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George Washington student Senate passes divestment resolution as intimidation campaign continues

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After being delayed a week because of threats to their safety, the George Washington University (GW) student Senate overwhelmingly passed a resolution to divest from nine companies known to be complicit in Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights.

Around 1 a.m early Tuesday morning, by a vote of 18 to 6 with 6 abstentions, resolution SR-S18-21: The Protection of Palestinian Human Rights Act passed, making George Washington the second university in just a week to pass a divestment resolution. Barnard College’s student body voted in favor of a similar resolution by a record breaking margin in a campus-wide referendum on April 18.

The GW resolution, sponsored by student Senator Josh Gomez, along with Eden Vitoff, Jessica Martinez and Shaheera Jalil Albasit, calls on the university to divest from the following companies: Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Elbit Systems Ltd., Caterpillar Inc., CEMEX, General Electric, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and Motorola Solutions, Inc.

Because George Washington is a private university, it does not disclose where its $1.73 billion endowment is invested. In fact, since 2014 the university has outsourced management to Arlington, Virginia-based investment firm Strategic Investment Group.

“Unfortunately, this administration is not transparent at all about what we’re invested in” Gomez told Mondoweiss. Nevertheless, the resolution has enormous symbolic significance.

“GW is a very geographically diverse campus, with most students from around different parts of the country” noted Gomez, who is himself from the South. That the resolution passed he said indicates broad support for divestment not only in the Northeast, but across the country.

Its passage also shows a quickly evolving view on Israel as an oppressive regime, as just last year a similar resolution was struck down by a large margin.

Although Palestinian students and those in solidarity are not strangers to intimidation on GW’s campus, the rebukes were swift.

GW President Thomas J. LeBlanc issued a statement on the same day the divestment resolution passed.

“I want to be clear to our university community that this does not represent the university’s views and the university will not implement such a proposal” the newly appointed president declared.

“The university prioritizes the safety and security of all our students and our campus community” and we encourage students “to continue to engage in open, respectful dialogue” said LeBlanc.

The president has not responded to Mondoweiss’ requests for clarification.

However, Palestinian students at GW were quick to point out the hypocrisy in LeBlanc’s statement.

The initial vote, scheduled for April 19, was cancelled when students witnessed two unidentified individuals placing threatening posters around the university. Student targets of the attacks reported the incident to the administration but received no response. They also reported the individuals to campus police who let the suspects go.

“The attacks that were happening on campus” Ren Niz, an organizer with GWU SJP told me, prove that “Palestinians…and Palestinian allies are unsafe.”

When the resolution did pass, supporters were elated after advocates spent countless hours lobbying Senators, writing the resolution, and engaging in grassroots campaigning.

“We had really personal conversations…and really spent time trying to explain things to the senators and trying to get our voice heard” Niz said.

Palestinian students can now begin “moving from anonymity, to be seen on campus as the marginalized community that we are.”

In an open letter to President LeBlanc, Tyler Katz, a senior and supporter of SJP, expressed strong disappointment with the administration’s lack of response to the threats.

“When it comes to student safety, you’re silent. When it comes to the University’s endowment and investments, you are its chief defender. How should a prospective student feel, knowing that the President of this University will speak out about a divestment resolution, but not about their personal safety and security? How should a mother feel, knowing that you value a bottom line over the safety of her child?” Katz wrote.

The full letter can be read here.

The next step toward actually disinvesting funds from the named companies will consist of what is likely to be a long process of meetings between students and faculty.

While divestment is ultimately decided by the Board of Trustees, the university president generally wields considerable influence over such a decision.

“I’m hoping to meet with the administration soon, regardless of what the president has released” senate sponsor Josh Gomez told Mondoweiss. “I know that he can’t get along rejecting student wishes forever.”

Intimidation Campaign Continues

Flyer distributed on George Washington University’s campus to intimidate BDS supporters. (Photo: Divest This Time)

A number of recent incidents illustrate that the safety of Palestinian students and Palestine solidarity allies continues to be a major concern at GW.

Individuals believed to be working on behalf of Canary Mission showed up on campus for a second time the night of the Senate vote, this time with a decidedly more bizarre plan.

The same two men whom students witnessed the week before, stood outside the entrance to the lecture hall where the vote was to take place. One wore a long nosed bird mask and the other dressed in a full bird costume. This time another individual was present, coordinating the two costumed men and refusing to speak to anyone.

Ren Niz described the incident: “They knew our campus, they knew where everything was happening. They knew the location of the hearing…they came inside the building where the vote was happening [and stood] right outside the doors.”

“It was very troubling because we didn’t realize that they were Canaries” until someone pointed it out she said. “And then we all just stared at each other and we’re like, ‘oh my God.’”

Especially ominous threats such as “you only saw two of us…but we see all of you” have many in the community mentally exhausted Niz told me.

The three individuals were eventually escorted from the building by campus police who unlike last time, looked at their IDs. According to what GWU Police told students — now twice attacked on their own campus —the two had Massachusetts licenses and we’re staying in a nearby hotel. The police would not say anything further and no action was taken against the the still publicly unidentified men.

But, if there is a silver lining it is that “they proved our conspiracies right.”

“People who didn’t really know about Canary Mission and didn’t know about their anti-Palestinian rhetoric realized that this is a real life threat and it needs to be addressed” added Niz.

