Showing posts with label campus divestment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label campus divestment. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

UC-Irvine Students Pass Divestment Resolution

On Tuesday, November 13, the Associated Students of University of California-Irvine voted 16-0 to divest from companies that profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestine, including from companies that contribute to illegal settlement construction in the occupied Palestinian territories. The effort was led by the Students for Justice in Palestine at UC-Irvine and targets several companies, including Caterpillar, Cemex, and SodaStream. 

This historic victory is even more impressive considering the case of the Irvine 11 involving students who were arrested back in February 2010 for speaking out in opposition to Israeli policies during a speech delivered by Israeli ambassador Michael Oren on campus. 

The press release and video of the vote are below. Interestingly, the Israeli website Ynet published an article just 9 days ago touting how pro-Israel activity is flourishing on California campuses. "Irvine University in California has become a hotbed of pro-Israel activity, only two years after an anti-Israeli attack on former envoy Michael Oren during a speech on campus," claimed the reporter. (h/t @grinhoyz)

UC Irvine students pass historic legislation urging divestment from human rights abuses in Palestine

(IRVINE, CALIF., 11/13/2012)- In an historic move that could initiate a domino effect across America’s campuses, the Associated Students of UC Irvine voted unanimously to divest from companies that profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestine, including from companies that contribute to illegal settlement construction in the occupied Palestinian territories. 

With 16 votes in favor, 0 abstentions, and 0 opposed, the elected undergraduate student representatives of the University of California Irvine unanimously passed a resolution urging the University to withdraw its investment funds from Caterpillar, General Electric Company, Hewlett Packard, Raytheon, and other companies profiting from human rights violations in the occupied territories. The students also pledged to further examine UC assets for investments in companies that profit from human rights abuses anywhere in the world. 

The resolution was drafted in response to the 2005 Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel as a means to force it to comply with international law and end its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza; allow Palestinian refugees their internationally guaranteed right to return to their homes and villages; and grant equal rights to Palestinian citizens of Israel. Other divestment successes have occurred at Hampshire College and Evergreen State College, as well as the WeDivest campaign which focuses on pension fund giant TIAA CREF and has resulted in, among other things, the removal of Caterpillar from its Social Choice Funds. 

Sabreen Shalabi, the student representative on the legislative council for the school of social science and co-author of the legislation said, “I am very proud of my fellow council members and of the students at our University. Our work today stands tall in the noble tradition of students advocating for justice, joining the ranks of those brave and visionary students who demanded that our Universities divest from the terrible crimes of South African apartheid.” 

Traci Ishigo, President of the Associated Student of UCI and a member of the UC Irvine Foundation, said “The decision made by ASUCI’s legislative Council tonight clearly shows the strength and integrity of students utilizing their collective power to protect human rights on a global scale and I stand firmly by the students who believe it is their responsibility to have a voice on matters that urge the UC to be an institution that treasures human dignity.”

Thursday, June 7, 2012

BDS WIN! ASU Votes to Divest from Israel

The undergraduate student government at Arizona State University on Tuesday unanimously passed a bill demanding that ASU divest from and blacklist corporations that are complicit in human rights abuses in the occupied Palestinian Territories and Sudan. 

This announcement is yet another victory in the global BDS movement to pressure Israel to end its human rights violations against Palestinians and comply with international law. 

From the ASU SJP chapter: "Arizona State University, a university with an endowment of over $735 million, aspires to be the 'New American University' with globally engaged students. We, students, at ASU want our university to make socially responsible investment decisions; we also want ASU’s investments to reflect its values as an institution. The bill calls for ASU to divest from and blacklist companies such as Alliant Tech Systems, Boeing, Caterpillar, Motorola, United Technologies, Petrochina, China National Petroleum Company, Sinopec, Oil and Natural Gas Company and Alstom."

