of those times. 

Please sign and share this petition defending divestment and UT Students for Justice in Palestine today!

Congratulations to the many incredible SJP chapters -- and their critical allies -- across the country, whose leadership have brought the campus-based movement to the extraordinary place it is today.

 Anna BaltzerAnna Baltzer signature
Anna Baltzer
National Organizer

P.S. To keep up with the UT campaign and future action opportunities, make sure to follow #UTDivest on Facebook and @UTSJP on Twitter!

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The US Campaign aims to change U.S. policies that sustain Israel's 47-year occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, and that deny equal rights for all.
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University of Toledo Muslim Student Association

Monday, February 23, 2015

Nagi Naganathan                                  Clayton Notestine
Interim President                                  Student Body President and Senate/Members
The University of Toledo                     The University of Toledo
The International Students Association (ISA) would like to state our support for the UT Divest campaign. We as International Students request that the university honor its ethical commitments to respect international law and rights by removing University investments in corporations that violates international law and human rights in the Occupied Palestine Territories. We are confident that we are standing for an activity that is both humane and responsible as an International Organization, and not supporting any political or religious campaign. UT ISA has stood up for students coming from different nations, ensuring that their laws, rights and sentiments are respected, irrespective of their faith, color and ethnicity.

Our members of the ISA executive board and other International supporters gathered to attend the Student Government meeting on Tuesday February 17th, 2015, acknowledging the importance of this divestment activity and ensuring that justice shall be performed by the Student Government. However, the Student Government declared the meeting as closed-door and forced the supporters to watch a debate from a live stream in an entirely separate room, cutting down the voices of all the student body supporters.

The assumed notions made by some of the Student Government members showed a lack of concern for the student body. Our International Palestinian students and their families have suffered and continue to suffer from the abuse of resources provided by these corporations that the University invests in. Imprudently, the Student Government not only ignored a section of student body but also declared the resolution unconstitutional.

As members of this international organization, we fully support the UT Divestment campaign irrespective of all the needless slander that this campaign has been accused of. We astutely understand the campaign and comprehend that this is not an issue of religion but an issue of human rights. We support a campaign that works towards a world free of discrimination and harassment in any form. UT ISA demands indemnity. We believe that the Student Government should rectify their errors by allowing an open, transparent debate where the entire student body can democratically participate in addressing this issue. UT ISA strongly believes in the right of students to express their sentiments openly, and believes that this right will facilitate the pursuit of justice. We believe that peace will only be attained when justice is pursued and rights are respected.

The Executive Board
International Students Association
The University of Toledo

Our sign of support:
Mohammed Albaaj
Hadi AlNasir
Internal Vice President
Kimsa Nguyen
External Vice President
Farha Jahan
Shagufta Sami
Media Officer
Dina Tete
Events Coordinator
Rajaey Al-Humud

Student African American Brotherhood
The Student African American Brotherhood UT chapter understands the struggle of SJP and the UT Divest Movement. Our student government decided that it was “unconstitutional and also a danger to the Jewish Students.” The UT Divest Movement is not focused on violence nor does it tolerate or condone it. The senators should be given a chance to vote on whether they support or deny the cause; as well as being able to have an open debate where the student body as well as both parties can plead their cases. Student Government, of all organizations, should be for due process and democratic debate. We as an organization are asking Student Government to allow their senators to make their own decision based on hearing the full debate from both organizations on why UT should or should not divest. Give the students a chance to speak for the students.


Ohio SJP Organizing Committee
To President Naganathan, Student Government President Notestine, and Members of the UT Student Government:

We, the Ohio Students for Justice in Palestine Organizing Committee, collectively write to you with our unwavering support for UT Divest in their efforts to take part in open dialogue regarding divestment from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Having followed the recent affairs in which the student body was barred from attending the Student Government’s meeting to debate UT Divest’s recent proposal for divestment, we strongly condemn the segregation and silencing of students involved in Palestine solidarity work, and we especially denounce the erroneous conflation of religious discrimination with efforts to rectify the university ties to human rights violations.

We understand this sequence of events as a blatant demonstration of Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism, as it was mandated that testifiers both for and against divestment were forced to sit apart so as to not be able to listen to one another. In doing so, the Student Government has construed divestment as an inherently violent tactic, though the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement is premised upon non-violent resistance to an illegal and militarized occupation. Mandating that the student body watch the debate on live-stream from a different room, while increasing the presence of police during this time likewise incorrectly construes divestment as a threat to the safety of Jewish students. Though students, faculty, and town members of all different faiths and ethnicities support divestment, this deliberate attempt by the Student Government and administration to falsely conflate divestment with religious intolerance is shameful and cowardly.

We condemn in the strongest terms the lack of transparency surrounding the rejection of the divestment resolution. Universities should not be run like corporations with no regard for students’ concerns. Especially in the case of Palestinian students, whose tuition is invested in the corporations that contribute to the deaths and misery of their loved ones, it is an offence to suggest that their support for UT Divest is an exercise in bigotry and discrimination. Palestinians live under military occupation, apartheid, and quotidian violence in routine violation of international law. In investing its endowment in corporations that profit from and perpetuate the occupation, the University of Toledo is a complicit third party to these human rights abuses. It is with this at heart that we extend our strong support to UT Divest as they advocate for open dialogue in an effort to align UT’s investments with moral commitments to justice, freedom, and equality.

