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NYU faculty call for divestment from companies supplying the Israeli army

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About 120 New York University (NYU) professors are calling on the school to divest from companies linked to the Israeli occupation.

It’s unclear which companies NYU is invested in. The students and professors pushing for divestment under the name NYU Out of Occupied Palestine say the university is not transparent about its investments. But they suspect that the university, like other institutions in the U.S., has investments in U.S. companies that supply the Israeli army with weapons they use for assaults on Gaza and the occupation of the West Bank. 

The call from professors is part of the larger boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement that has found some success in student governments, particularly in California. The BDS movement on campus has sparked conversation about Israel/Palestine and also lead to tensions between pro-Israel students and activists working for divestment. In March, NYU’s Students for Justice in Palestine displayed a mock separation wall during Israeli Apartheid Week, while across the street pro-Israel students rallied with Israeli flags.

At NYU, students and faculty are not calling on the student government to pass a divestment resolution. They are taking a different path by deploying prominent professors to call for transparency in the school’s investments and for divestment. It’s similar to how Princeton University professors called for divestment last year.

The only university to have divested from companies linked to the occupation is Hampshire. 

“I support NYU Out of Occupied Palestine because I am opposed to apartheid, and the international boycott of apartheid in South Africa was a significant factor in its demise,” English Professor Elaine Freedgood said in a press statement.

Other professors who signed the petition include: Iraqi novelist Sinan Antoon; historians Greg Grandin and Zachary Lockman; and Ella Shohat, a well-known cultural studies scholar.

The petition reads in part:

NYU students, faculty and staff have a long and proud tradition of demanding that the university live up to its professed values, from the anti-apartheid struggle to the current fossil fuels divestment campaign. The time has now come for NYU to take action that, by exerting financial and moral pressure, can help end the Israeli occupation and support the aspirations of both Palestinians and Israelis for justice and self-determination.

Faculty members held an April 8 forum to bring attention to their call. The coalition of students and faculty are also linking the divestment movement to other issues like divesting from fossil fuels and NYU’s investments and labor practices in China and the United Arab Emirates. Rabbi Yehuda Sarna, the head of NYU’s Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life, criticized that linkage. He told Tablet magazine that “the twinning of a radical proposal to divest from Israel with the broadly shared concerns around fair labor and fossil fuels is outrageous.”

Earlier this week, NYU students held a sit in to protest how an overseas NYU campus in Abu Dhabi was built. Last May, a major New York Times investigation found that workers at NYU’s were physically assaulted when protesting labor conditions, labored for 11-12 hours a day and were not reimbursed for fees they had paid to recruiters. The UAE relies on a large pool of underpaid and exploited migrant workers who labor on huge projects like the Guggenheim’s overseas site and NYU Abu Dhabi. 

The NYU administration has rejected calls for divestment from fossil fuel companies. In March, the university said divesting from fossil fuels would have little impact and that they would consider divestment only in cases of “clear and compelling moral or humanitarian objective and an absence of alternative actions NYU can take.”

Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist who focuses on Israel/Palestine and civil liberties. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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7 Responses

  1. weiss on April 9, 2015, 2:13 pm

    Satanyahoo’s re-election as the poster-boy of Israeli Apartheid and continued gross policy miscalculations in his zeal for total domination, is exponentially increasing the inevitability of the coming Palestinian State whether he likes it or not.

    The only thing that is truly frightening is that he is desperate now, and with Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal of over 200 bombs (including the Plutonium, and Hydrogen bombs – thanks to Mordechai Vanunu) He may resort to the psychotic “Samson Option” or another “false flag” event to frame the Arabs once again and complete his twisted agenda.

    I also would not put it past him to orchestrate or assist in an assassination of President of Obama and blame it on an Arab “patsy”. This is especially concerning considering his visible disgust for Obama and his antagonism towards the first “Black”US President.

    This Jew will NOT be SILENT !!!