As the BDS movement continues to grow, there are many ways you can help. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Palestinian Students Call on their European Peers to Boycott Israeli Apartheid

The Palestinian Students' Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel has written an open letter calling on their European peers to intensify boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns against Israel on university campuses.

An Open Letter from Palestinian Students to Their Peers in Europe: “Time Now to Boycott Israeli Apartheid on University Campuses”

Besieged Gaza, Occupied Palestine


We Palestinian students of the Gaza Strip wish to send a message to all European student groups in solidarity with the Palestinians to do all they can to increase Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions of Israel this academic year.

We also reiterate our support for the recent call by Palestinian Civil Society, of which we are a signatory, to end all collaborative research between European Universities and Israeli universities. [1] Research centers in Israeli academic institutions are actively involved in fueling Israel's huge weapons industry and tools of its military occupation and siege. It is this apparatus of violence that makes studying in Gaza so difficult, not to mention the daily toils and tragedy of Israeli apartheid policies. We, therefore, call for an end to this compliance on all campuses with those directly complicit in the war crimes and colonial subjugation of us the Palestinian people in Gaza, the West Bank,‘48 Palestine and throughout the Diaspora.

These are crucial times as we youth in Gaza are seeing glimpses of the kinds of mass international movement that we are certain will one day bring us the liberation, justice and equality expected by others but denied to us for so long. Each university that boycotts, divests and sanctions from Israel's apartheid regime is standing on the right side of history, just as students played a huge role in boycotting South Africa’s ugly and similarly racist apartheid regime until it fell in 1994.

Yet apartheid against Palestinians since then has only become more entrenched. In response, our call for boycott from over 170 organisations from Palestinian civil society in 2005 [2] has been a lightning rod for others who can relate to our plight. When endorsing the successful boycott and ending of ties between the University of Johannesburg and Ben Gurion University (BGU) this year, the first of its kind, Archbishop Desmond Tutu said:

“While Palestinians are not able to access universities and schools, Israeli universities produce the research, technology, arguments and leaders for maintaining the occupation. BGU is no exception. By maintaining links to both the Israeli Defence Forces and the arms industry, BGU structurally supports and facilitates the Israeli occupation.” [3]

There was no negotiating with such oppression based on race - there was only one word: BOYCOTT. Just as students around the world were banning Barclays bank from campuses for their investment in South African Apartheid in the 1980s, this year we call on you to take similar steps to end Israel’s systematic brutality. To say, "We will no longer be complicit!", in the decades of ethnic cleansing, military occupation, medieval blockade that has lead to so much tragedy and broken dreams for our youth and students.

Our spirits have been raised by the BDS efforts so far in European Universities, exemplified by Kings College where students and academics have begun a campaign against the research collaboration between their university and Ahava, the cosmetics company based in an illegal settlement. Such long term campaigns are what is required, the cutting edge of international resistance. We ask you to do whatever it takes to isolate and hold Israel to account until it abides by international law and accepts basic premises of human rights and equality for all, including us Palestinians.

This year it is in your hands to see that the tide finally turns across the campuses in Western countries that most enable the Israeli regime's crimes against us to continue. We hope you put BDS at the forefront of your campaigns and join together for the Israeli Apartheid Week [4],, the pinnacle of action across universities worldwide. And while the walls around us stop us from meeting in person, we have many students and youth happy to participate in skype conferences and other collaborations. We give you all our solidarity and send you our dearest wishes to do us proud this year.





Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Occupy CU and Demand Divestment from Israeli Apartheid!

In the 1980's, University of Colorado (CU) students "occupied" CU until the university divested from apartheid South Africa. Now US Campaign member group CU-Divest! is prepared to occupy CU again until it divests from Israeli apartheid. Read about their plans and how you can support them below!

