Activism

Stanford re-votes, divestment passes in a landslide victory

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Press Release issued by Stanford Out of Occupied Palestine 

On February 17, the Undergraduate Senate of Stanford University voted 10-1-4 to pass a resolution to divest from the occupation of the Palestinian Territories. The resolution, entitled A Resolution to Divest from Companies Violating Human Rights in Occupied Palestine, calls on Stanford to stop investing in multinational corporations facilitating human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

The Senate Chair and Senate Deputy Chair motioned to reconsider the resolution after it was narrowly defeated by one vote last week (9 for, 1 abstention, 5 against). The senators stated that the hostile environment opponents of divestment created at last week’s hearing impeded their ability to vote with clarity and requested the opportunity to align their votes with their true opinions. In the original vote, the two senators had respectively abstained and voted no. After their motion to reconsider passed in Tuesday’s hearing, they changed their votes to a ‘yes’ and ‘abstain.’ The re-vote followed a two hour-long hearing and ended in a historic vote in favor of divestment with 10 senators voting in support, one abstention, and 4 against.

Organizers of the campaign were surprised that the Senate decided to vote on the resolution again and expressed excitement about the Senate vote.

“After months of hard work, it is gratifying to witness the Senate answer our call and affirm our efforts towards divestment.” said sophomore Ramah Awad. “Our next step is to pressure the Board of Trustees to follow through. We ask the Board and President Hennessy directly: ‘Are you going to listen to the student voice?’”

Another student expressed support for the senators who decided to reconsider their vote.

“Students from the campaign against divestment have written us acknowledging their ‘hateful and spiteful’ behavior during last week’s hearing,” said senior Manny Thompson. “We appreciate that the Chair and Deputy Chair spoke up about how they felt intimidated to vote their conscience and that the Senate ultimately reaffirmed its majority support for divestment.”

The resolution focuses on multinational corporations and identifies multiple actors as being complicit in the violations against Palestinians living under occupation, including the governments of Israel, Egypt, Hamas, and the Palestinian Authority. The resolution states that the Undergraduate Senate is not connected to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement and affirms both Israelis and Palestinians’ rights to life, safety, and self-determination.

The resolution was brought forth by the Stanford Out of Occupied Palestine (SOOP) coalition. The diverse coalition consists of 19 student groups including the Black Student Union, MEChA, and Stanford Students for Queer Liberation. The resolution called on the University to evaluate its investments and divest from companies fitting the following criteria:

  1. Maintaining the illegal infrastructure of the Israeli occupation, in particular settlements and separation wall.
  2. Facilitating Israel and Egypt’s collective punishment of Palestinian civilians.
  3. Facilitating state repression against Palestinians by Israeli, Egyptian or Palestinian Authority security forces.

Stanford Out of Occupied Palestine came together in pursuit of selective divestment as a response to the call from Palestinian civil society to exert economic pressure to end to the violations of their basic human rights.  Over the course of seven weeks SOOP’s campaign gathered immense student support; over 1,600 Stanford students signed SOOP’s petition.

With Tuesday’s vote, Stanford joins a growing number of student governments–most notably the University of California Student Association–in responding to a call from Palestinian society for divestment. After this vote, SOOP will work with Senators to pressure the Board of Trustees to divest from the violation of Palestinian human rights.

“As a student in the movement, I look forward to continuously engaging the campus in this conversation,” said junior Natasha Patel, “We are not done uplifting the call of Palestinian peoples nor are we finished pushing our University to conduct an ethical review of its investments.”

A Resolution to Divest from Companies Violating Human Rights in Occupied Palestine

WHEREAS the Stanford University Code of Conduct states that all members of the Stanford University community “are responsible for sustaining the highest ethical standards of this institution, and of the broader community in which we function,[1]”

WHEREAS in managing university investments, Stanford University Trustees have a fiduciary responsibility to consider both financial risk and “substantial social injury,” defined as “proximate corporate direct or indirect actions that cause injury to… individuals, or groups… [and] violat[e], subver[t], or frustrat[e] enforcement of rules of domestic or international law intended to protect individuals and/or groups against deprivation of health, safety, basic freedoms or human rights,”[2]

WHEREAS Stanford University has a rich history of calling for ethical oversight of its endowment as a non-violent strategy towards social change, which has included divestment from companies violating human rights in South Africa and Sudan, the adoption of criteria pertaining to conflict minerals in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and divestment from coal mining companies following last year’s fossil free divestment student campaign,

WHEREAS international humanitarian law recognizes the right of all people, including Israelis and Palestinians, to life, security[3] and self-determination[4],

WHEREAS Israel has been recognized by international law since 1967 as an occupying power in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza[5], hereafter referred to as the Occupied Palestinian Territories,

WHEREAS this resolution calls for targeted divestment from multinational corporations causing substantial social injury by violating international humanitarian law in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, regardless of which countries contract said corporations,

WHEREAS multinational corporations disproportionately conduct business in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, as compared to other conflict areas (e.g. Syria or North Korea), where binding law often prevents engagement with human rights violators,

WHEREAS many of the same companies profiting from human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories also profit from such violations against communities of color within the United States,[6]

WHEREAS Stanford’s May 2014 Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings demonstrate past direct holdings in Raytheon and Eaton Corp[7], corporations that are implicated in such violations of international humanitarian law[8], suggesting that Stanford’s current and future investment portfolios are likely to include similar companies,

WHEREAS investment in these companies shows implicit support for such violations, and the only way to achieve financial neutrality is to end our investment in such companies,

