Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Divestment spreads to University of Wisconsin, Georgetown, Brown, and Irish trade union confederation:

"UC-Berkeley’s new divestment approach"

By Steve Horn

Univerisity of Wisconsin Badger Herald

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

At: http://badgerherald.com/oped/2010/04/20/uc-berkeleys_new_div.php

...When divestment is called for, it is often shunned immediately, yet this time around in Berkeley, in the aftermath of the brutal Operation Cast Lead, the political tide has shifted. The debate, at least among liberals, has moved from “If you’re for divestment, you’re anti-Israel or anti-Semitic” to “There may be other, more effective ways as a liberal peace activist to oppose Israel’s human rights violations than divestment.” This is a huge — let me repeat, huge — step in the right direction.

...Divestment isn’t anti-Semitic because it has absolutely nothing to do with Judaism and everything to do with calling on Israel as a state to respect international law and human rights. The occupation does exist because both UN Resolution 242 and the Fourth Geneva Convention, among scores of other legal dictates, say that the occupation is illegal. And it makes sense to single out Israel, if for no other reason than our own government does, in the tune of over $3 billion per year in tax-payer funded military aid, which is more aid than we give any other country in the world — other than Iraq and Afghanistan, including more than we give to the entire continent of Africa.

In reality, divestment is one of the few ways student human rights supporters can make a difference in the Israel-Palestine conflict on a micro-level. The more specific and targeted the call for divestment, the better....

Financial support of repetitive human rights violations will no longer be tolerated. Not in our name.


"ICTU [Irish Confederation of Trade Unions] to seek ways to support sanctions against Israel"

The Irish Times - Saturday, April 17, 2010

At: http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/world/2010/0417/1224268541436.html

by MARY FITZGERALD Foreign Affairs Correspondent

THE EXECUTIVE council of Ictu is to consider ways in which it can translate into action its support for Palestinian calls for a boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.

Attendees at an Ictu conference on the Middle East held in Dublin yesterday discussed possible ways of implementing such a campaign in Ireland.

Since 2007, Ictu has passed several conference motions in support of calls from Palestinian civil society groups urging an international BDS campaign against Israel.

Addressing yesterday’s gathering at Dublin Castle, Ictu president Jack O’Connor said he would be very concerned if Ictu’s stance was interpreted as being motivated by “hostility to the people of Israel”.

Instead, he argued, it was motivated by “a sense of obligation given our history and our experience . . . an obligation to try to do something when the prospects of justice seem so remote given the imbalance of forces” in the conflict.

Mr O’Connor rejected calls from some attendees for Ictu to sever links with Histadrut, the Israeli labour federation, which is opposed to the BDS campaign. Avital Shapira-Shabirow, director of Histadrut’s international department, prompted a lively exchange of views when she explained her organisation’s position during a panel discussion.
She argued that it was easy to outline “simplistic solutions” to complex situations from afar.

Omar Barghouti, a founding member of the global BDS campaign established in 2005, told the gathering that the boycott as a “moral obligation and political imperative”.
He noted that the campaign was gaining momentum internationally and he praised Ictu’s efforts.

“By holding onto its position and spreading the BDS message, and starting now to think how to apply it practically, Ictu is now applying a lot of pressure on the [Irish] Government and we hope that in time this will bring results.”

Mr Barghouti was one of several speakers to call for Ireland to exercise its veto to block Israel from joining the OECD.

...During one panel discussion at the conference, John Douglas, general secretary of the Mandate trade union, recalled the involvement of Irish retail workers in the boycott against apartheid-era South Africa and said his union would support a consumer-led boycott campaign against Israel followed by a worker-led effort.

“The time for silence is gone, action is required,” he told the gathering.


GUSA Roundup:
Down on divestment, shoutouts for Voice

April 19, 2010
GEORGETOWN VOICE (at Georgetown University)



"The majority of this week’s meeting of the Georgetown University Student Association Senate was spent considering the arguments of Georgetown, Divest!, which is pushing the University to divest from companies that profit from human rights violations in Israel and Palestine..."