*Occupy CU Nov 9* Tell the Regents at the University of Colorado not to support Israel’s illegal occupation and apartheid of Palestine. Occupy demonstrations are springing up from Wall Street to Pearl Street. Some of these demonstrations remind me of protests in the ‘80s when students and activists “occupied” CU. The cause then was divestment from South African apartheid and involved rallies, sit-ins, and teach-ins. The students even built shanty towns representing the apartheid Bantustans where white South Africans were intent on segregating Blacks. The civil disobedience on CU’s campus in April 1988 pressured the Regents to change the University’s investment policy. Four months later, in August 1988, the Board of Regents voted to divest.

Now, 23 years later, the Regents are confronted with a similar movement and demand: divestfrom Israeli apartheid.

A local grassroots campaign called CU-Divest! representing students, faculty, alumni, and concerned citizens has collected more than 2200 signatures on a petition demanding the University divest from companies like Caterpillar, Motorola, Northrop Grumman and Veolia - companies that support and profit from Israel’s apartheid of Palestine.

What’s Israeli apartheid? It’s the institutionalized racism that oppresses Palestinians. It’s the military occupation that enforces Jewish-only settlements, Jewish-only roads, Jewish-only buses, and walls up Palestinian neighborhoods behind a 25 ft high separation wall.

It’s time to Occupy CU again. On Nov. 9, 1pm, the Board of Regents will meet at CU-Boulder, East Campus, 4001 Discovery Dr. CU-Divest! will be there to meet the regents and present them with our petition. We encourage concerned members of the University Community and persons of conscience all over Colorado to sign our petition and join us on Nov 9 and tell CU, “Apartheid - We Don’t Buy It.”

Friday, September 30, 2011

Invitation to Historic National Students for Justice in Palestine Conference

Below is an invitation to students around the country to attend the historic national Students for Justice in Palestine conference next month at Columbia University. Students attending and organizing the conference represent SJPs around the country, including several US Campaign member groups. 

National SJP Conference
14-16 Oct 2011
Columbia University
Dear Students,
It is with great pleasure that we invite you to the 2011 National Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) Conference at Columbia University in the City of New York from 14-16 October 2011.
Over the past couple of months, a number of student activists from SJPs and other student groups focused on Palestine from around the country have been laying the foundations for a national SJP conference to be held in Fall 2011. This group emerged from a discussion which took place on the national SJP listserv and has met a number of times via teleconference.
The objective of this conference is to democratically shape and refine the existing network of SJP groups in the United States, building on the momentum these groups have generated in recent years and strengthening the historical movement of which we are all a part.
This conference is specifically geared towards current student Palestine solidarity activists, including current students actively involved in, or looking to establish, a SJP group or a similar Palestine solidarity student group, as well as alumni actively involved in assisting their former SJP group.
To succeed the planning of this conference needs to be a democratic process involving as many students as possible, and we hope you will become involved. We are confident that this conference will provide a momentous opportunity for students across the United States who are mobilizing for justice in Palestine to exchange ideas and to strengthen the national student movement.
The Ad Hoc National SJP Conference Planning Committee

To register for the conference, click here.

Read the full text of the letter here.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

CU-Divest! delivers 2000+ signature to CU Regents!

US Campaign member group CU-Divest! presented a petition with over two thousand signatures asking the university to divest.  Read more about the group's efforts here, or visit the group's website: CU-Divest!

by Michael Rabb

A week ago on September 12th, CU-Divest! at the Regents’ meeting at UC Denver, delivered our petition asking the University of Colorado to divest from Israeli Apartheid.  I count this action as one of our major successes.  Thanks to Beth Daud and her determined group of campus activists and the folks who drove down from Boulder, we had “good” showing with signs and flyers and this time I think we had the Regents’ attention.  We handed out our flyer requesting the Regents to support our campaign and sign our petition.  The flyer highlights a campaign that was successful in the 1980s in compelling CU to divest from South African apartheid. 

In public comment segment of the meeting we made our appeal to the Regents to divest from Israeli apartheid. In addition, we delivered our petition with over 2000 signatures, making the argument that CU should not remain complicit in Israel’s oppression by profiting from the illegal an immoral occupation and apartheid.