    • RockyMissouri on April 10, 2015, 12:58 pm


    • Cummings99 on April 15, 2015, 4:51 am

      Agreed! I am reading Seymour M. Hersh’s THE SAMSON OPTION: Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy, which is an excellent read. I am also reading Gordon Thomas’ Gideon’s Spies: The Secret History of Mossad. The hardline, ruthless schemes and rules for assassinations of individuals are simply mind-boggling. As a training film for Mossad recruits on how to make a killing appear accidental; Kidon, a department within Israel’s Mossad that is allegedly responsible for the execution of opponents, according to Thomas, “reviews films on successful assassinations–the shooting of President John F. Kennedy, for example.” So, the idea is not beyond Satanyahoo established pattern.
      For instance, in 1997, writes Thomas, Bibi ordered the assassination of Khalid Meshal who lived close to King Hussein Palace. The weapon of choice was not a gun or knife but instead “nerve gas,” which the Kidon carried out in Amman. Meshal survived the attempt, and the particulars were communicated to King Hussein who called Bibi outraged, telling Bibi, he felt like a man whose best friend had raped him. Bibi tried to deny his responsibility and offer to fly to Amman and explain.
      The King Hussein told not to bother and asked him did he have an antidote for the nerve gas, demanding that it be flown to Amman and administered, which it was. Bibi could not talk his way out his plot, his captured agent had confessed and video confession had been sent Washington. The point is, there has been a long history of this sort of behavior that has been justified on biblical grounds and kept secret alone with its nuclear program that is now coming to light.
      The American people are becoming more knowledgeable than before even though its politicans are standing in the way but when the grassroots are aware, very vocal and put pressures on institutions, like NYU, and as well as on their politicans who have taken pro-Israel stance in exchange for campaign donations, Israel has no incentive to change its manner of operating. As noted in the NYT, “Pro-Israel donors’ influence over Congress U.S. Politics” it is because of the huge campaign donations that the support for Israel among party lawmakers is so strong.
      Clearly, it’s the U.S. lawmakers that are responsible for condoning and keeping Israel’s behavior intact, even though these lawmakers fail to realize Jews are not monolithic and they are not necessarily supporting the will of every Israeli. If that support was withheld and sanctions applied, Israel’s behavior would change overnight and the long standing nuclear blackmail that the U.S. has endured since Pres. Eisenhower, as pointed out by Hersh and John Steinbach, paying a random to prevent Israel from launching weapons on its enemies, this would stop. Bibi is accustomed to getting his way therefore, Pres. Obama is a grave threat.

      In response to an article “AIPAC Says President Obama ‘Should Welcome Congressional Review’ of Iran Nuclear Deal” written in The Algemeiner a poster said, “President Obama is the most anti-Israeli President in the history of the United States,” which is a false perception, as the late Shulamit Aloni explained to Amy Goodman of Democracy Now about the bad habit of labeling critics of Israel anti-Semitic.

      Aloni replied, “Well it’s a trick, we always use it. When from Europe somebody is criticizing Israel then we bring up the holocaust. When in this country people are criticizing Israel then they are anti-Semitic… And it’s very easy to blame people who criticize certain acts of the Israeli government as anti-Semitic and to bring up the holocaust and the suffering of the Jewish people and that- that is justify everything we do to the Palestinians.”

      Goodman asked, “”How powerful are groups like AIPAC, the president of major Jewish organizations. In the United States that’s another major establishment Jewish organization. How powerful are they in determining policy in Israel.”

      She replied, “They are powerful because they serve the right wing of Israeli policy and because they are backed strongly by the government of the United States. If your administration and, not only the administration but the Congress as well, wouldn’t back those two organizations, then they wouldn’t be as strong as they are because they don’t represent the majority of the Jewish people in this country.”

      We can agree, the buck stops here in the U.S., divesture and political pressure is long overdue and in order.

  2. just on April 9, 2015, 4:34 pm

    Stellar news, Alex! Go Professors!!!

    In other NYU news:

    “Former Obama Drone Executive Now Teaches Human Rights Law at NYU

    Harold Koh, as a legal adviser to the US Department of State, was the leading legal defender of Obama’s killer drone program. He helped the Obama administration extrajudicially murder people—including US citizens and civilians—with invisible flying robots.

    Koh is now a visiting scholar at the New York University (NYU) Law School, where he is teaching international human rights law.

    US News and World Report lists NYU as number six in its list of the 10 best law schools……..”


    “Numerous NYU law students, alumni, lawyer and activist groups—including the international committee of the National Lawyer’s Guild—law students at other universities, and faculty at NYU signed and circulated a petition “condemn[ing] NYU Law’s hiring of Harold H. Koh for the 2014-2015 academic year.” The petition reads as follows


    Full petition text and more @

    • lysias on April 9, 2015, 5:20 pm

      Harold Koh was a professor at Yale Law School when I studied there. He supervised the legal clinic program there at the time (which assisted outside clients with free legal work by the law students) and appeared to be a genuine believer in human rights. He was later dean of the school.

      That all changed when he became legal adviser to Hillary Clinton’s State Department. (That famous picture of Hillary on her Blackberry while she’s on her State Department plane on the way to Libya has Koh in the picture — he’s right behind Hillary.)

  3. lysias on April 9, 2015, 5:24 pm

    According to this Web page, the number of full-time faculty at NYU is 562. So 120 professors is a significant percentage.

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