Ohio Students for Justice in Palestine Organization Committee, including:

Cleveland State University Students for Justice in Palestine 
Oberlin College Students for a Free Palestine
Ohio State University Committee for Justice in Palestine

#UTDivest in the Media, Chronologically Ordered

UT student senate considers divesting from companies tied to Israeli occupation of Palestine
Monday, 2/16/2015

The University of Toledo’s student senate is expected to consider a resolution Tuesday calling for the university to divest from companies tied to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

University of Toledo Students for Justice in Palestine supports the resolution.

Student government President Clayton Notestine confirmed that the proposal’s backers intend to introduce it at an 8:15 p.m. student senate meeting in the student union. Mr. Notestine, who said he is neutral on the controversial topic, said he wants to make sure the meeting is conducted safely, though he doesn’t expect problems and expects it to be a well-attended meeting.

UT spokesman Jon Strunk said a UT police officer who routinely staffs the meeting will be present.

“At this point, we are confident that everyone will attend the meeting and debate according to the rules of the senate,” he said.

A draft of a resolution provided by Mr. Notestine calls for the University of Toledo Foundation to divest from mutual funds that invest in companies connected to occupation.

Representatives for the Students for Justice in Palestine could not be reached for immediate comment, but the group’s Facebook page described the resolution’s presentation as “the culminating action” of a campaign that has built since the group’s formation four years ago.

“We are on the forefront of the struggle against injustice, and this is something all UT students should be proud of, especially us SJP activists who have worked so hard for this over the years,” the message stated.

The resolution is opposed by the Jewish Federation of Greater Toledo and Hillel Greater Toledo, a campus Jewish organization. A statement released by Hillel characterized the proposed action as an attempt to “isolate and delegitimize Israel.”

We are concerned about the potential implication this will have in creating hostility against the small Jewish community at UT, and we are meeting members of the university administration and student leaders before the scheduled vote to alert them to the harm this resolution will cause not only to our Jewish community, but to the UT community at large,“ the statement read. ”We wish that the students who created this resolution had recognized and taken advantage of the opportunity for our community to exchange ideas and engage in civil dialogue about an issue that many of us care about. It is disappointing that they instead chose to engage in tactics that divide the campus community and prevent us from moving forward in a positive way.“

Similar resolutions have debated by student governments at other universities, with mixed results.

In 1986, the UT board of trustees agreed to withdraw investments in companies doing business in South Africa as part of a movement against apartheid.

If the divestment resolution is approved by the UT student senate, Mr. Notestine said he doesn’t plan to veto it, and the resolution would be forwarded to university administration.

Mr. Strunk would not say how administrators view the proposal.

“We’ll await the outcome,” he said. “We wouldn’t want to make it seem like we are influencing student government by deciding before they [decide].”

Ohio university imposes secrecy on divestment resolution
Submitted by Nora Barrows-Friedman on Tue, 02/17/2015 - 19:52

University of Toledo’s Students for Justice in Palestine constructed a mock version of Israel’s wall in the West Bank and campaigned for divestment last October. (UT-SJP Facebook page)
At the Unviersity of Toledo in Ohio tonight, student activists will argue in favor of a resolution to divest from US companies profiting from Israeli violations of Palestinian rights.

But the university administration is mandating that they must do so in a “closed meeting,” preventing both the resolution’s supporters, opposition and the general public from hearing presentations to the student government.

The resolution voting process will also be done by secret ballot, meaning that the student body won’t be able to know how their representatives voted on the resolution.

Derek Ide, a student at the University of Toledo and the co-founder of the campus chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (UT-SJP), told The Electronic Intifada that the decision to close the hearing and force secret balloting “harms transparency and democracy.”

In recent months, students collected hundreds of signatures on campus supporting the resolution.

Students have identified the University of Toledo’s investments in Cemex, Rolls-Royce, General Electric and Hewlett-Packard, which contribute to or profit from Israel’s violations of Palestinians’ rights.

Ignoring alliances

The local Toledo Blade reports that the on-campus chapter of Hillel, a nationwide network of campus centers for Jewish students which opposes boycott and sanctions efforts, ”characterized the proposed action as an attempt to ‘isolate and delegitimize Israel.’”

Ide said that Hillel brought in the Jewish Federation of Toledo to lead the campaign to derail the divestment resolution. The group is affiliated with a national network called the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA). In 2010, JFNA and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs launched the “Israel Action Network,” described as “a multimillion-dollar joint initiative to combat anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns” and to fight “the delegitimizing of the State of Israel.”

Earlier this week, the student government announced that two of the five speakers against the divestment resolution would be non-student representatives of the Jewish Federation of Toledo. But by this morning, Ide told The Electronic Intifada it was decided that non-students will not be able to engage in the “open floor” presentations.

By only allowing five representatives each from UT-SJP and Hillel to speak at the closed hearing, Ide said that the administration has implied that divestment is a religious conflict instead of a human rights issue. “They present[ed] an image of two equal and opposing viewpoints,” Ide said, ignoring SJP’s alliance with a diverse array of students and campus groups.

In a letter sent Monday to UT-SJP, Hillel and members of the Jewish Federation, seen by The Electronic Intifada, student body president Clayton Notestine states that the student government and the administration decided to limit the meeting to avoid “increasing the chances for violent protest, talking over speakers, and putting stress on an already contentious issue.”