After we spoke, the opposition, from the ADL and CU’s Hillel student made a few comments:  mostly about how complicated the Israel-Palestine conflict is, and that human rights and social justice are not the purview of CU, and it’s none of CU’s business what Israel does to the Palestinian people.

Then a marvelous thing happened: Regent Jim Geddes turned to the Treasurer of the University of Colorado, Donald Eldhart, and asked the Treasurer to explain the process for divestment and to provide some history of other divestment actions.  This was significant because for the first time in the six months that CU-Divest! has been communicating with and petitioning the University, the Regents have indicated an interest in our campaign.

A short discussion with the Treasurer and other Regents including Regent Michael Carrigan ensued regarding divestment process and history, specifically when CU divested from Sudan’s genocide in 2006.  So I count this as a success and important milestone in our effort to engage the University on the issue of Palestinian rights and our campaign to ask the University to divest from Israeli apartheid.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Divesting from Israel's Occupation: Petition at University of Colorado

A US Campaign coalition member, CU-Divest, is presenting a petition to the University of Colorado Board of Regents this month.  This is one of many nationwide divestment campaigns, including the campaign against TIAA-CREF, which is chronicled here.

By Ida Audeh - Boulder, Colorado
In September, the University of Colorado Board of Regents will be presented with a petition urging it to remove from the university's stock portfolio all companies that profit from Israel's occupation of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip. Launched by CU-Divest and signed by nearly 2,000 students and human rights activists, the petition states that the university's $1.7 billion investments "may violate the University's commitment to human rights and social justice."

Similar divestment campaigns are underway in dozens of campuses across the country, following the successful efforts of Hampshire College students in 2009. (The retirement plan giant TIAA-CREF is the focus of a separate national divestment campaign.)

In 2005, Palestinian civil society issued a call to the international community to apply boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it upholds international law and Palestinian rights. The appeal resonated with human rights activists who have been frustrated by their government's failure to pressure Israel to stop its human rights violations of Palestinians.

The U.S. divestment campaign has been modeled very deliberately on campaigns that targeted investment in South Africa apartheid during the 1980s. The two countries, Israel and the former South Africa, are remarkably similar in their treatment of populations they define as undesirable (Palestinians and black South Africans, respectively).


Monday, June 27, 2011

BDS Earlham Rallies Alumni to Support Students Working for Ethical Investment

BDS Earlham is a Coalition Member of the US Campaign

Students, Friends and families of Earlham College, past and present, are being called upon to promote ethical investment by divesting from companies like Motorola, Caterpillar and Hewlett-Packard, which are complicit in Israel's human rights violations. BDS Earlham has launched a new initiative called "Earlham Alumni Against Apartheid" to get everyone associated with Earlham College involved.

Below is the a letter from BDS Earlham to all Earlham Alumni, calling on them to join the BDS movement

Dear Earlhamites,

On behalf of Earlham Alumni Against Apartheid, I’m writing today to ask you to participate in a campaign to pressure Earlham College to live up to our values of peace, justice, and ethical investment.   A new student group called BDS Earlham is currently asking our college to divest from three companies that are profiting off of the Israeli military occupation of Palestine.  BDS Earlham is asking Earlham Alumni, parents, and friends of the college to show our support for their campaign by signing their petition. I’d like to invite you to take just one moment to show your support by signing their petition and becoming involved in this important campaign.
BDS Earlham is calling on Earlham to divest from Motorola, Caterpillar, and Hewlett-Packard.  These companies violate the spirit of Earlham’s ethical investment guidelines through their complicity in Israeli human rights violations:
  • Motorola manufactures the Israeli military with encrypted mobile phone technology and manufactures “virtual fences” and surveillance systems for Israeli settlements.   These Jewish-only settlements are a potent symbol of Israeli apartheid and are illegal under several international laws, including the 4th Geneva Convention.  Motorola also has close ties with Aeronautics Defense Systems (ADS), which makes drone aircraft.  Last April Human Rights Watch reported finding debris from Motorola bomb components in the rubble of civilian buildings in the Gaza Strip.
  • Caterpillar manufactures weaponized bulldozers that the Israeli army uses to demolish Palestinian homes.   Since Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1967, it has demolished more than 12,000 Palestinian homes, leaving over 70,000 people traumatized and without shelter.
  • Hewlett-Packard manufactures the Basel System, a body scanning technology used at Israeli checkpoints at the Gaza borders and inside the West Bank.   Israel’s system of checkpoints prevent Palestinians from moving freely, stopping farmers from accessing their land, students from going to school, and sick people from getting medical attention.

