Student governments at a growing list of universities have backed divestment from companies that profit from Israeli military occupation.
Charlotte Silver-11 April 2017
Tufts University’s undergraduate student senate passed a resolution on 9 April that calls on the university to divest from companies involved in Israel’s occupation and violation of Palestinian human rights.
The resolution, written by the Boston school’s Students for Justice in Palestine chapter, passed by 17-6 with eight abstentions, despite strong opposition from pro-Israel groups.
While Tufts’ specific holdings are not public, the resolution calls on the school to create “a human rights screen” to bar investments in companies involved in “human rights violations against Palestinians, non-US-citizens in detainment and deportation proceedings, and incarcerated individuals.”
It identifies Elbit Systems, G4S, Northrop Grumman and Hewlett Packard Enterprise as companies that provide military, surveillance and prison services to the Israeli and US governments.
While the resolution is primarily focused on companies violating human rights in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, it cites a recent United Nations report that finds Israel guilty of maintaining an apartheid regime that “oppresses and dominates the Palestinian people as a whole.”
Groups opposed to the divestment resolution protested that the vote was scheduled on the eve of Passover, thereby allegedly preventing Jewish students from mobilizing against it.
But Keren Hendel, a student member of Tufts American Israel Alliance, told the right-wing website The Algemeiner that pro-Israel students quickly mobilized at least 50 people to lobby representatives against the resolution or to postpone the vote.
“The simple answer is that the resolution was not intentionally put the day before Passover begins,” Molly Tunis, a member of Students for Justice in Palestine, told The Electronic Intifada.
The vote took place at the senate’s final meeting of the year. Tunis said her group had been working on it all semester.
“We deeply regret that people traveling to celebrate Passover will be unable to make it, not just to discuss the BDS [boycott, divestment and sanctions] resolution, but also to discuss all of the other important matters,” Tufts’ Jewish Voice for Peace chapter said in a statement.
Despite the timing, Tunis said representatives of at least three student Israel advocacy groups attended, along with pro-Israel activists from off campus.
A shadowy anti-BDS group also paid for targeted social media ads opposing the resolution, according to Tunis.
“It disappoints us to see the opposition using such blatant scare tactics like filming members of the Senate during the meeting and targeting members of our group through website blacklists like Canary Mission,” Tunis said.
While senate hearings are ordinarily livestreamed, there was a prior community agreement not to film the debate on the resolution due to safety concerns, Tunis said.
Canary Mission, a website linked to anti-Muslim demagogue Daniel Pipes, aims to tarnish the reputations of student activists and compromise their future professional careers.
Tunis says the resolution was the product of ongoing campus organizing about Palestine. Tufts SJP plans to meet with the university’s board of trustees to discuss it.
Tufts joins a growing list of universities whose student governments have adopted resolutions supporting divestment, including Stanford University, University of Chicago and seven out of nine University of California campuses.
Last month, California’s De Anza College became the first community college to pass a divestment resolution.