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University of California official says system has $32 billion in holdings targeted by students protesting the Israel-Hamas war


By SOPHIE AUSTIN | Associated Press/Report for America

SACRAMENTO — Investments in weapons manufacturers and a wide array of other companies by the University of California targeted by students protesting the Israel-Hamas war represent $32 billion – or nearly one-fifth – of the system’s overall assets, the system’s chief investment officer says.

UC Chief Investment Officer Jagdeep Singh Bachher unveiled the estimate Tuesday at the first public Board of Regents meeting since nationwide pro-Palestinian student protests began in April. The calculation was in response to a letter he received last month from the UC Divest Coalition, which is scrutinizing the system’s overall $175 billion in assets.

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The group asked for the system to halt its investments in weapons manufacturers, the investment firms Blackstone and BlackRock, and two dozen companies across the entertainment, technology and beverage industries.

Bachher said that would apply to investments that include: $3.3 billion in holdings from groups with ties to weapons manufacturers; $12 billion in U.S. treasuries; $163 million in the investment firm BlackRock and $2.1 billion in bonds that BlackRock manages; $8.6 billion from Blackstone and $3.2 billion from the other 24 companies.

“We pride ourselves on a culture of transparency,” Bachher said, adding that it is important to listen to and engage with students.

The University of California system said last month it would not boycott or divest from Israel, and the regents have not indicated a change in position during this week’s meetings.

In 1986, the regents voted to divest $3.1 billion from companies doing business with South Africa’s apartheid government after more than a year of student protests. The system also dropped its investments in fossil fuels in 2020.

For weeks, students at campuses across the country have been protesting and setting up encampments at their universities to call on them to be more transparent about their investments and to divest from companies that financially support Israel. The demonstrations have led to disruptions, arrests and debates over free speech rights. Tensions between protesters, law enforcement and administration at the University of California, Los Angeles, have garnered some of the most attention.

The protests stem from the current Israel-Hamas conflict which started on Oct. 7 when Hamas launched an attack on southern Israel in which militants killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took roughly 250 hostages. Vowing to destroy Hamas, Israel launched an offensive in Gaza that has killed more than 34,500 Palestinians, around two-thirds of them women and children, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory. Israeli strikes have devastated the enclave and displaced most of Gaza’s inhabitants.

In a letter provided to The Associated Press by the UC president’s office, the UC Divest Coalition — which is made up of anti-war student advocates across UC campuses — asked the university system to end any investments in “companies that perpetuate war or weapons manufacturing, including companies that give economic support to the state of Israel, and therefore perpetuate the ongoing occupation and genocide of the Palestinian people.”

“Investment in arms production is antithetical to the UC’s expressed values and the moral concerns of the students, workers, and faculty that the Regents represent,” the letter says.

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