Yesterday two signal events took place in the movement to boycott Israel over the occupation. First, Bar Heffetz, an Israeli farmer, kibbutznik and peace activist, writes that BDS is working, and how. (Original Hebrew post here; translation from Sol Salbe’s Facebook page)
Contrary to what you get told, the boycott and BDS are working, and how. At you can feel it everywhere, at least in my field of agricultural exports to Europe. And that’s apart from the fact that you must sign a document that your produce does not come from the settlements, with aerial photographs attached. Even plain Israeli products [from inside the Green Line] encounter a lot of problems because the buyers cannot think of a reason why they need all that hassle. Buy from Spain and it’s all simple and quiet. And what is really nice about it, is that government departments such as the Ministry of Agriculture headed by that top Rightist Uri Ariel cooperate with all this. They provide official documents that indicate separate production lines do exist which are free of settlements’ produce, for those who wish to export to Europe The conclusion? The road to South Africa has never been shorter.
Thousands of miles away yesterday, a group at the University of Chicago announced a new divestment campaign yesterday with the statement below. The target of the campaign is quite focused: ten international companies (eight of them American) that “perpetuate apartheid and human rights abuses by providing technology and resources used by the Israeli military and government to attack and kill Palestinian civilians, maintain and build the Apartheid Wall and checkpoints, and destroy Palestinian property for the purpose of building illegal settlements.”
We, a diverse coalition of students at the University of Chicago, come together as UofC Divest to call upon the College Council of the University of Chicago to pass a resolution urging the university to financially divest from companies presently complicit in, or profiting off of, the State of Israel’s ongoing system of military occupation, apartheid, and other human rights violations in Palestine/Israel. We act in direct response to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which was initiated by Palestinian civil society in 2005 and is endorsed by over 170 Palestinian political parties and organizations. The BDS movement calls on Israel to comply with international law by (1) Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall, (2) Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and (3) Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.
The specific corporations our resolution targets for divestment are Boeing, Caterpillar, Cemex, Elbit Systems, General Electric, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Lockheed Martin, Motorola Systems, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon. Collectively, these companies perpetuate apartheid and human rights abuses by providing technology and resources used by the Israeli military and government to attack and kill Palestinian civilians, maintain and build the Apartheid Wall and checkpoints, and destroy Palestinian property for the purpose of building illegal settlements. For example, Boeing supplies aircraft, missiles, and weapons used to attack Palestinians in the occupied territories including during the 2014 summer assault on Gaza, which, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, damaged or destroyed over 144 kindergartens, killed 2,205 Palestinians, displaced over 500,000, and left 108,000 homeless. Cemex operates four factories on occupied land and produces concrete elements used in the construction of illegal settlements, the Apartheid Wall, and checkpoints; and Elbit Systems Ltd. provides the electronic detection fence and surveillance cameras for the Apartheid Wall and supplies unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) used to kill and maim Palestinians in the occupied territories.
Unfortunately, the University of Chicago has a long history of both failing to take socially responsible stances and actively perpetuating systems of oppression. Our university failed to divest from South Africa and Darfur even though many of our peer institutions did. The school also failed to divest from fossil fuels or to form a socially responsible investment committee, even though both initiatives were supported by an overwhelming majority (70-80%) of the student body. It has played a major role both locally and nationally in perpetuating segregation and gentrification. Other anti-Black components of the school’s history include maintaining a huge, unaccountable private police force and flatly refusing to provide trauma care to the South Side, until relentless activism from a coalition led by young Black organizers forced the university to change course. The University of Chicago is currently under investigation for multiple Title IX violations, has perpetuated unfair labor practices, and consistently fails to adequately address racist, homophobic, transphobic, islamophobic, anti-Semitic, and anti-Palestinian incidents on campus. On a global scale, the Chicago School of Economics was a major producer and proponent of economic theories and policies that lead to the dismantling of the welfare state, decimation of poor and middle class communities, and rise of mass incarceration. Additionally, it aided and abetted multiple murderous, racist, and anti-Semitic Latin American regimes.
As students and alumni of the University of Chicago, we know such history and such (in)actions are not neutral, or a mere byproduct of open discourse. We feel compelled to work to change this shameful legacy and put the university, at last, on the right side of history. As the recent victory of the trauma center coalition’s 5-year campaign has demonstrated, sustained organizing and activism works, and can enact supposedly impossible change at our seemingly immovable institution.
Because of our powerful belief in justice and equity for all people, we are proud to bring our resolution calling for divestment from companies complicit in Israeli apartheid before College Council this spring quarter. We urge other members of the university community, including students, former students, faculty, and alumni, to support us as well by signing our petition (http://goo.gl/forms/lVBOnMMzel) and checking out other ways to get involved!