Read the rest of the letter and sign the petition here

Saturday, June 25, 2011

AFSC Joins Jewish Voice for Peace on Divestment Campaign

Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) are two of our coalition members, along with six of AFSC's U.S. regional chapters. Spearheaded by JVP, the "We Divest" Campaign targeting TIAA-CREF is a US Campaign-sponsored initiative. AFSC has distributed the following press release.

In its meeting on June 12, 2011, the Board of Directors of the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker peace organization, united in support of joining the divestment campaign led by Jewish Voice for Peace.  The campaign calls on the financial services organization TIAA-CREF to divest from companies that:

  • Directly profit from or contribute to the Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem;
  • Provide products or services that contribute to the construction and maintenance of Israeli settlements and/or the Separation Wall, both of which are illegal under international law; or
  • Provide products or services that contribute to or enable violent acts that target civilians.
The campaign also calls on TIAA-CREF to establish investment criteria to exclude any such companies in the future.  The TIAA-CREF campaign does not target the government of Israel or Israeli companies for divestment; it is directed at divesting from all corporations that profit from the Israeli occupation.

The AFSC Board affirmed that the decision to join this campaign is “rooted in our Quaker beliefs that we speak with love to ‘that of God’ in every person, that we ‘utterly deny all outward wars and strife and fighting with outward weapons for any end or under any pretense whatsoever’, and that we testify to this by removing the ‘seeds of conflict’ - including economic seeds - from our own lives.”

This decision is a response to ongoing Israeli violations of human rights and international law and is a rejection of any actions that might support these violations. Consistent with AFSC’s investment screen, this campaign seeks to change Israeli government actions and to end its continued occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza.

AFSC’s work is shaped by its recognition of Israelis’ and Palestinians’ shared humanity and the importance of working with both peoples to end the conflict based on the principles of equality, rights and justice. As the Board said, “In joining this campaign, Friends reaffirmed our commitment to approach it with a loving spirit and openness to hearing all sides in a conflict. In communicating with Jewish Voice for Peace and others we will hold up our broader concerns for the resolution of all conflict and violation of human rights in the region.”

For more information about AFSC’s joining the Jewish Voice for Peace campaign, see our frequently asked questions.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

New Coalition Member CU-Divest Delivers Petition to Regents

We are proud to announce CU-Divest as a new coalition member of the US Campaign!

Yesterday at the Board of Regents meeting at the University of Colorado Springs campus, a local “grassroots movement” called CU-Divest! stood at the public forum segment of the Regents meeting and appealed to the Regents to divest from Israeli apartheid.

Local activist, Michael Rabb spoke for about two minutes and delivered the group’s petition with 1500 signatures calling on the University to divest from companies that support Israel’s occupation, colonization and apartheid.

Rabb said, the premise for our request is Israel is doing is doing some absolutely awful and inhumane things to the people of Palestine.  For 44 years Israel has enforced a crushing military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, Israel continues even now expanding their colonization (that would be jewish-only settlements) and systematically administers a system of apartheid against the indigenous people of Palestine.  Israel takes Palestinian land and water. Israel taxes Palestinians and builds houses and roads for Jews only on Palestinian land.  Israel separates Palestinian neighborhoods and walls them up as ghettos or Bantustans as the whites did to blacks in South Africa. 

