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Movement to divest from Israeli occupation grows at UW-Seattle


On Monday April 14th, a coalition of ten University of Washington (UW) student organizations–Disability Advocacy Student Association, Disorientation UW, International Socialist Organization, Movimiento Estudiantil [email protected] de Atzlan, Third Wave Feminists, Solidarity with UW Custodians, UW Black Student Union, United Students Against Sweatshops, Somali Student Association, and Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights, UW–brought forward Resolution 20-39, “A Resolution to Divest from Companies Profiting from Violations of International Law and Human Rights,” to the Associated Students of the University of Washington (ASUW). The resolution was the culmination of deep research and solidarity work on campus and included three pages of citations.

R-20-39 calls upon the University of Washington to “examine its financial assets to identify its investments in companies that provide equipment or services used to directly maintain, support, or profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land” and “instruct its investment managers to divest from those companies meeting such criteria within the bounds of their fiduciary duties.”  Additionally, R-20-39 urges UW to work with the Evergreen State College to implement their divestment resolution passed in 2010 as it pertains to the Evergreen State College Foundation holdings housed within the UW Consolidated Endowment Fund and calls, as a first measure, for divestment from Caterpillar Inc.

In 2003, Washington State student Rachel Corrie was killed when a militarized Caterpillar Bulldozer operated by an Israeli soldier crushed her while she attempted to protect a Palestinian home from illegal demolition.  In Spring 2010 The Evergreen State College student body passed—by a majority of 79%—a referendum calling for divestment from companies complicit in the illegal Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories that was later echoed by a divestment resolution in their Student Senate.  R-20-39 comes as the Corrie family appeals to the Israeli Supreme Court to seek justice for Rachel’s murder.

divestuw-300x300A groundswell of support followed the ASUW resolution into initial debate in student senate.  Letters of support came from South Africa, Palestine, Israel, and faculty and students from around the U.S. including 26 professors from the Evergreen State College. Other supporters included Aaron Dixon, co-founder of the Black Student Union at UW and the Seattle Black Panther Party, Jesse Hagopian, UW alum and Garfield Highschool teacher leading the fight against the MAP test, Miko Peled, son of a prominent Israeli general, The Coalition of Anti-Racist Whites (CARW), Jewish Voice for Peace, the National Lawyers Guild, and Cindy and Craig Corrie, parents of Rachel Corrie.

ASUW resolutions typically take 2 to 4 weeks to come to the senate floor after submission, beginning with a first reading of the bill and clarifying questions.  The bill then goes into committee for refinement and returns to the floor for a second reading the next week when the content and merit of the resolution is discussed and it comes to a vote. On May 6th, R-20-39 came to its first reading successfully overturning a motion to indefinitely table.  After an hour-long substantive discussion of the bill it was voted to bring it to the Academic Administrative Advisory Committee (AAA) for review.  The following week, the AAA Committee only devoted 12 minutes to discussion of the resolution giving 6 minutes to “opposition” to the bill and 6 minutes to “supporters.”  Despite supporters urging a public discussion and a vote on the resolution before the year is out, the bill did not return to the Senate floor but remained in committee for a second week. The bill was voted out of committee “unfavorably” on May 20th—the last ASUW meeting of the year—and came to second readings.  Debate over the resolution lasted for over an hour and a half extending the meeting several times.  The final vote came after 9pm as the classroom was closing for the night.  Despite broad student support, the resolution did not pass with 8 in favor, 59 opposed, and 11 abstentions.  As senators filed out of Paccar Hall, supporters of R-20-39 stood in a silent ring holding signs: “UW Profits from Occupation,” “#DawgsDivest.”  It was a moving moment of resolve to move forward.

UW Student, Peter Brannan, who presented the resolution, said, “This process has been about renewing the belief that students can make a difference not only on their campus but in the world.” SUPER is excited about the future direction of student solidarity with Palestinian equal rights:  “We are moved by the flood of student support for this resolution and we are only more determined to build community on campus for this struggle.  Other campuses and past histories of student activism show that important struggles take time.  Join us!”


Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights

Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights is a registered student organization at the University of Washington Dedicated to Equal Rights and Justice for the Palestinian People.

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9 Responses

  1. DaBakr on May 21, 2014, 4:01 pm

    59 against/8 in favor.

  2. Blownaway on May 21, 2014, 9:36 pm

    The headline from Israel “U. of Washington students reject divestment bill StandWithUs and campus Hillel group work together in one of the most resounding defeats ever for the BDS movement” What they fail to realize is that the win is that the issue was discussed and that future leaders heard the message. This is a marathon

    • DaBakr on May 21, 2014, 11:38 pm

      yeah yeah. right. and when on the rare occasion a bds plank gians a vote (usually to be defeated later on down the line) the gloating, hooting and back-slapping on MW is deafening. So when there is a resounding defeat like the one here- naturally it is claimed to be a “victory” in disguise. When the defeats of bds grow less resoundign and the actual victories of bds campaign become more prevalent then their failures maybe you could get away with the trying to snatch victory-from-the-jaws-of-defeat ploy. otherwise-its exactly what is is: A small well-funded international campaign masquerading as some ‘grass-roots’ student awareness movement that is consistently losing on campuses throughout the US. Maybe the tide will turn and you will have the opportunity to gloat all you want but for right now 59 to 8 is nothing but a resounding FAIL

  3. dbroncos on May 21, 2014, 11:05 pm

    Those who are celebrating the “resounding defeat” at UW are missing the larger point: 20 years ago there was no campus divestment/BDS movement. Now there are dozens in the US that are just part of a worldwide BDS movement that is gaining momentum every year. So put on your party hats, Zionists, break out the pepsi and marshmallows and celebrate your hollow victory but don’t fail to notice that no one outside of your bigoted clique came to the party.

    • DaBakr on May 21, 2014, 11:51 pm

      There are a lot of obnoxious, bigoted , wrong-headed and trendy causes being discussed on liberal college campuses throughout the US which were not aired publicly 20 years ago. That doesn’t make them any more successful and in fact-when the majority of the publics awareness is drawn to many of these bigoted and well funded campaigns (which at least dbronc has the honesty to admit its not ‘grass-roots and is most definitely ‘international’) designed to look like grass roots movements the effect is often that the dissenting voices grow stronger and more active in opposition. Too early to say whats what with bds but it looks like its trending down, not up. And never forget the axiom about the pendulum swinging back and forth. There is no way to tell if the cycle of popularity for the BDS campaign has reached its apex with the general US public or not. ‘Resounding losses’, no matter how hard folks try to paint them as ‘successes in disguise’ are the main way to tell when a movement is failing or not. There are a lot of American parents who in the current political and economic atmosphere in the US do not want ANY of their childrens precious education being taken up with these types of diversionary causes regardless of wether they support Israeli policy or not.

      • Shingo on May 23, 2014, 1:53 am

        Too early to say whats what with bds but it looks like its trending down, not up.

        Quite the opposite. The trend is definitely up as is the desperation and resources the lobby is spending to oppose it.

      • Zach S on May 23, 2014, 10:12 am

        Of course it is. BDS is always “on the verge” of winning. Every day is a “turning point.”

        Cult mentality in action.

  4. JustJessetr on May 22, 2014, 9:04 am

    Shouldn’t the headline be, “Movement against divestment grows at UW.”? I mean, they DID win after all.

    @Blownaway: then you could say with equal force that anti-divestment won the day. 20 years ago there was no anti-BDS movement either. And that their side got to say their piece, and future leaders heard it, well…you see the point.

  5. kma on May 22, 2014, 12:50 pm

    anyone know why the senators voted in a large bloc that differs from general public opinion? very curious.

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