Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hampshire College divested from Apartheid Sourth Africa in 1977.

Today, Hampshire College has divested from Apartheid Israel.

"College Divests from Israel"

THE CLIMAX (Hampshire College's student-run newspaper)


February 12, 2009

On the Web at:

On Saturday February 7, 2009 the Board of Trustees approved the proposal to divest from companies affiliated with Israel’s military actions in Palestine. The motion was set forth by the student group Students for Justice in Palestine.

Hampshire is the first college in the United States to cut its financial ties to Israel’s armed forces and activities in Gaza, making the divestment a significant event in the history of the school.

The decision was made at the recommendation of the Subcommittee on Investment Responsibility (CHOIR), and after the continuous pressure from Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). Minute notes from the meeting state “President Hexter acknowledged that it was the good work of SJP that had brought the issue to the attention of the committee.” This has been the only acknowledgement of SJP’s influence in the decision from the administration or trustees. SJP’s campaign for divestment initially began in 2007 when the school formally recognized it as an official student group.

As their mission statement asserts, the group is devoted to raising “awareness of the oppression and vast suffering of the Palestinian people under the Israeli occupation.” By organizing teach-ins, rallies, and protests on campus and in the Five-College area, the group has amassed a large base of student and faculty support, getting 800 signatures in support of divestment.

The motion for divestment pulls Hampshire finances from six corporations: Caterpillar, General Electric, International Telephone and Telegraph (ITT), Terex, Motorola, and United Technologies, all of which supply the Israeli armed forces. While the proposal may be conservative, its implication is much larger. By divesting from these particular companies, the school is publicly condemning the recent military actions of Israel, an opinion that is often contested nation-wide. The decision to go through with divestment is also the culmination of numerous debates and events on campus.

In early January, SJP approached President Hexter and asked for a condemnation of the acts of Israel. Hexter posted on his Presidential Blog “A Call for Nonviolence and Interpretive Charity.” The post was received poorly and with skepticism. Some students felt Hexter criticized the violence but not specifically the acts of Israel. The blog drew responses from members of SJP, faculty, concerned parents, and even the Vice Chairman of the Zionist Organization of America who claimed that a “substantial portion of the [Hampshire] community is anti-Semitic.”

The divestment, however, also dissociates Hampshire from the destruction caused by Israel’s military presence. In an SJP press release, the group states that the college has “distanced itself from complicity in the illegal occupation and war crimes of Israel.”

After the ceasefire could not be extended in late December, Israel launched a ground attack into Gaza. According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, close to 2,300 Palestinians were killed in first 3 weeks of the conflict. The actions of Israel are considered by many to be a breach in human rights. SJP has already received a number of endorsements from well-known politicians, writers, and artists, including Noam Chompsky, Howard Zinn, and Rashid Khalidi.

In 1977, a similar student movement at Hampshire led to the divestment of funds from the South African Apartheid. Soon after Hampshire severed its ties with the South African government, other schools across the nation followed suit.

Brian Van Slyke, a spokesperson for SJP noted “We, the Students for Justice in Palestine, have proven that student activists can organize and put pressure on their college to divest from Israel’s illegal occupation. By becoming the first college in the United States to divest, Hampshire continues its legacy of standing up for social justice and against apartheid.