Students fuel movement for divestment from Israel

UPDATE: Hampshire College in Amherst, MA, has become the first of any college or university in the U.S. to divest from companies on the grounds of their involvement in the Israeli occupation of Palestine. The proposal put forth by SJP was approved on Saturday, 7 Feb 2009 by the Board. By divesting from these companies, SJP believes that Hampshire has distanced itself from complicity in the illegal occupation and war crimes of Israel.

The six corporations, all of which provide the Israeli military with equipment and services in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza are: Caterpillar, United Technologies, General Electric, ITT Corporation, Motorola, and Terex (see attached info sheet for more information on these corporations.) Furthermore, our policy prevents the reinvestment in any company involved in the illegal occupation.

Since the invasion of Gaza began on Dec. 27, the idea of divestment and boycott against Israel has spread to college campuses all over the country. A group called Students for Justice in Palestine based at Hampshire College, a small liberal arts school in western Massachusetts, has been advocating for divestment at its school for the last two years.

SJP has been taking actions on their campus to bring about awareness of the Israeli occupation, all centering around the divestment campaign. They have organized protests in the town of Amherst, Mass., most recently on January 10th in reaction to the invasion of Gaza. For the past two years organizers have set up a mock wall in the center of their campus, where they hand out information on checkpoints and the real separation wall—which isolates some 60,500 Palestinians living in 42 villages and towns.

The group is very diverse, with varying opinions, but all have a common goal—to end the Israeli occupation and to bring justice to the Palestinian people. Two members of the group are actually Israeli refuseniks who spent a large portion of their young lives organizing and fighting within Israeli territory. One of them spent two years in an Israeli jail. Another SJP member is Palestinian.

Unlike the U.S. media and most college campuses, SJP has held many open dialogues on the campus, giving the student population an outlet to discuss this very important topic. Guest speakers from all over the country and from both Israeli and Palestinian territories have come to Hampshire to talk, give lectures, read poetry and connect with other activist groups. Author Naomi Klein is coming to the school in February to give a talk on the Israeli occupation.

SJP’s demands

The following are SJP’s demands: “Hampshire College calls on the U.S. government to stop financing the Israeli occupation. We support dialogue on our campus and between the leaderships of the two peoples as long as it is sincere and with the intention to end the oppression of the Palestinian people. As an institution we will not support, invest in or finance any individual, group or institution that is economically involved with the occupation. We support the Palestinian right to resist the occupation in accordance with international law.

“Due to our mandate as an institution of higher education, we are committed to support the Palestinian right to education, which is denied by the occupation, through exchange programs and academic support. In solidarity with the Palestinian people, our educational program will provide a stage for unheard Palestinian voices.”

After these demands were made, SJP compiled a list of six companies that the school should specifically divest from: 1) Caterpillar, which sells armored bulldozers used to demolish homes and uproot olive trees and is responsible for the death of Rachel Corrie. 2) United Technologies, which makes Blackhawk helicopters that attack Palestinian buildings and civilians. 3) General Electric, which makes engines for the “Apache” helicopters. 4) ITT, which supplies the Israeli military with communications, electronic and night vision equipment used by its forces in the occupied territories. 5) Motorola, which has a contract to develop wireless encrypted communications for the Israeli military in the territories and is a majority investor in one of Israel’s four cell phone companies. 6) Terex, which supplies Israel with tactical trucks, flood light towers and cranes for the separation wall, and provides associated logistical support to the Israeli Army.

Hampshire has a history of divestment. It was the first college to divest from South Africa and was the first to come out against the war in Afghanistan.

Every day students hear and read about the ever growing death toll among the Palestinian people. The U.S. role in the Israeli occupation is integral. Students can no longer watch their money go to the investment in an illegal and racist occupation. This is one aspect of the many actions that are being taken by the people of this country who are outraged at the war crimes that are being committed with U.S. military funding.

Long live Palestine!

Goldstein is a member of SJP and FIST.

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