This morning, UT-SJP posted on Facebook: “Today is the day for social justice to flourish at our university. Despite the obstacles set in our way by administration, by student government, and by outside interference, we still feel confident that our divestment resolution will win a majority of votes in Student Government. In order to help ensure this happens, we need you to be present TONIGHT!”

Closed-door debate on divestment by U of Toledo student gov’t to include officials from Jewish Federation
Activism Philip Weiss on February 17, 2015 69 Comments

This is one of the craziest stories we’ve ever reported. The student government at the University of Toledo is so frightened by a debate over divestment from Israel that it is rigging the debate on the topic tonight. It will hold the debate behind closed doors and limit how many students can come to the meeting. Only five representatives from two campus organizations. And each organization has to leave the room when the other side is making its case.

Though guess what-- two officials of the Jewish Federations of Greater Toledo are invited to the debate!

“Lewis Carroll couldn’t have done any better,” says Barbara Harvey of the National Lawyers Guild. “What seems to have precipitated this Alice in Wonderland version of democracy in action was the outreach from Students for Justice in Palestine to surrounding SJP chapters, urging them and other supporters to attend the hearing.”

Let’s walk through this.

The SJP chapter at the university started up in 2011 and has been working on a divestment resolution since then. The student government advisory measure would urge the university foundation “to divest from mutual funds that invest in companies ‘which are explicitly tied to Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories,’” as the Toledo Blade reports.

Last week the Toledo SJP urged students to attend tonight’s meeting:
This is a historic moment for us and our university. UT was nearly a decade late divesting from South African apartheid (we did not divest fully until 1989, while some other universities divested over ten years earlier), let’s not make the same mistake again. We are on the forefront of the struggle against injustice, and this is something all UT students should be proud of, especially us SJP activists who have worked so hard for this over the years.

Not so fast.

From the time that the divestment resolution came up on campus a couple of weeks ago, the local Jewish Federations of Greater Toledo (JFT), a pro-Israel organization, has been organizing against it. Fair enough. But JFT is so enmeshed in the matter that University of Toledo student government president Clayton Notestine has even included Jewish Federation officials on his emails to student groups about the resolution (I’ve seen such an email).
And the matter has also come to the attention of the school administration. Kaye Patten Wallace, the vice president of student affairs at the school, is said to have had meetings with student government leaders saying that the school was not happy about the resolution, it wasn’t a good time for the University of Toledo to be debating such a resolution.
And guess what? On Sunday night, student government president Notestine sent out an email announcing that tonight’s meeting on divestment would be closed to all but five representatives of the designated pro and con positions, and they could only speak for ten minutes per side. The two organizations invited are the SJP and the school’s Hillel chapter. A Hillel serves all Jewish students. So the Student Government is setting the debate up as a putatively religious question. Some of Notestine’s rules of order:

Here is how the meeting will be structured:
​1. Your organization is permitted 5 representatives (Please have a list of the 5 emailed to me before Tuesday at 5:00 p.m.)
2. Coin flip will decide who has the floor first. The other organization will be asked to sit outside during the opposition’s report
2.1 We do this to prevent debate between our guests which is normally reserved for our voting senators
3. Your organization will be allowed to make official statements up to 10 minutes. (You may divide it up among speakers)
4. Everyone will be invited back into the room to watch the remainder of the session including senate debate and voting.

What’s more, Hillel will be allowed to include two officials of the Jewish Federation of Greater Toledo among its five representatives– though the JFT officials cannot speak to the resolution.

Derek Ide of the SJP steering committee says that the student government bowed to outside pressure in setting up the rules. “We are fully 100 percent opposed to this model of debate. We think it should be open to the public. From the beginning we have called for a fully democratic procedure,” he says.

The SJP is only going along with the charade, he says, because it is the “only avenue” offered to the organization to put forward its divestment resolution. He says that he has been told that the meeting will be live-streamed. So at least the campus can see what’s going on.

Update: As commenter Joel points out below, the Jewish Federations officials won’t be allowed to speak at the meeting. But they will be allowed to attend a meeting that almost all students are barred from.

The divestment resolution, by the way, targets five corporations that are complicit in violations of human rights and international law in the occupied territories. You’d think that anyone who’s for the two state solution would be all for this measure, as a way of ending the occupation. No.

Notestine says he came up with the rules on his own. “No one in the administration told anyone how to conduct the meeting,” he told me this morning. He told the Toledo Blade that he wants the meeting to be “conducted safely.”

The school surely worries that the debate over Israel and Palestine will be heated, engaged, loud, and divisive, as it has been at so many schools, from Berkeley to the University of Michigan. The Hillel on campus is afraid of such a democratic debate. From the Toledo Blade:

A statement released by Hillel characterized the proposed action as an attempt to “isolate and delegitimize Israel.”

“We are concerned about the potential implication this will have in creating hostility against the small Jewish community at UT,” the statement read in part. “We wish that the students who created this resolution had recognized and taken advantage of the opportunity for our community to exchange ideas and engage in civil dialogue about an issue that many of us care about. It is disappointing that they instead chose to engage in tactics that divide the campus community and prevent us from moving forward in a positive way.”

That’s an emotional blackmail, not so different from Lawrence Summers of Harvard saying that divestment resolutions cause Jewish members of an academic community to “feel that they are being attacked.” So anti-Zionism is equated with anti-Semitism, when many Jews have long opposed the program of Jewish nationalism on other people’s lands. How long must these mental chains limit American freedom of speech?