CU community members advocate divestment from South Africa in the 1980s.
The Board of Regents has a choice have a choice to make.  Just like in the 1980s when they voted to divest from South African apartheid, and just like five years ago when the Regents voted to divest from Sudan’s genocide, once again the University of Colorado has a choice to make.  The University of Colorado must say no to apartheid.
Our campaign has really gained momentum in the last few months through the action of our petition drive.  A number of students and some faculty have signed on to our cause (Learn more about the campaign here).  CU students have started a student organization at the Boulder campus and are organizing some great events for the fall semester to bring the attention of the University community to this issue.

A Colorado Grassroots Movement
2002 18th Street, Boulder CO 80302

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Have TIAA-CREF? Join a Call-in Day, Tomorrow, June 1!

We Divest is a US Campaign-endorsed initiative.

Tell TIAA-CREF: "You can’t censor me!
You can’t continue investing in Occupation!"

TIAA-CREF thinks it can ignore Israeli violations of human rights and international law by censoring discussion among their clients. Activists with retirement funds in TIAA- CREF recently introduced a shareholder resolution about companies in the TIAA-CREF portfolio that profit from illegal Israeli Occupation. TIAA-CREF responded by quashing the resolution and refusing to place it on the shareholder ballot.

Join us in telling TIAA-CREF: You can’t censor us, and you can’t continue investing in Occupation!

On June 1st, 2011, the We Divest Campaign will host a call-in day nationwide. Join activists from across the country in telling TIAA-CREF it’s time to stop censoring discussion and time to start divesting from Occupation!

Take it to the Streets!

Four Easy Action Ideas for the We Divest Call-in Day:

1. Pick up your phone and call TIAA-CREF CEO, Roger Ferguson.
2. Distribute the email call far and wide.
3. Set up a “take five table” in a high traffic area of town.
4. Host a calling party or a phone bank.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Video by DePaul SJP to Boycott Sabra

Students for Justice in Palestine at DePaul University, a new coalition member of the US Campaign, released this awesome video as part of their campaign to compel the university to end its sale of Sabra food products.

Writes the group:
Sabra products are manufactured by the Strauss Group, an Israeli corporation that supports the Givati and Golani brigades of the Israeli army. These "elite" brigades have been cited for numerous human rights violations since 1948, including during Israel’s three-week assault on Gaza that killed over 1,400 mostly unarmed civilians.

For more information about Sabra hummus's support for human rights abuses, click here.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Show Caterpillar it can run, but it can't hide

By Anna Baltzer, National Organizer
May 19, 2011

For the past seven years, the US Campaign and many of our coalition member groups, including Chicagoans Against Apartheid in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace, have dominated Caterpillar's annual Chicago-area shareholder meetings by organizing creative protests inside and outside the meetings, like these actions in 2009 and in 2010 (click to learn more).

Above: Activists protest outside a Caterpillar shareholder meeting. (click image to enlarge).

Together, we've challenged the corporation for supplying Israel with D9 bulldozers -- which Israel misuses to demolish Palestinian homes, uproot olive trees, construct Jewish-only settlements and the Apartheid Wall, and kill and maim unarmed civilians -- at Caterpillar's most important annual gathering.

Apparently CAT has had enough of us all dominating their annual shareholder meeting. Recently, it announced that it is moving its meeting on June 8th to Little Rock, Arkansas. CAT can run 700 miles away for its meeting this year, but we're still watching.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak explained in a recent interview in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz that:

"BDS [boycott, divestment, and sanctions]... will start coming at us like a glacier, from all corners."

Our joint corporate accountability campaign to challenge CAT's role continues from all corners: from shareholder activism, to targeting the U.S. government's Foreign Military Sales Program D9 deliveries, to student divestment campaigns and CAT-free campuses. Only with your help in targeting CAT from "all corners" will this campaign continue to grow!

