At Stanford, Wayne and Howard, campus activists have pushed another round of divestment motions and debates. The huge uproar and discussion created on these campuses last month is an important step in forming a powerful divestment movement. These new developments come just after the international anti-apartheid week which was held at several universities in Canada, the US and the UK.
This new wave of solidarity has the potential not only to drain millions of dollars from the Occupation economy but also to educate a new generation of academics that divestment is the only ethical, responsible and anti-racist answer to apartheid â in South Africa and in Palestine.
On March 16, the Faculty of the College of Arts and Sciences of Howard University voted to endorse a resolution for divestment of Howard University funds from companies supporting the Israeli Occupation. The resolution passed with a large majority, 25 to 2.
While the faculty is now starting to identify university “funds that are being invested in ‘offending’ companies that are offering material support to Israeli Occupation”, Howard University President Patrick Swygert rejected the resolution outright.
The resolution was modelled after two similar bills. It borrowed language and arguments from a faculty senate bill passed at the University of Wisconsin, Platteville campus nearly two years ago. It also drew on a divestment statement passed last year against Sudan, for the continuing violations in the Darfur region.
The faculty historically has a black constituency. The overwhelming majority with which the motion was passed shows that the experience of state sponsored racism and colonialism as well as the urgency to fight it is still part of the consciousness of the black US population. However, a strong alliance between the Palestinian struggle and black civil rights movements still has to emerge.
(For the full text of the resolution, please see below.)
On February 27, Stanford students took the divestment fight to the Stanford University Senate. The ASSU Undergraduate Senate heard from Students Confronting Apartheid in Israel (SCAI) and the Jewish Student Association (JSA) last night for and against a bill authored by Senator Nabill Idrisi â09 calling for the University to selectively divest from âcompanies that violate international law and abuse human rights in Israel and Palestine.â
A heated debate in an unusually crowded meeting brought at least one victory for SCAI: the senators declined to vote and agreed to continue the divestment discussion.
SCAI has proposed a bill that does not call for comprehensive divestment from Israel but from companies that âviolate international law and abuse human rightsâ in five specific ways, including:
– Provision of âmilitary support or weaponry to facilitate Israelâs operations
in the Occupied Territories in violation of UN Resolution 242â
– Operating âon illegally occupied landâ
– Supporting âthe building or maintenance of the âseparation barrierâ that Israel has built in the West Bankâ
– Facilitating âhome demolition, land confiscation or other acts of collective punishment as documented by Amnesty Internationalâ
– Engaging âin practices that institutionally discriminate against people of a specific race, religion or ethnicityâ
SCAIâs strategy, while not advocating full divestment, doesnât fall into the trap of narrowing the issue to just the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and thus overlooking the plight of the vast majority of Palestinians who live as Israeli citizens or refugees. Their careful choice of divestment criteria spans a range of issues related to the question of Palestine and preserves the complexity of Israelâs apartheid policies.
Interestingly the companies proposed for divestment according to these criteria were non-Israeli multinationals. This highlights the international communityâs responsibility for the ongoing apartheid in Palestine.
SCAIâs spokesperson, Omar Shakir, pointed at the huge amount of crime and injustice committed by Israel in Palestine and the Middle East in his argument for divestment. The JSA spokesperson responded by suggesting the Senate endorse groups that teach co-existence without justice.
Divestment from Sudan has suspiciously been pushed by neo-cons and Zionists, partially to divert the attention from Israel and partially to ensure the US-Israeli axis will not lose the grip over the country. But SCAI has used this point to its favour, invoking Sudan as a precedent for University divestment.
At Wayne State University, Anti-Racist Action is in its fifth month of campaigning for divestment. At the meeting of the universityâs board of governors on Wednesday, March 21, ARA together with Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) have presented two separate divestment motions: one targeting investment in Israel and another one urging Wayne State University to divest from corporations that profited from war including Halliburton, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Company. While both motions have so far failed to be adopted, the discussion is spreading throughout the campus.
Meanwhile, at the University of Michigan Paul Abowd, a LSA senior, raises his voice to call for divestment from the companies that fuel Israeli state terrorism.
âIn solidarity with students at the University of Michigan at Dearborn and Wayne State, Howard and Stanford universities, we must demand that administrators at our university investigate and sever our complicit ties with militarism.
âThe University Board of Regents and University President Mary Sue Coleman owe the campus community an explanation as to these troubling investment policies. U.S. military support must cease in order to create conditions for a just peace. As students, we can do our part by demanding divestment from American companies who fuel and profit from Israeli state terrorism.â
On the Web at:
RESOLUTION ON DIVESTMENT FROM COMPANIES SUPPORTING ISRAELI OCCUPATION
Faculty of the College of Arts and Sciences of Howard University
WHEREAS, independent human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, B’Tselem, Israeli Committee against House Demolitions, and Al-Haq; the United Nations Human Rights Commission, and numerous non-governmental organizations have documented serious and widespread violations of international law and the human rights of Palestinian civilians by Israeli forces operating in the West Bank and Gaza, and that these violations also contribute to suffering endured by the people of Israel;
WHEREAS, leading human rights advocates, such as Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former President Jimmy Carter have condemned the apartheid-like conditions that Palestinians must endure under Israeli Occupation;
WHEREAS the International Court of Justice has ruled that Israel’s separation wall violates international law and the fundamental human rights of the Palestinians;
WHEREAS, there is evidence that U.S.-based companies provide material aid to the Israeli Army in the form of weapons, equipment, and supporting systems used to perpetrate human rights abuses against Palestinian civilians, and whereas knowingly continuing this support implies complicity with these companies in practices that violate international humanitarian law, and such firms as Boeing, Caterpillar, General Dynamics, General Electric, Lockheed Martin, Northrop-Grumman, and Raytheon have an active role in enabling Israeli forces to engage in practices that violate international law and the human rights of the Palestinian people;
WHEREAS, any effort to divest from these companies demonstrates a commitment to international law and the fundamental rights that belong to every human being, lays the groundwork for a just and enduring peace, and is therefore an expression of the hope for a free and secure future for every Israeli and Palestinian currently suffering under the burden of conflict;
WHEREAS, the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, 22 USC sec. 2304, provides that “no security assistance may be provided to any country the government of which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights”;
WHEREAS, the COLLEGE OF ARTS AND SCIENCES passed a resolution in December, 2006, endorsing an analogous action to call for divestment from Sudan on grounds of human rights violations;
BE IT RESOLVED that the COLLEGE OF ARTS AND SCIENCES calls upon HOWARD UNIVERSITY BOARD OF TRUSTEES to examine HOWARD UNIVERSITY’S retirement investment funds, endowment funds and short-term investment pool for its funds that are being invested in “offending” companies that are offering material support to Israeli Occupation;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that if it is found that HOWARD UNIVERSITY’S funds are being invested in offending companies materially supporting Israeli occupation, the HOWARD UNIVERSITY BOARD OF TRUSTEES should divest public securities related to offending companies, excluding public securities held in actively managed, commingled/pooled accounts or securities where no financially equivalent alternative is available.
Moreover, HOWARD UNIVERSITY BOARD OF TRUSTEES should declare that it, or its investment managers, will not make further investments in offending companies until the Israeli Occupation is ended, with a just resolution that includes self-determination for the Palestinian people and peace and security for both the Israeli and Palestinian people.