SJP resolution ruled ‘unconstitutional’ by University of Toledo SG
Colleen Anderson, Associate News Editor
February 18, 2015
Filed under News, Top Stories

Disappointment, relief and shock were just some of the emotions evident throughout the room after the divestment campaign resolution was declared unconstitutional during a special closed-door Student Government meeting.

The resolution proposed a divestment, or a withdrawal of investments, by UT from any company who “provide direct support for and directly profit from Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories.”

The five main companies named in the resolution were Cemex, General Electric, Hewett-Packard, Proctor and Gamble, and Rolls-Royce.

Their involvements were explained in an eight-page resolution written by members of UT’s Students for Justice in Palestine’s steering committee, and sponsored by SG senators Nadine Sarsour and Sam Aburaad.

SG steering voted to have a closed session during the portion of the meeting concerning the resolution, which vice president Ali Eltatawy said was mainly out of concerns for student safety.
In addition to the closed session, Eltatawy said there would be up to ten officers present. At least eight officers were visibly present for the meeting, divided between the main room and the two rooms set aside for other students and community members to view the session via livestream.

“We do want to ensure above all else the safety of University of Toledo students but also, in the same time, to the best of our ability, uphold the democracy and transparency which we are based off of,” Eltatawy said.

During the meeting itself, both those in support of and those against the resolution were given ten minutes to speak during open floor.

Jessica Moses, a senior majoring in exercise science and Jewish student who opposed the resolution, centered her presentation around being “Pro Israel, Pro Palestinian, and Pro Peace.” She focused on her concerns for both the safety of Jewish students and a desire for open dialogue.

“As we have seen on other campuses, once resolutions like this are passed, or even just introduced, we see a rise in intimidation towards Jews,” Moses said. “Today is my opportunity to show everyone what I believe and what I stand for, which is peace, an open dialogue, and an understanding between the different students on campus.

Supporters of the proposed resolution heatedly discuss the Student Judicial Council's narrow 5-4 decision to declare it unconstitutional.

Shahrazad Hamdah, a steering member of SJP, spoke in support of the resolution, focused on both a previous divestment campaign by UT from South Africa in response to apartheid, and Israel’s current treatment of Palestinians.

“The Palestinian people are subjected to a system of ethnic segregation, discrimination, violence, and military occupation by the state of Israel, and in seeking divestment from these corporations, UT Divest joins a movement of students across the United States who refuse to accept their tuition dollars funding oppression,” Hamdah said.

Several schools, including DePaul University, San Diego State University, University of California at Davis, and Ohio State University have experienced divestment campaigns on their campuses, according to

The decision was not ultimately voted on by the senators; the Student Judicial Council ruled the resolution unconstitutional by a vote of 5 to 4 after hearing debate. Justice David Manor gave the affirming opinion, and resigned shortly thereafter for reasons unspecified.

Justice Christopher Miller, who voted in favor of declaring the resolution unconstitutional, said he felt the resolution violated the section of the SG constitution dedicated to protecting against discrimination.

“We felt that because there was an opposing viewpoint on this proposal, that it [the resolution] wouldn’t necessarily protect against discrimination within the student body,” Miller said. “We felt that they [the opposing viewpoint] definitely expressed their opinions early on that they felt it would lead to their discrimination.”

Chief Justice Sebastian Wright gave the dissenting opinion of those who had voted the resolution was constitutional, and said he felt the senators should have been allowed to vote.

“I believe that this resolution should have been brought up to the floor, so that the senators, the representatives of the students, should have been able to vote on it,” Wright said. “We should be able to listen to everything the student body throws at us. We shouldn’t table it indefinitely because we’re scared, because the controversy, for some reason, seems to be against what we really want.”

Derek Ide, member of the SJP steering committee, said he was disappointed by the decision, and went on to say that SG members had privately told SJP of administration’s involvement in the proceedings.

““This is a fundamental travesty and injustice, and we reject this decision completely. It’s a mockery of democracy,” Ide said. “This has been a complete facade, a charade, and this is a reflection and manifestation of administrative pressure, undoubtedly. They’ve had their hands in this thing from the beginning, and we have heard this from multiple student government sources.”

Kaye Patten Wallace, senior vice president for student affairs, said the administration was not involved in the reaching of the decision in any way.

“This was a Student Government meeting. Our role as administrators is not to impact the meeting in any sort of way.” said Patten Wallace. “We have absolutely no input in terms of how Student Government runs their meetings or the decisions they make.”

Several members of SJP and senators alike, including Sarsour and Aburaad and SJP steering committee member Eman Alhana expressed disappointment with the ruling.

However, several SG senators, including Joel Robbins and Senator Ronald Phiels, said they agreed with SJC’s decision.

“I guess the only thing I have to say to SJC is thank you,” Phiels said. “I understand that you guys [SJP] still want to have your resolution put forward, but at the end of the day, democracy, you know, prevailed, and that’s the way it is done in the real world.”

SG President Clayton Notestine said he would have liked to have provided more structure to the actual debate and arranged for more time for speakers on both sides, as well as having more discussion with SJC about the possibility of the resolution being ruled unconstitutional.