Here are some updates and ways for you to advance our collective "Stop Caterpillar" campaign:

Last October, media reports stated that CAT would not deliver bulldozers to the Israeli military during the civil trial brought by Cindy and Craig Corrie against Israel for the 2003 killing of their daughter Rachel by its military with a weaponized Caterpillar D9 bulldozer as she nonviolently tried to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home in the Gaza Strip.

Click here for trial updates from the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice, a US Campaign member group.

We need to maintain pressure on the Obama Administration and on CAT to make sure no D9 bulldozers -- destined to destroy Palestinian homes and lives -- are delivered ever! In the lead-up to CAT's shareholder meeting...

Show CAT it can run but it can't hide!
Join nearly 15,000 people in signing our petition to the Obama Administration demanding the end of D9 Caterpillar bulldozer deliveries to the Israeli military, and an investigation into Israel's violations of U.S. laws committed with Caterpillar equipment.


Above: Video by Earlham College students (click to watch).

This spring has brought a surge of campus divestment campaigns targeting Caterpillar and other corporations profiting from Israeli occupation and apartheid. Students at Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA, which declared itself CAT-free last year, have joined with campuses like the University of Arizona (UA) in a "Mock Wall" movement coinciding with the launch of a resolution to divest from Caterpillar and Motorola. Likewise, students in a new US Campaign member group, BDS Earlham, are calling for divestment from Caterpillar, Motorola and Hewlett Packard.

Show CAT it can run but it can't hide!
Click here to show your support for the Earlham College resolution to divest from Caterpillar.

3. Dozens of groups around the country, including member groups Jewish Voice for Peace, Grassroots International, and the Palestine Solidarity Committee at UT-Austin, are building campaigns to get TIAA-CREF, one of the largest financial services providers in the United States, to divest more than $250 million from Caterpillar (along with holdings in other occupation-profiteers).

Show CAT it can run but it can't hide!
Click here to call for TIAA-CREF's divestment and to find out how you can become a local organizer on this fast-spreading campaign.

Let's prove Ehud Barak right by using all possible avenues to end Caterpillar's complicity in Israel's occupation and apartheid policies!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Israeli Officials and History Affirm the Power of BDS

By Anna Baltzer, National Organizer, US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation

Are boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) proving effective at isolating Israel as a form of pressure to end its violations of Palestinian rights? We at the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation think so, but you don’t have to take our word for it.

Two recent articles in The Jewish Daily Forward and the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz have affirmed the power of the growing BDS movement in placing a cost on Israel’s occupation and apartheid policies. The Forward’s piece, “Survey of Campus BDS Finds Few Serious Cases,” sets out to diminish concern over the recent surge in campus BDS campaigns, but ends up making the case as well as anyone could for how and why ongoing BDS campaigns—on-campus and off—are succeeding!

The Forward’s article reassures BDS opponents that in no instance has a North American BDS campaign resulted in a campus divesting from corporations or de-shelving products. But further down, former human rights director for the American Committee on Africa reflects on the BDS movement against Apartheid South Africa: “It took a good 20 years to get to the height of the movement.” The reality is that within the first five years of the 2005 Palestinian civil society BDS call, the movement had arguably achieved more victories than the corresponding anti-Apartheid South Africa BDS movement could count in its first 15 years, especially taking into account BDS successes worldwide, particularly in Europe.

Apparently, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak agrees that the success of the BDS movement will take time, explaining in an interview with Ha’aretz:
This will not happen overnight.… It will start coming at us like a glacier, from all corners. There are people in the European Council that [sic] deal with export and import, and they are capable, without any government decision, of inflicting significant damage on the Israeli economy. We will see this taking place in academia, we will see this taking place in dockworker unions, consumer groups, and this will seep into governments.… To me, this uncontrollable process looks more dangerous than what the [Israeli] public perceives at the moment.
In addition to being a long-term struggle, BDS is much more than economic; it’s about changing the discourse around Israel. On this front, the movement has been wildly successful, pushing the discussion beyond the question of whether Israel is committing crimes to the question about what the world is going to do about it. It frames the discussion around three fundamental, indisputable Palestinian rights—freedom from occupation, equality in Israel, and the right of return—rather than any particular solution. It is proactive in nature, unifying and mobilizing allies around points of unity and a common, concrete way to action.