The Georgetown, Divest! forum on University investment in Palestine and Israel

April 14, 2010
GEORGETOWN VOICE (at Georgetown University)



...Nonetheless, the campaign launch event, attended by roughly 40 people, pressed for the University to pursue selective divestment from several multinational corporations. Perry outlined the four categories from which the select companies could profit: “Operation on illegally occupied land, the construction and maintenance of the separation barrier, the facilitation of collective punishment including home demolition and land confiscation, and institutionalized discrimination.”

Georgetown, Divest! also called for the University to divest from the following corporations whose work they say falls within those four categories—Ahava, which is a cosmetics company, Motorola Israel, Roadstone Holdings and Riwal, both construction companies, Lockheed Martin, Caterpillar, Veolia Transportation, and Mekorot, a water company.

“Georgetown University has a tradition of social responsibility. Its investment policies must reflect its foundational values … It is not acceptable for a university dedicated to justice and social responsibility to ignore these ideals in its investments,” Perry said.

Dr. Mark Lance, Professor of Justice and Peace, spoke after the presentation and compared the situation to apartheid-era South Africa.

“Every citizen of Israel has the legal nationality of Jewish or Arab. Imagine that the U.S. passed a law that there are white people and black people and that’ll be your nationality. Or Christians and Muslims. I take it that we would call it as it is—racist and evil,” Lance said. “We pay for it, and it’s extremely important to remember. Every person in this room pays for what you saw on this screen. Every person who pays taxes in this country supports this whether you like it or not.”

Father Raymond Kemp also lent his moral support to the campaign, citing the power of non-violent resistance within Catholic social teaching.

“I’m here to applaud you and stand with you. You’re in a great tradition,” Kemp said.

“It is no more anti-Semitic to boycott Israel than it is to say anti-white to boycott South Africa. We all know Israel has a tendency to call anything anti-Semitic,” said Shelley Fudge, a representative from Jewish Voices for Peace.

The group also held an open discussion forum, taking questions from the roughly forty-person audience.

Both Father Kemp and Dr. Lance said that officials from the Investment Office were misrepresenting the University’s long-standing commitment to social justice by claiming that they have no way of ensuring socially responsible investments.

“I’m stunned by it,” said Father Kemp...


Simon Liebling '12:
The right side of history

Published: Friday, April 16, 2010

Brown University



...As we think about ongoing grassroots movements, then, we must remember that the student activists who supported movements like South African divestment were not simply volunteers doing the legwork for a foregone conclusion — they were courageous supporters of an unpopular position. Thus, for all of the controversy that today surrounds calls to divest from companies profiting from Israel’s illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories, this divestment movement could, in retrospect, become the moral imperative of our time.

The moral equivalence is well established by those who were heavily involved in the South African anti-apartheid movement. Archbishop Desmond Tutu writes, “Yesterday’s South African township dwellers can tell you about today’s life in the Occupied Territories.” Elsewhere, he has written that the situation in the Occupied Territories “reminded me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa.” Nelson Mandela has made similar comparisons. So did pro-apartheid officials in the old South African government, though they had slightly different intentions.

Divesting from companies profiting from the occupation, then, is as urgent now as it was to divest from companies profiting from South African apartheid in the 1980s. And as Tutu would remind us, we should not for a moment be put off by the controversy surrounding the issue.

Divestment is so imperative because it is a rare way of compelling governments to reform their ways when they otherwise operate with impunity, accountable to no one — as was the case with apartheid South Africa. The simple force of law has proved inadequate in the case of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Israel’s government has disregarded binding legal decisions from both the International Court of Justice and its own Supreme Court that declare the Separation Wall and other aspects of the occupation illegal — the Israeli Supreme Court has no recourse but to hold its own government in contempt time after time.

The Israeli government exhibits such wanton disregard for the rule of domestic and international law because there is no mechanism to force it to obey; it can count on the support of the United States government and the private companies that facilitate the occupation. Divestment, though, grants the international community the enforcement power it sorely needs; it is a way to compel Israel to respect both the law and basic human rights in the Occupied Territories...