“I knew that option was always out there, but being a senior member of Student Government, I was under the impression it would not be deemed unconstitutional,” Notestine said. “I was very surprised.”

UT student senate tosses divestment proposal
9-member council voted 5-4 late Tuesday that resolution was unconstitutional
Editor’s Note: This updated article includes action that occurred after the newspaper deadline Tuesday night.

After nearly two hours of presentations and debate, members of University of Toledo's student senate threw out a resolution calling for the university's divestment from companies connected to Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

The nine-member student judicial council, the judicial branch of student government, voted 5-4 late Tuesday that the resolution was unconstitutional. Student government President Clayton Notestine, who is not a member of the council, said the justices felt the resolution's wording was discriminating toward a particular group of students on campus, the university's Jewish population.

The resolution cannot be brought before senate again unless it is "drastically different," Mr. Notestine said. It can still be debated in a public forum through a university referendum, which would put a vote to the entire student body.

Representatives from Students for Justice in Palestine in support of the resolution and Toledo Hillel in opposition to it each were allowed five representatives and 10 minutes to speak.

Shahrazad Hamdah, of SJP, urged the student government to consider the matter as a human rights issue and ignore arguments that the measure was religiously based.

"This is not a religious issue," she said. “The representation of UT Divest as being of a religious nature is a gravely inaccurate mistake, but it is a blatant attempt to shift the conversation away the original purpose, which is to address divestment from companies complicit, proven to be complicit in human rights violations."

Jessica Moses, of Hillel, warned the measure would provoke anti-Semitism on UT’s campus.

"I speak as a proud UT, pro-Israel, pro-Palestinian, pro-peace student activist. As a Jew, I have no problem walking around campus comfortable who I am. As we've seen on other campuses, when resolutions like this are passed or even introduced, we see a rise in intimidation toward Jews," she said. "We strongly urge you to spend time researching and better understanding the conflict. Until you truly understand and feel informed enough to take a position on this, you should vote no."

The resolution was sponsored by Nadine Sarsour and Saleh Aburaad, who are also members of SJP. The resolution called for the university to divest from companies that "provide direct support for and directly profit from Israel's illegal occupation of Palestinian territories and violations of international human rights law." The resolution named Cemex, General Electric Hewlett-Packard, Procter & Gamble, and Rolls-Royce, which are included in the University’s 16 investment portfolios.

Members of the student body not speaking were relegated to two overflow rooms elsewhere in the student union, where a live stream of the meeting was projected on large screens. The meeting was also available for live streaming on UT's YouTube page. The rooms were designated for supporters of SJP and Hillel, with no visible overlap between the two rooms. About 200 students and members of the community watched in the overflow rooms.

As early as 7 p.m., SJP members gathered outside the room where the senate meets, wearing blue and yellow T-shirts with the phrase “#UTDivest,” the social media hashtag adopted by supporters. Shortly after, Supporters of Hillel, arrived with small Israeli flags and yellow T-shirts that read “Say Yes to Peace, Say No to Divestment.”

Sara Federman, a graduate student at UT and member of Hillel, said the group was concerned about the manner in which the resolution was presented.

“We support a more educated, open, and peaceful discussion, and this resolution is not going to allow that to happen, it’s going to create more divisions on campus,” she said. “Student government is not the place where we should be arguing about this debate.”

Before the meeting Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Notestine said he had "full faith" that students would be able to engage in substantive dialogue. He said the decision to create the overflow rooms was because of space issues.

“This is first time we are aware, no one has been able to show precedence, where there has been a student government meeting that has been closed,” said Derek Ide, a member of the SJP steering committee. “We have rejected that from the very beginning, and we fought it tooth and nail. We at SJP believe in an open, transparent, democratic debate.”

Regardless of the outcome, Mr. Ide said SJP had decided the next step would be to propose a referendum to the student body on the issue of divestment.

Students allege “travesty of justice” as Ohio university muzzles debate on Israel divestment
Submitted by Nora Barrows-Friedman on Thu, 02/19/2015 - 19:24

After several hours of debate on Tuesday night, the student government at the University of Toledo in Ohio shut down a hearing on a resolution to divest from firms abetting Israel’s crimes.

Just before the vote was to take place by the student senate, the university’s Student Judicial Council, part of the student government, announced that it had ruled a resolution calling for divestment “unconstitutional” on the grounds that it was “discriminatory” and “one-sided.” The ruling allowed no recourse or debate and the entire vote was then scrapped.

As The Electronic Intifada reported, the university administration had insisted that discussions relating to the resolution be conducted in a secretive manner.

Tuesday’s meeting was live-streamed on YouTube — but the recording was made private immediately afterwards. Palestine solidarity activists say this was a deliberate attempt by the administration to prevent public review of what the activists called the “disgraceful proceedings.”

“The ‪#‎UTDivest‬ movement resolutely condemns the cruel parliamentarian absurdities that we were forced to endure last night,” student campaigners wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday morning.

The administration had ruled that supporters of the resolution could only have ten minutes to present their arguments without the opposing group present in the room, and vice versa.

Following presentations given by both supporters and opponents of the divestment resolution, student senators were allowed approximately half an hour of debate.

Several of the senators made remarks insinuating that divestment supporters were anti-Semitic and that the bill could discriminate against Jewish students, parroting talking points by Israel advocacy groups.

