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Dec-20-2009 14:34printcomments

US Students Participate in Israel Boycott

The groundbreaking decision came after months of campaigning by the Students for Justice in Palestine group.

Hampshire College who helped enact Israel boycott
Sign at Hampshire College underscores the student's commitment toward making the world a more sound place.
Courtesy: Racewire

(WASHINGTON D.C. IOL) - Pro-Palestinian students in a US college are celebrating its decision to divest from firms serving the Israeli occupation of Palestine, a decision that has sparked a raging controversy.

"We were able to educate and mobilize an entire community, the majority of our community," Aidan Kriese, an organizer from the Students for Justice in Palestine group (SJP) in Hampshire College, Massachusetts, told IslamOnline.net.

"And the majority has made a decision."

On February 7, Hampshire College became the first US institute of higher education to divest from companies involved in the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

The groundbreaking decision was taken by the Committee on Investment Responsibility and approved by the College's Board of Trustees.

The six companies are Caterpillar, Terex, Motorola, ITT, General Electric, and United Technologies.

They are believed to be directly providing the Israeli military with equipment and services in Gaza and the occupied West Bank.

"We were interested in looking at the specific relationships that our particular institution had in the occupation," Kriese said.

"We found we were linked specifically to the occupation through these corporations."

Over 800 students, professors, and alumni have signed SJP's "institutional statement" calling for the divestment from these firms.

Divestment efforts and academic boycotts of Israel have largely gained ground in the past few years.

The United Methodist Church has received five separate petitions calling for divestment from companies that support or profit from the Israeli occupation.

Victory

The divestment, widely covered in national media, has stirred a firestorm of controversy leading the college's administration to deny the issue had anything to do with politics.

But the students' association insists that breaking ties with the six firms was specifically linked to helping the Israeli occupation.

"The SJP was asked by the administration what companies to avoid in the future in terms of the Israeli occupation of Palestine," Kriese said.

Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, a well-known supporter of Israel, has called for donors to divest from Hampshire College and halt contributions to the college until it clears up the situation.

After his column in the Israeli Jerusalem Post daily stirred a sandstorm, Hampshire College issued a statement acknowledging that the process was launched in response to the SJP proposal, but denied that the final decision had anything to do with Israel.

"For eight and a half months the only specific companies…that were discussed were the six companies SJP targeted," the SJP said in a later statement.

"These facts prove that the decision was made on the grounds of the six companies' involvement in the occupation of Palestine."

Despite the controversy, the SJP still sees the college's decision to divest from the pro-occupation companies as a victory.

"It's really clear to us that we've done our part in raising concerns about the occupation," boasts Kriese.

For more info on the divestment project visit: divestmentproject.org/

Here's an interview with one of the organizers in which he clearly explains the reasoning behind the project, something which is missing from this article:

(Part1) iamthewitness.com/audio/Somerville.Project/CII.2008.11.28.Fri.1of2.Somerville.Project.mp3

(Part2) iamthewitness.com/audio/Somerville.Project/CII.2008.11.28.Fri.2of2.Somerville.Project.mp3
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Jon December 21, 2009 12:46 pm (Pacific time)

If I commit time to exposing BDS when it’s claims are fraudulent (as they have been for much of this year), and fighting it when it has been genuinely successful (as I did with the Presbyterian Church), it is because I feel that whatever solution is ever to be found to the Middle East crisis will have to be based on honesty. And if BDS is positioning itself as a moral voice of some sort, it is my responsibility to expose when it is not telling the truth (as was the case at Hampshire).  Regarding that campus, I believe the only people playing semantic games are student supporters of divestment. The administration made it clear it was not interested in divesting from Israel before, during and after this story hit the papers (i.e., as much as a year before Alan Dershowitz allegedly made them change their tune) which supports the assertion that Hampshire did not make their investment/divestment decisions based on student requests. That said, the school did say clearly that Darfur was an international crisis that informed their decision-making process, in which case wouldn’t it have been more accurate to say that “Hampshire takes a stand against Sudan (or Shirah-oriented governments)?”  While it may be the case that the majority of students are “divesting” with their own money, that is their right, although I’m hesitant to let the Students for Justice in Palestine crowd (or anyone who is re-printing their press releases without doing any fact checking) make claims about anyone other than themselves. Similarly, if I were to be convinced that divestment is actually “picking up steam,” I would have to see some genuine victories (not fake ones like Hampshire) to make up for their losses over the last three years (notably the abandonment of divestment by virtually the entire Mainline Protestant church community).