“Whenever we have spoken to students about [Canary] Mission, no one would believe us because blacklists are illegal in America.”

About Jesse Rubin

Jesse Rubin is a freelance journalist from New York. Twitter: @JesseJDRubin

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12 Responses

  1. Pippilin
    Pippilin
    April 27, 2018, 12:54 pm

    So pleased to see that the canaries failed in this particular mission. Do you think that the founder of CM had any idea that their stylish masks resemble the doctors’ plague masks of the 16-17th centuries? My personal little chuckle for the day. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plague_doctor#/media/File:Paul_F%C3%BCrst,_Der_Doctor_Schnabel_von_Rom_(coloured_version).png

    • JLewisDickerson
      JLewisDickerson
      April 27, 2018, 3:51 pm

      RE: “their stylish masks resemble the doctors’ plague masks of the 16-17th centuries”

      ■ WIKIPEDIA [Plague doctor costume] – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plague_doctor_costume

      📷 IMAGE: Paul Fürst, engraving, c. 1721, of a plague doctor of Marseilles (introduced as ‘Dr Beaky of Rome’). His nose-case is filled with herbal material to keep off the plague.[1]

      📷 IMAGE: Plague doctor outfit from Germany (17th century)

      📷 IMAGE: A beaked Venetian carnival mask with the inscription Medico della Peste (“Plague doctor”) beneath the right eye

    • Misterioso
      Misterioso
      April 28, 2018, 10:53 am

      @Pippilin

      I had the same thought. These Zio-creeps should do some research. Then again, their moronic tactics to suppress the truth serve the Palestinians.

  2. Citizen
    Citizen
    April 27, 2018, 5:54 pm

    Seems someone should be a a able to get the cops to identify publicly those CM HIRELINGS in their costumes?

  3. edwardm
    edwardm
    April 27, 2018, 7:00 pm

    Well then! It stands to reason that SJP et al just need to hire their own masked goons. I suggest cat masks.
    https://eso.mmo-fashion.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2016/10/Rajhins-Cat-Mask-Female-Front.jpg
    https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/1365/2497/products/black-cat-mask_1600x.jpg?v=1520535357
    http://cdn.snappages.com/sfvx9m/assets/48464_1135817_1311168274.png

    incidentally, standing at parade rest like that is no way to protect your testicles from a well placed and well deserved kick.
    https://inhabitat.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2014/07/Cat-Bird-Murderer.jpg

  4. echinococcus
    echinococcus
    April 27, 2018, 10:36 pm

    no one would believe us because blacklists are illegal in America.

    Pull the other one

  5. cypruswez
    cypruswez
    April 28, 2018, 9:38 am

    Very difficult for “Tweety Pie” and friend to claim a moral high ground when stood in a sewer.
    Thuggish, brain dead bullies. Canaries are soon to be pluckec!

  6. April 28, 2018, 2:02 pm

    This is a severe problem with young activists today; they do not know how to respond properly.

    In the first place, Palestinian youth and supporters should not be attending a private university in the “seat of all corruption”, Washington DC. This is not to say that such students do not have the right to attend GW University but the fact that it is a private university makes student activism much more difficult with very controversial issues.

    When I attended university in the late 1960s and early 1970s, we had one major issue,the war in Vietnam. And just about every major university’s student population was vehemently opposed to this useless war.

    However, opposing Israeli endeavors in a country where Israeli influence in the US government, many state governments, and many private institutions around the country puts such activism entirely on the defensive.

    The people participating in the most recent incursion of the Canary Mission onto the campus could be theoretically prosecuted for trespass since no one could recognize them in their costumes. You can only assume that they were the same people that put up the posters previously. However, this is not a likely outcome.

    So if they are going to threaten Palestinian students and their supporters in such a manner than return the favor…

    Here is the link to the famed Guardian Angels of New York…. http://guardianangels.org/

    The Guardian Angels are international in scope but do not have a chapter in Washington DC.

    Start one…

  7. April 29, 2018, 9:51 am

    You know they’re desparate when Big Bird gets called in.

    How bizarre have things gotten for the Jewish supremacists – they have quite literally given the bird to the past and tradition. instead of showing respect and deference to all those who came before them by dawning the customary white hoods of their racist compatriots, they have chosen yellow bird masks to conceal their identity. Richard Spencer will not be pleased with this apparent shift in wardrobe and I bet they’ll be hell to pay. Why would the Zionazis snub the one group that was sympathetic to Jewish supremacy? puzzling to say the least. I have to believe that a compromise will soon follow – yellow hoods may be the fix here. Only time will tell.

  8. gamal
    gamal
    April 29, 2018, 10:47 am

    ” this apparent shift in wardrobe”

    Arthur Shnitzler should sew, …no sue…it would be a dream story.

  9. Ossinev
    Ossinev
    April 29, 2018, 1:16 pm

    “You saw two of us we see all of you”.
    Wrong . Lying cowardly p…ks. The students attending had the courage and integrity to attend the meeting undisguised. Yes you saw them but they didn`t get to see you because you covered your faces. Come on scaredy cats why not develop some testicles and turn up for your next scheduled anti – BDS gig showing your faces. I thought Zios were supposed to be the bravest of the brave having had to fight victimisation since 3000BC. Hey don`t cry you can still wear the bird outfits without the headgear if that`s what floats your boat.

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