A year ago, UofC Divest’s Resolution to Divest University Funds from Apartheid passed in College Council, gaining student government support for divestment from 10 international companies complicit in the Israeli occupation of Palestine. This spring, UofC Divest renews its efforts with a letter campaign, asking everyone recently motivated into political engagement to put those tactics to work right here on campus. By pressuring the Board of Trustees to divest from the oppression of Palestinians, we as a university community can make the statement that no mistreated group is exempt from our solidarity, and our own complicit institutions are not exempt from our demands.
For those just now hearing about this campaign, a summary: Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, and within Israel have asked for international support in their struggle against Israeli occupation, a system of rule fully comparable to South African Apartheid which deprives them of basic human rights. Specifically, a broad civil society coalition called on the international community in 2005 to use non-violent economic means to pressure Israel via boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS). Last year, the UofC Divest campaign responded to this call by demanding the University administration divest from companies complicit in the occupation, and the resolution won the endorsement of College Council on April 12, 2016. Now, we are encouraging members of the University community to write letters to the Investment Committee of the Board of Trustees, or sign on to our own letter, demanding that they implement our resolution.
Many American progressives, including some on our own campus, have been spurred into civic action by recent political events. Letter writing and call-in campaigns have mobilized entire populations not previously involved in political advocacy, and the pressure generated by these actions have had some significant effects on the national level. But some have been left out of the discourse—which has been mostly focused on national electoral politics—and we can do better, starting from our own campus.
Palestinians have not been included in mainstream advocacy campaigns on the national stage. This is not new: The one thing around which there seems to be a consensus in American politics is unconditional military aid to Israel, now billions of dollars per year, even as they steal Palestinian land, bomb Palestinian homes, kidnap Palestinian children, deny Palestinians access to resources, harass Palestinians at checkpoints, and imprison Palestinians without charge. David Friedman, an extremist who raises money for an ultra-nationalist illegal settlement in the West Bank, was recently sworn in as American ambassador to Israel, but it was not even mentioned in The New York Times. It may be in vogue to stand with Muslims—but apparently not if those Muslims are Palestinian.
We can bring Palestinians into our political discourse, starting here, where we can truly make a difference. Our own university is likely investing in companies which support the occupation of Palestinian land, such as weapons manufacturers and construction material providers. There is also virtually no detailed public information on our own university’s finances. Students may join the UofC Divest campaign in writing letters to the Board of Trustees Investment Committee, or sign on to ours online, calling for transparency in the University’s financial information and an end to our complicity in Israeli apartheid. With enough engagement, we have the opportunity to widen the scope of our solidarity while focusing on our own institutional complicity, showing Palestinians that their suffering will not go unheard in the halls of those who fund it.