Editor: Jon, and this is Tim King by the way, we could probably go back and forth forever.  Let me know if you want to expand your POV in a separate piece, thanks. 


Jon December 21, 2009 12:00 pm (Pacific time)

The link in the comment works for me (check to make sure you've copied the whole thing into your browser). I appreciate your response, but keep in mind that I am simply pointing out that in your newspaper you have posted a story that is both out of date and inaccurate.  Even after this story first started appearing in newspapers in February, journalists were checking with the one and only source that could confirm whether Hampshire College had made a politically motivated divestment decision: the school’s administration. And they made it clear that they had not done so. While some students wanted to read their own motives in decision the college made to sell a particular mutual fund (which, as we all know, is made up of hundreds of investments), their interpretation is just as inaccurate as someone insisting that the school has taken a political stance against all companies whose names begin with the letter C.  As I’ve been discussing all year at my www.divestthis.com site, divestment (as defined by BDS advocates) is a political decision which means it can’t be done in secret. So if an institution (be it Hampshire College, TIAA-CREF or anyone else) is to be considered to have divested from Israel, there is one and only one way to know that for sure: they (not someone else) will say so. As for your request that I come up with an answer to the Arab-Israeli conflict, that’s a bit beyond my pay grade (and a strange response from an editor who has simply been provided information that a story they have run is false). However, if you would like me to submit a longer piece to your paper to expand on these thoughts, I would be more than happy to do so.  PS – I believe the new photo you added to this story, unlike the original one, actually did get taken within 100 miles of the Hampshire campus.

Editor: Thanks for your response, and sorry if you find it strange.  If you are willing to operate a Website geared against the BDS movement, I would think you would be qualified to talk about the bigger picture.  This issue really tears us up, and I don't imagine that we are going to solve it here.  You are holding me out to dry for an article that was not accurate, but I believe it is a matter of semantics.  The college did name many world businesses that were not meeting the moral code, so to speak.  You and I know Israel controls purse strings, so don't see this as a total reprieve, that would be my suggestion.  The President's words, regarding 455 holdings, was that well over 200 "raised significant concerns relative to Hampshire College's socially responsible investment policy and were in violation of values of socially responsible investing."  They were reached and quieted and it is true that Zionist Alan Dershowitz pulled out all of his Israeli muscle to attack this college, based on the words of a student group.  But then let's look at the even bigger picture, the majority of the students at Hampshire feel and operate exactly as claimed, they are boycotting settlement (colonializing) goods, and even if the actual faculty of the school does what it can to duck the fallout,  it doesn't change the picture, and that is that the BDS movement is gaining steam, in spite of claims to the contrary.  If you want to write that piece, let't talk about it.  We want answers, good answers, but we don't see them coming to pass in a racist/apartheid type of environment.  All people have a right to live in peace, and with respect.     


Jon December 21, 2009 10:31 am (Pacific time)

There must be some mistake since the "Hampshire Divested" story was exposed as a hoax months and months ago (see http://www.divestthis.com/2009/03/hampshire.html). No doubt the originator of this story will want to post a correction immediately to avoid continuing the spread of false information.  You're welcome.

Editor: There was dissent from the top from the beginning of this story, but our understanding is that business dealings with those firms is still off the table.  Your link is dead by the way, feel free to send in one that works.  Jon, and I assume that this is Jon Haber from the anti-divestment Website divestthis.com, what do you suggest as an answer?  I am asking you seriously, you are obviously a full tilt Zionist and I am asking you with respect, what is the answer?  If it is simply to keep settling and expanding until there is nothing left for the Palestinian people, I would like to hear a real world justification, not one based on an ancient religious text.  Can you do that?

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