On March 18, a bill to divest from Caterpillar Inc. was introduced to Tempe Undergraduate Student Government and “tabled indefinitely.” The bill was shut down with zero discussion despite a clear presence of supporters and opponents. We were not allowed to argue about the bill; our USG chose inaction over action, silencing our voices.
To understand why this decision was made, I met with senators in their offices on March 20. We discussed the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, also known as BDS, as this is the Palestinian Civil Society’s call to put economic pressure on those profiting from human rights abuses. In response to this call to action, over a dozen schools have passed divestment bills in their USG’s. Even if they didn’t pass a resolution, at least those USG’s allowed debate. Tempe USG stands as the only one in the nation to not even hear the merits and demerits of the bill.
When I said that students are leading a movement for justice that is quickly gaining momentum, as students often do, a senator stepped up, claiming that the Nazi movement was also one that students championed. Her remark was nonsensical, ahistorical and beyond offensive. It not only trivializes the horrors of the Holocaust as all careless comparisons to the Nazis tend to do, but also makes an absurd moral equivalency between Nazism and a movement whose human rights principles are directly antithetical to Nazism. To her credit, the senator did apologize later, hence the title of this op-ed.
However, if this is the general unspoken sentiment towards the bill, then it seems that Palestinian activism has been discredited in the eyes of Tempe USG. That is a shame. All I can hope for is that a clearer understanding of the bill’s intentions will emerge, and that Tempe USG will give us a fair chance in the future.
Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this letter are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.
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