WHEREAS selective divestment, as in the context of South Africa and Sudan, does not seek to determine a political solution nor target a particular ethnic or religious community, but rather the actions of a set of multinational corporations that facilitate human rights abuses and violations of international law,

WHEREAS our peers at many university student associations, including Wesleyan University, Oberlin College, DePaul University, Evergreen State College, UC Irvine, UC Berkeley, UC Riverside, UC San Diego, UCLA, and UC Davis have passed resolutions calling for divestment from companies that violate international law and human rights in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories,

WHEREAS the petition asking Stanford’s Board of Trustees to selectively divest from companies that violate international law and human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories has been signed by over 1500 current students and 19 Stanford student groups, including Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), Students for Alternatives to Militarism (SAM), the Asian American Student Association (AASA), MEChA de Stanford, Stanford National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (Stanford NAACP), Black Student Union (BSU), Student And Labor Alliance (SALA), Stanford Asian American Activism Committee (SAAAC), Muslim Students Awareness Network (MSAN), Pilipino American Student Union (PASU), Arab Students’ Association at Stanford (ASAS), First Generation Low Income Partnership (FLIP), International Socialist Organization at Stanford (ISO), Stanford Students for Queer Liberation (SSQL), Stanford American Indian Organization (SAIO), Islamic Society of Stanford University (ISSU), Pakistanis at Stanford (PaS), Stanford University Students for  UNICEF (SUSU), and the Stanford Law School chapter of the National Lawyers Guild (SLS-NLG),

WHEREAS these companies’ actions affect the Stanford community directly, including students whose families live under occupation, and thus attend an institution complicit in violence against their own communities,

WHEREAS the Associated Students of Stanford University has been authorized “to exercise major privileges and responsibilities” with the express purpose of “[encouraging] responsible citizenship and the exercise of individual and corporate responsibility on the part of students,”[9]

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED by the Associated Students of Stanford University Undergraduate Senate, exercising its representative authority on behalf of all undergraduates:

THAT the ASSU Undergraduate Senate calls upon the Stanford University Trustees to divest from companies that violate international humanitarian law by:

 

  1. Maintaining the illegal infrastructure of the Israeli occupation, in particular settlements and separation wall, which includes companies like Veolia Transdev and Elbit Systems[10]
  2. Facilitating Israel and Egypt’s collective punishment of Palestinian civilians, which includes companies like Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, and Eaton Corp[11]
  3. Facilitating state repression against Palestinians by Israeli, Egyptian or Palestinian Authority security forces, which includes companies like Combined Tactical Systems and G4S,[12]

THAT the ASSU Undergraduate Senate calls upon the Stanford University Trustees to withdraw investments in securities, endowments, mutual funds, and other monetary instruments with holdings in Veolia Transdev, Caterpillar, Raytheon, Eaton Corp, Lockheed Martin, Combined Tactical Systems, G4S, and all corporations that are similarly complicit in violating these criteria, at such time and in such manner as to be determined by the Board of Trustees with the goal of maintaining the divestment until they cease these specific practices deemed as unethical by the Stanford community,

THAT this is not a resolution concerning boycotts nor sanctions from any nation state,

THAT this resolution overrules the previous resolution UGS-W2013-10 that passed in the 14th  Undergraduate Senate,

LET IT FINALLY BE RESOLVED that the ASSU Undergraduate Senate, exercising its representative authority on behalf of all undergraduates, calls upon our university to affirm its commitment to justice for all people by divesting from companies implicated in our criteria for substantial social injury in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, many of which facilitate parallel injury against communities of color here in the United States.

[1] https://adminguide.stanford.edu/chapter-1/subchapter-1/policy-1-1-1

[2] Stanford University’s Statement on Investment Responsibility

[3] http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/

[4] UN General Assembly, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 16 December 1966, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 999, p. 171, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6b3aa0.html

[5] Geneva Convention, UN, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch; http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/MDE15/007/2009/en/4c407b40-e64c-11dd-9917-ed717fa5078d/mde150072009en.html#2.2.1.2.%20Law%20of%20occupation|outline

[6] See supplementary document.

[7] Stanford’s May 2014 SEC Filings: https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1315828/000106299314002805/xslForm13F_X01/form13fInfoTable.xml

[8] See supplementary document.

[9] The Constitution of of the Associated Students of Stanford University: http://assu.stanford.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/ASSU-Constitution.pdf,4.

[10] In violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. See supplement.

[11] In violation of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. See supplement.

[12] In violation of the United Nations’ International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. See supplement.

Supplementary Document 
Background on our Criteria for Substantial Social Injury

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As I have been saying, the tipping point is here! Go Stanford!

Hallelujah! Good job, students with conscience! Board of Trustees~ don’t shame yourselves. Do the right thing and uphold the will of the majority of these good people. Remember that it was a “landslide” and that ‘hateful and spiteful’ intimidation was employed to silence and subvert last week in the prelude… Read more »

Didn,t one or two of our zio apologists tell us last week that BDS lost this one because they were one vote short .Oh what a difference a few days and some clear thinking can make. Must be tough being ivri or hopknee or mayhem.Their reps just cannot hold the… Read more »

Terrific. Glad they pointed out the atrocious behavior of anti-divestment students and overcame it on he second try. Glad they HAD a second try. BRAVO. (How has this sort of thing fared at the Lair of the Golden Bear — UC-Berkeley?)

Thank you Stanford, and all those who worked hard to achieve this. It is always a nice feeling when you see folks fighting for justice and freedom for people who are otherwise helpless.