Hillel, a nationwide network of campus centers for Jewish students which opposes boycott and sanctions efforts, brought in the Jewish Federation of Toledo to help crush support for the resolution. The group is affiliated with a national network called the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA).

In 2010, JFNA and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs launched the “Israel Action Network,” described as “a multimillion-dollar joint initiative to combat anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns” and to fight “the delegitimizing of the State of Israel.”

“Travesty of justice”

Derek Ide, co-founder of the Students for Justice in Palestine chapter at the University of Toledo (UT-SJP), told The Electronic Intifada on Wednesday morning that he was frustrated by the outcome of the hearing but students haven’t lost their determination to see this resolution become a reality.

“Our reaction was complete disbelief at the travesty of justice and the mockery of democracy that took place [Tuesday] night,” Ide said. “The talking points put forward by Hillel as well as some of the senators associated with them was manifestation of outside influence.”

Ide said that UT-SJP’s plan is to bring a divestment resolution back to the student senate immediately.

“It’s apparent that from the beginning, this process has been non-transparent and undemocratic. But we’re on the side not only of justice for the Palestinians and for people around the world, but also for open, democratic debate on UT’s campus which is a very important principle for us. We’re ready to move forward,” Ide said.

UT-SJP is planning to call a referendum through which the entire student body on campus will be allowed to vote on the divestment resolution.

Meanwhile, the undergraduate student government at Stanford University in California passed a divestment resolution in a landslide vote on Tuesday evening. A divestment resolution also passed at Northwestern University in Illinois early Thursday morning.

"Editorial: Close Vote Closes Debate"

Student Judicial Council votes 5-to-4 to rule resolution unconstitutional
IC Editorial Board

If you’ve been keeping up with Student Government news, you know that last week’s closed meeting was extremely controversial.
After the heated debate about the proposed resolution, the Student Judicial Council surprised us all last week by stopping the resolution before it hit the floor for voting.
The purpose of Student Government, at least according to their constitution, is to “represent the student body with authority derived from the students and recognized by the university.”
SG has set goals for itself, which include defending the student body and protecting them from discrimination. Any resolutions that violate these provisions can and will be ruled unconstitutional by the SJC, a power that must be used carefully.
A resolution sponsored last week by Students for Justice in Palestine called for UT “to divest from socially irresponsible companies that violate Palestinian human and legal rights.” The SJC ruled this resolution unconstitutional on the grounds that it does not protect against discrimination, according to Justice David Manor.
We are disappointed that Student Government did not ultimately vote on the resolution. Regardless of the decision, we think this was an opportunity for senators to rise to the occasion and represent the students, whether that meant voting for or against the resolution.
In a five-to-four vote, the council prevented this resolution from even making it to the floor. Clearly the opinions were split down the middle, and the opinion on deciding to rule the resolution unconstitutional seemed as divided as the senate itself.
Justification for this ruling came from the notion that if UT were to divest from companies that did business with Israel, then Jewish students on campus could experience an increase in discrimination.
Those on SJC who disagreed with this cited the constitution’s articles about accurately representing students and working towards a more perfect university as the reasoning to allow the senate to vote.
The authors of the resolution claimed the legislation was only about the moral and ethical ramifications of investing in companies that do business in Israel. Their goal was not discrimination against Jews on campus. The authors and supporters of the resolution advocated for peace, not for the creation of more tension and unkind feelings.
However, members of Hillel spoke about their fear of discrimination on campus, even if it was not explicitly stated by the resolution. SJC was divided on whether this argument was a valid one, but in the end, the majority decided the danger of discrimination was too great to ignore.
Let’s take a step back and look at the big picture. Here’s what we believe the problem is — if SJC had such a close vote, why not let senate vote on it? Since there are clearly strong opinions on both sides, letting the larger body of the senate vote might have brought more perspective to the issue than the nine members of SJC.
If the senate also found that passing the resolution would lead to discrimination, then they could have voted it down or proposed an amendment to the resolution that could have helped protect Jewish students from discrimination.
Generally, the idea is the more minds working together on a problem, the better. We will never know if the senate’s vote would have ultimately been a benefit or a detriment to the students. However, what we can do is look back on the issues this resolution raised and continue debating them as a university.
If we continue to promote peaceful dialogue and discussion, then regardless of the outcome, we have found a way to grow, both within our Student Government and in our UT community.

UT:10 News - UT Divest

Tatiana Cunningham looks into a student organization working to stop UT from investing with companies that they say violate Palestinian human and legal rights.

Divestment passes
Resoluion gains majority vote, campaign continues

Abigail Sullivan
Shahrizad Hamdah, SJP steering committee member, raises her hand for a chance to speak during open floor. The weekly SG meeting was moved to the Student Union Auditorium and lasted about three hours. During that time, both senators and committee members were given the chance to speak on the divestment resolution.
Colleen Anderson, Associate News Editor