Far from failing on campuses, BDS has proven itself to be one of the best tools there is to educate people about Israeli occupation and apartheid. Last year’s divestment campaign at the University of California at Berkeley is a case in point. UC Berkeley’s student senate voted overwhelmingly for a resolution calling on university divestment from companies involved in the Israeli occupation. Although the senate president and outside opposition succeeded in stopping the resolution, the battle for the hearts and minds of the UC Berkeley community had already been won. With all the surrounding controversy, by the time the final vote came around, likely every student and faculty member on campus had encountered the association between “Israel” and “apartheid.” This is a tremendous victory. Campus campaigns that fail to pass a resolution often win instead by rectifying Israel’s exceptional status in public discourse as immune to criticism, promoting debate on the real issues and thereby educating people.

American Israel Public Affairs Committee executive director Howard Kohr described the power of BDS during the committee’s 2009 conference:
We need to recognize that this campaign is about more than mere rhetoric. This is the battle for the hearts and minds of the world... left unchallenged, allowed to go unchecked, it will work.
As illustrated in The Forward’s article, the effectiveness of the BDS movement has not gone unnoticed, with a new $6 million initiative to counter BDS, funded by the Jewish Federations of North America. The Reut Institute, an influential Israeli think tank, has also called on the Israeli government to direct considerable resources to “attack” and possibly engage in “sabotage” of the BDS movement and related campaigns. Earlier this spring, the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) approved its first reading of an anti-boycott bill, imposing harsh fines on Israeli citizens who call for academic or economic boycott. It is precisely the reactions of BDS opponents that illustrate the effectiveness of the BDS movement.

While failing to convince the reader that campus BDS organizing is not a force to be reckoned with, the article sets up a false and highly problematic distinction between BDS organizers and Jewish groups. The BDS campaigns referred to within the article (including the TIAA-CREF Campaign, initiated by Jewish Voice for Peace) have enjoyed widespread support from the growing number of Jewish individuals and organizations advocating for BDS. The attempts to claim that BDS erases “the Jewish narrative” does a great disservice to American, Israeli, and international Jews and Jewish organizations. Many of these organizations are mobilizing for BDS and challenging the monolithic Jewish narrative co-opted by Israeli official rhetoric. They include, Jewish Voice for Peace, American Jews for a Just Peace, the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, the Coalition of Women for Peace, and Boycott!: Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call from Within.

The Forward’s article not only ignores Jewish BDS activism but also omits a number of non-divestment campus BDS campaigns that have proven successful, such as last month’s cultural boycott victory at Washington University in St. Louis. Organizers of a Middle Eastern hip-hop event on campus were compelled to disinvite Israeli hip-hop artist Marvin Casey, whose dance troupe is funded by the Jewish Agency for Israel, following opposition from Washington University students, the St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee, and Arab hip-hop artists also slated to perform.

BDS opponents attempting to downplay the success of the movement in The Forward’s article repeatedly refer to BDS as a delegitimizing campaign, without specifying precisely what is being delegitimized. A rights-based movement focused on equality and freedom for all, BDS indeed delegitimizes occupation, discrimination, and apartheid. Those delegitimizing Israel’s transgressions and impunity have nothing to apologize for. And despite the wishful thinking of some, it is increasingly clear that those trying to hold back this long-established and respected nonviolent tactic of BDS as a vehicle for achieving equality and human rights for the Palestinian people are fighting a losing battle.

Anna Baltzer is an award-winning lecturer, author, and activist for Palestinian human rights. She works as national organizer with the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.