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Hampshire College divests from Israeli occupation

by shergald Thu Feb 12th, 2009 at 09:04:50 AM EST

The Global BDS Movement (BDS meaning Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) just reported that Hampshire College in Massachusetts has become the first college in the U.S. to divest from companies that support Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories, now lasting over 41 years. During that time, numerous American, European, and Asiatic companies have directly supported the occupation/colonialism by selling Israel the implements of ethnic cleansing and settlement building and expansion. The most notorious of these companies is probably Caterpillar, whose bulldozers have been responsible for the demolition of thousands of Palestinian homes, farms, and orchards.

According to the Movement, this landmark decision was a direct result of a two-year intensive campaign on campus, led by the peace group, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).

The group pressured Hampshire College's Board of Trustees to divest from six specific companies due to human rights concerns in occupied Palestine. Over 800 students, professors, and alumni have signed SJP's "institutional statement" calling for the divestment. 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.


This groundbreaking decision follows in Hampshire's history of being the first college in the country to divest from apartheid South Africa thirty-two years ago, a decision based on similar human rights concerns.  

The divestment has so far been endorsed by Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Rashid Khalidi, Vice President of the EU Parliament Luisa Morganitini, Cynthia McKinney, former member of the African National Congress Ronnie Kasrils, Mustafa Barghouti, Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, John Berger, Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire, and Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, among others.

Thus far most of the DBS actions in the US have been taken or considered by church groups concerned about indirectly sponsoring Israel's illegal occupation and its violations of international law. The SJP expressed hope that this decision by Hampshire College will now pave the way for other institutions of higher learning in the U.S. to get involved.

In 2002, when Israel was devastating Palestinian neighborhoods and numerous civilians were killed in the West Bank, campaigns at 40 campuses across the country, including Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Ohio State, and the University of Michigan, were initiated calling for institutional divestment from Israel as a means of supporting Palestinians' basic human rights.  These earlier attempts to spur divestment actions at US universities, however, failed.

The Hampshire College action is therefore a beginning, at least in US universities.

A statement from Hampshire College states:

The review of the State Street fund was undertaken at the request of a sub-committee of the investment committee, to address a petition from a student group, Students for Justice in Palestine. The investment committee's decision, however, was based on the consultant's finding that the State Street fund included 100-plus companies engaged in multiple violations of the college's investment policy; the decision expressly did not pertain to a political movement or single out businesses active in a specific region or country.

As such, Hampshire as not explicitly divested from companies doing business with Isreal.  Press releases from student organisations should perhaps be confirmed with the involved institutions  - in this case Hampshire College - for confirmation.  

by rbuss on Fri Feb 13th, 2009 at 02:33:06 AM EST
I would suggest that the Israeli occupation and colonization of Palestinian lands falls into the category of "violations of the college's investment policy." The mention of specific companies would have been helpful, but I doubt if the Global DBS Movement would have published this breakthrough if it were not relevant to Israel/Palestine.

If I get further information, I will of course add it on.

by shergald on Fri Feb 13th, 2009 at 09:48:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
On second thought, this is what the BDS announcement stated: "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," and it was part of a press kit release.

by shergald on Fri Feb 13th, 2009 at 09:50:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hey Folks ::

The administration doesn't speak for the student movement that has won this divestment.

Check it out ::



by pellegrinovagante on Fri Feb 13th, 2009 at 02:21:47 PM EST
Interesting contrast here between the administration and the student/faculty body:

Voices of Hampshire, Voices of Divestment

The Administration at Hampshire College has issued a statement distancing itself from the movement to divest from the Israeli Occupation of Palestine, organized and led on this campus by Students for Justice in Palestine.

They claim that this move to divest has nothing to do with the Occupation of Palestine, and perhaps for them, it does not.

However, for the more than 800 students, staff, faculty, alumni and parents who have signed SJP's call for divestment, it has everything to do with our collective desire to see the end of the Occupation and the restoration of justice to the Palestinian people.

For us who are at the heart and forefront of this movement, we have divested specifically because of Israel's human rights violations and war crimes.
This is our movement, this is our divestment.
We have taken a stand against occupation, by forcing the Administration to take our money out of the offending corporations. Regardless of whether or not they were happy to do so, regardless of whether or not they side with our stance on the Occupation.

Remembering the Vietnam war protests, it still take grassroot individuals to do justice seeking. Administrations have never been a component of civil and human rights activity.

Thanks for drawing attention to this aspect of the divestment action.

by shergald on Fri Feb 13th, 2009 at 03:50:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It would be very unusual for any institution to speak loud and clear at the beginning of a civic movement, but at least it´s done and they cannot deny that Israel's behavior was a reason for the divestment.

Congratulations for attracting new bloggers, shergald!  (;  

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Sat Feb 14th, 2009 at 02:18:12 PM EST

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