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Letter of Support for UW Divestment

April 20th, 2014

Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights at the University of Washington launched a campaign in 2014 to pass a resolution through their student government calling on their university to divest from corporations that profit from Israeli occupation and apartheid. 

Learn more about their campaign at http://superuw.org/dawgsdivest/. 

Dear University of Washington Students, 

As a national coalition of more than 400 groups around the country that support freedom, justice, and equality for all, we are writing to thank you for your efforts to pass a resolution at the University of Washington calling for divestment from companies that profit from occupation and apartheid and are complicit in Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people.  

Every day Palestinians suffer ongoing displacement, discrimination, and exile as a consequence of Israel’s abusive policies. Whether it’s Palestinians living under brutal military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza, or Palestinian refugees who cannot return to their lands because they have the wrong ethnic or religious background, or Palestinian citizens of Israel who face more than 50 laws enshrining their status as second-class citizens, Palestinians have been denied their rights and dignity by Israel for several decades.   

In 2005 more than 170 Palestinian civil society groups issued a call for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) targeting Israel and institutions complicit in its oppressive policies towards Palestinians until it complies with international law. With the failure of the international community to hold Israel accountable for its actions, BDS promotes time-honored and respected tactics used to achieve justice, including in the U.S. Civil Rights and South Africa Anti-Apartheid movements. 

Once example of the complicity of corporations in Israel’s oppression is Caterpillar. The company’s bulldozers are one of the most destructive weapons Israel utilizes to maintain its military occupation. These machines are used daily to demolish Palestinian homes, uproot Palestinian olive trees, build illegal Jewish-only settlements on stolen Palestinian lands, and construct the apartheid wall. Since 1967 more than 25,000 Palestinian homes have been destroyed and estimated 800,000 olive trees have been uprooted, which is equal to 33 Central Parks. On March 16, 2003, 23-year-old American peace activist and Washington resident Rachel Corrie was run over and killed by a Caterpillar D9 bulldozer as she was trying to protect a Palestinian home from being demolished while the family was inside.

In the past nine years, people of conscience worldwide, especially students, have responded to the Palestinian call for action by pursuing local BDS campaigns. Campuses have been at the forefront of social justice struggles throughout history, even when doing so was unpopular. As with all social justice movements, there will be those who oppose your efforts by accusing you of being divisive and pushing for the need to be neutral. The fact is that refusing to divest is in itself a political stance in support of human rights abuses. There is no “not taking a side” in this situation: there is the side of justice and the status quo of injustice. Those working for Palestinian rights are not the ones singling out Israel. It is the U.S. government that singles Israel out by funding its occupation and apartheid with billions of dollars in military aid annually. It is university student governments that single Israel out when they pass resolutions about fossil fuels, the prison industrial complex, and human rights abuses in other countries but decline to take up Israel’s very clearly documented violations of international law. 

After the end of apartheid in South Africa, Nelson Mandela made clear: “The UN took a strong stand against apartheid; and over the years, an international consensus was built, which helped to bring an end to this iniquitous system. But we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”

We cheer you on in your stand with Palestinians in their struggle against Israeli occupation, apartheid, and colonization. We applaud your efforts to continue UW’s proud record of divestment from companies that profit from oppression and human rights abuses, including Apartheid in South Africa and genocide in Sudan. 


US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, a national coalition working to end all U.S. support for Israeli occupation and apartheid policies towards Palestinians. 

PDF of letter here.