Shouts of joy and excitement erupted from the supporters of the divestment resolution as it passed in an overwhelming majority vote of 21-4 during the weekly University of Toledo Student Government meeting.
At the start of the meeting, 94 attendees were present, not including the 27 senators and 7 SJC members in attendance. Five uniformed officers were also present throughout the room.
The senate heard speakers from numerous organizations. Representatives from Students for Justice in Palestine, UT Hillel, Community Solidarity Response Network, Christians United for Israel, and Jewish Voices for Peace, among several others, gave their opinions on the renewed divestment resolution being proposed at the meeting.
The speakers talked from a few seconds to several minutes over almost two hours. Two speakers, Rob Vincent and Sam Aburaad, were asked to sit down after overstepping the boundaries of open floor.
SG President Clayton Notestine encouraged senators to vote yes or no rather than abstaining.
“Vote yes or vote no. You can choose which one you believe in, but stand by your choice. You can choose to go and abstain and not vote at all, but I am imploring that you go ahead and make a decision to stand up for what you believe in, and vote yes or vote no,” Notestine said.
Those in support of the resolution spoke on the human rights violations against Palestinians by Israel, and were supported by members of numerous outside student organizations and religious institutions. Anecdotes, personal testimonies and statistics were all used as support for the resolution.
Robbie Abdelhoq, SJP steering committee member, spoke about his time spent in Gaza, focusing on an encounter with some of the boys from the host family he was living with.
“The young men had become accustomed to frequent raids and random house searches in the middle of the night by the Israeli occupation forces,” Abdelhoq said. “They had become so frustrated with spending night after night — sometimes in the winter, sometimes not — in the middle of the street in their pajamas that they began to remain dressed all day and throughout the night.”
Derek Ide, SJP steering committee member, said Israel is not being singled out by the resolution.
“It is not us [SJP] who singles out Israel. It is Hillel and AIPAC and every other defender of Israeli crimes who wants Israel to maintain a special status, a status that places them above international law and unaccountable to the
It is not us [SJP] who singles out Israel. It is Hillel and AIPAC and every other defender of Israeli crimes who wants Israel to maintain a special status, a status that places them above international law and unaccountable to the norms and standards of justice.”
— Derek Ide, SJP steering committee member
norms and standards of justice.”
Ide also criticized the statements by the opposition that they were pro-Palestinian.
“To ignore Palestinian voices and to claim that you are pro-Palestinian is not only arrogant and patronizing, but is a pernicious lie,” Ide said.
Shahrazad Hamdah, SJP steering committee member, also expressed her disapproval for the opposition’s pro-peace statement.
“Peace is not the perpetuation of the status quo for your own benefit,” Hamdah said.
Joel Reinstein, a representative of Jewish Voices for Peace, said he does not agree with the claim that the divestment resolution will encourage discrimination against Jewish students, or that the resolution singles out Israel.
“To say that their struggle for survival is about ‘singling out the Jewish state’ is to ignore their 70 years of unspeakable suffering at the hands of a single state: Israel,” Reinstein said. “Demanding that Palestinians address all oppression in the world before fighting their own is just another way of telling them to shut up and accept being erased.”
The opposition for the resolution reiterated their original fears of discrimination against Jewish students on campus. Several students focused on a desire for peace and dialogue, saying a reversal of the decision would be a mistake by SG.
“I’m not afraid of disagreements, but this resolution does not leave any room for the civil dialogue that we so desire and encourage on and off campus,” said Jacob Ritchart, a freshman at UT.
Ritchart also said Israeli citizens have also been attacked, and talked about a specific instance in which rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza.
Jessica Moses, president of UT Hillel, said she fears the resolution will encourage discrimination against Jewish students on campus and limit dialogue.
“I believe that the honest discussion should be taking place, but by voting yes on this resolution today, you are taking this option off the table,” Moses said.
According to Moses, the reversal of SJC’s decision on the resolution’s constitutionality “undermines the function of Student Government.”
Kelly Market, president of Christians United for Israel, agreed and said “a change in the outcome of the vote tonight from anything other than a decision consistent with last week’s decision would make a mockery out of Student Government by proving that our senators can be intimated into changing their vote.”
Sara Federman, a member of Hillel, said voting for divestment would mean supporting Israel’s destruction.
“The boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement that this resolution is a part of seeks the destruction of the state of Israel, and the homeland of the Jews. If the senate chooses to pass this resolution, the University of Toledo becomes part of the international effort to see the elimination of Israel, the world’s only Jewish state,” Federman said.
A motion to vote on the resolution by secret ballot failed. Notestine said voting by secret ballot is in violation of Ohio’s Open Meetings Act, an issue that members of SJP brought to his attention. Shortly afterwards the senators voted by standing up at their place in favor of yes or no, and the resolution was passed.
“I feel it was unfair, just the advantages they [SJP] may have been given today,” Moses said. She went on to say Hillel has no current plans considering the divestment resolution, but they may campaign if a referendum on the issue is proposed.
“Yes, this is definitely a little bit of a loss, but we wake up tomorrow, we are going to be the same organization that we were. We don’t have one sole purpose like SJP does,” Federman said. “We are a safe place for Jewish students on campus, and we will continue to do so by giving many more events than just debates in Student Government.”
SJP wants the debate on the issue to be an “open, democratic, transparent process,” according to Ide, who said the next step in the divestment campaign is a referendum. “We believe the entire student body should vote on it regardless, but we wanted to have this battle first in Student Government.”

Ohio students approve Israel divestment vote by landslide
Submitted by Nora Barrows-Friedman on Wed, 03/04/2015 - 21:33

On Tuesday night, the student government at the University of Toledo inOhio approved a resolution to divest from companies which profit from Israeli violations of Palestinians’ rights. The resolution passed with 21 student senators in favor and only four against.
This comes just two weeks after a divestment resolution hearing was muzzled and ruled “unconstitutional” by the student government’s judicial council at the university. On Tuesday night, the judicial council reconsidered its original decision and found that the divestment resolution was indeed constitutional.
“The differences were stark between what happened this week and what happened [on 19 February],” said Derek Ide, co-founder of the Students for Justice in Palestine chapter at the University of Toledo (UT-SJP), in an interview with The Electronic Intifada on Wednesday morning.
Ide said that students led a strong campaign over the last two weeks to demand transparency and democratic process from the student government and the university administration.
“Beautiful coalition”
Before the initial hearing on 19 February, the university administration had insisted that discussions on the resolution be conducted in a secretive manner. During that meeting, students supporting and opposing the resolution were prevented from hearing each others’ viewpoints.
These processes were heavily criticized by students, activists and legal advocates with the Center for Constitutional Rights and Palestine Solidarity Legal Support as violations of open democratic process and students’ first amendment rights.
A petition supporting students’ right to hold a divestment hearing was circulated via the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, and garnered more than 5,400 signatures.
During Tuesday’s hearing, students from a diverse array of groups and communities on campus were allowed to deliver personal testimonies in favor of divestment.
“It was a very liberating experience,” Ide said. “The UT Divest team had a beautiful coalition of human beings who put together articulate, very powerful arguments that swept the opposition away.”
Hillel, a nationwide network of campus centers for Jewish students which opposes boycott and sanctions efforts against Israel, brought in the Jewish Federation of Toledoto help crush support for the resolution. The group is affiliated with a national network called the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA).
In 2010, JFNA and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs launched the “Israel Action Network,” described as “a multimillion-dollar joint initiative to combat anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns” and to fight “the delegitimizing of the State of Israel.”
Students affiliated with Hillel repeated “the same canned speeches from two weeks ago,” Ide explained. Those speeches, he said, included claims that passing a divestment resolution would “increase anti-Semitism.”
“But none of the senators bought it,” Ide added. Listen to the interview with him via the media player above.
“Verbal thuggery”
During the initial hearing on 19 February, several student senators repeated claims touted by Israel-aligned organizations that the divestment resolution could inspire “discrimination” toward Jewish students on campus.
Opponents of the resolution this Tuesday night asserted that the resolution unfairly “singled out” Israel, another allegation repeated by Israel-aligned organizations which is designed to defeat student divestment campaigns.
Speaking to the campus newspaper, the Independent Collegian, Ide said that “It is not us [SJP] who singles out Israel. It is Hillel and AIPAC and every other defender of Israeli crimes who wants Israel to maintain a special status, a status that places them above international law and unaccountable to the norms and standards of justice.”
Barbara Harvey, a Detroit-based attorney active in the National Lawyers Guild and a member of Jewish Voice for Peace told The Electronic Intifada by email that “the rehearing of SJP’s divestment resolution was an object lesson in the power of free speech and fair play, when justice and humanity are on your side.”
Harvey said that students speaking in support of the resolution “told of moving personal experiences, ranging from direct contact with the occupation, close up, to discrimination in the modern US, explaining their own commitments to justice for Palestinians. The opposition’s responses by Hillel and the local Jewish Federation rested on a foundation of guilt-tripping accusations of discrimination and sometimes wildly inaccurate factual assertions, fairly characterized as verbal thuggery.”
“The ball is now squarely in the university’s court,” Harvey noted. “Will the trustees show the same courage as SJP and the student government in considering whether to implement the resolution?”
“Collapsed” to pressure
Ide told The Electronic Intifada that although the administration has not reached out to SJP about the ways in which democratic process was subverted two weeks ago, the student government leaders “tried their best to rectify what happened [when they] completely collapsed [to pressure from the administration].”
He added that the student government leaders “did as much as they could last night to make the debate last night as open and transparent and as democratic as possible, given the structural constraints of student government.”
The University of Toledo’s divestment victory has become the third resolution passed by student governments in just the last two weeks, alongside Northwestern University andStanford University.

UT does not back resolution calling for divestment from firms tied to Israeli occupation
Wednesday, 3/4/2015

University of Toledo leaders do not support a student senate-backed resolution calling for UT to divest from companies connected to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.
Interim President Nagi Naganathan and UT Foundation President Brenda Lee issued a joint, written statement today expressing disagreement with the divestment action called for in a resolution approved by the student senate in a 21 to 4 vote Tuesday.
“Just like at many universities and colleges across the nation where during the last 15 years this debate has taken place, the University of Toledo and the UT Foundation do not support the divestment called for in the Student Senate resolution,” they stated.
A previous draft of the resolution was thrown out two weeks ago after the student judicial council determined it did not meet the student government’s constitution.
The divestment issue returned to the student senate in a modified format, said student body president Clayton Notestine.
Mr. Notestine said the student senate meeting “went very well for how contentious the issue was.”
The approved resolution is supported by University of Toledo Students for Justice in Palestine and calls for the University of Toledo Foundation to divest “from companies directly supporting or profiting from Israel’s nearly half-century long military occupation of Palestinian lands to which it has no lawful claim or entitlement.”
The resolution notes that it “does not call for discrimination against anyone.”
Mr. Naganathan and Ms. Lee described the debate over the issue as “commendable.”
“Free speech and open conversations delving into complex issues are at the very core of our educational mission, and we are pleased with the civil and respectful nature of the dialogue Tuesday evening,” they said.