Sunday, June 8, 2014

Divestment Resolution at University of Washington

Last month, UW's Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights (SUPER) brought a divestment resolution to the floor of their university's student senate. While the resolution did not pass, it was the beginning of an open discussion on the campus. Below is UWSUPER's statement following the vote as well as letters of support written by TESC students and faculty. 

Press Release: UW-Seattle Students Bring Divestment from Israeli Occupation to a Vote

UW-Seattle Students bring Divestment from Israeli Occupation to a Vote

Ten UW Student groups introduce student senate Resolution to divest UW’s endowment of companies profiting from Israel’s occupation of Palestine

The student senate at the University of Washington-Seattle joins more than a dozen student bodies to formally consider recommending the university divest from companies profiting from the Israeli occupation of Palestine. The bill did not pass despite broad student support and a nationwide trend of student senatesacross the country calling on their universities to divest. The final vote of 8 to 59 included 11 abstentions and a number of senators who expressed interest in learning more about the occupation of Palestine.

The bill, which focused on a number of companies directly profiting from occupation and the human rights abuses it entails, urged the University to “divest from those companies meeting such criteria within the bounds of their fiduciary duties until such companies cease the practices identified in this Resolution.” Students have already begun conversations with the UW treasury department and hope to continue to work together moving forward. According to the treasury department, as of April 22nd 2014, the UW was invested in four of the companies specifically identified in the resolution, collectively totaling nearly $6 million.

The bill was widely supported by student groups, including the Disability Advocacy Student Association, Movimiento Estudiantil Chican@ de Atzlan, and UW Black Student Union as well as by faculty, alumni, and notable figures such as Cindy and Craig Corrie – parents of Washington State student Rachel Corriewho was killed in 2003 when a militarized Caterpillar Bulldozer operated by an Israeli soldier ran her over while she attempted to protect a Palestinian home from illegal demolition. Other supporters included Miko Peled, son of a prominent Israeli general, Jewish Voice for Peace, International Committee of the National Lawyers Guild, and organizations in Israel, Palestine, and South Africa.

UW student Peter Brannan, who presented the resolution, said, “This process has been about renewing the belief that students can make a difference not only on their campus but in the world.” Members of SUPER expressed resolve and excitement about the future direction of student solidarity with Palestinian equal rights: “We are moved by the flood of student support for this resolution. We are only more determined to build community on campus for this struggle. Other campuses show that important struggles take time.”

Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights is a registered student organization at the University of Washington dedicated to equal rights and justice for the Palestinian people.

TESC Student Letter of Support

Dear Associated Students of the University of Washington,

In the spring of 2010, the student body of the Evergreen State College passed two resolutions, one calling for divestment from companies profiting off of Israel’s occupation of Palestine, and the other for the creation of a CAT Free Zone, prohibiting the use of Caterpillar Inc. equipment on campus. The result of the vote, the first student-wide one of its kind, was a resounding victory for both resolutions, passing with 79.5% and 71.8% respectively.

The voter turnout set a record at Evergreen, and was more than double the average turnout in student elections nationwide. Following the vote, the Geoduck Student Union unanimously passed resolutions supporting the student vote and directing the Board of Trustees to respond in a timely manner to the request of the student body. The Board of Trustees refused to publicly discuss the resolutions, the reason given being that Evergreen’s endowment holdings are directly tied to the UW Consolidated Endowment Fund. Consequentially, Evergreen’s ability to respect the voice of the student body and divest has been made contingent upon the University of Washington.

In 2005, 170 Palestinian civil society groups issued a call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel and institutions complicit in and profiting from the occupation of Palestinian land. BDS is a non-violent challenge to a conflict which is militarily one-sided. BDS was instrumental in ending the Apartheid regime in South Africa, and, like with the Palestinian call for action, campuses and students are on the forefront of social justice.

Refusing to divest is not a neutral position; refusing to divest puts us on the side of military occupation and makes us complicit in human rights abuses. Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands has been found, by the United Nations and the International Court of Justice, to be in violation of International Law. A divestment resolution may be criticized as divisive; however, like in all matters of social justice, there is no position that is not.

As well as being one of the defining human rights struggles of our time, the abuses of Israel’s occupation have direct ties to students in the Washington state. In 2003, Evergreen student and lifelong Olympia resident Rachel Corrie was killed by a Caterpillar bulldozer, designed specifically for the Israeli Defence Forces, while defending a Palestinian home in the Gaza Strip from illegal demolition. In honoring this legacy, the 2005 call by Palestinian civil society, and Evergreen’s 2010 student body vote to divest from the occupation, we urge the University of Washington to stand on the right side of history and to pass this resolution to divest from companies profiting from violations of international law and human rights.


The Evergreen State College’s Students for Justice in Palestine
The Native Student Alliance (NSA) at Evergreen
Movimiento Estudiantil Chican@ de Aztlán (MEChA) de Evergreen

TESC Faculty Letter of Support

We, the undersigned members of the faculty at The Evergreen State College, affirm our support for ASUW Resolution 20-39, “A Resolution to Divest from Companies Profiting from Violations of International Law and Human Rights.”

We applaud students at the University of Washington for taking this important step, which seeks to protect the human rights of Palestinians subject to Israel’s illegal occupation of their territories. We fully endorse the well-documented and well-reasoned statement they prepared in support of their demands.

The Evergreen State College has a history of engagement with this issue. We have held many public fora, and the complexities of the problem have been dissected in our classrooms. As the UW students noted, one of our own students, Rachel Corrie, was killed by an Israeli soldier as she nonviolently attempted to defend a Palestinian home from demolition. In 2010, our student body voted by a 78% margin in favor of having the college divest from companies that profit from the illegal occupation.

As the ASUW resolution makes clear, Evergreen cannot fully implement its divestment from companies complicit in these human rights abuses until the University of Washington also acts. Solidarity between TESC students and faculty and UW students and faculty can be an impetus for real change on both campuses.

We express our support for the students at Evergreen and UW who have taken the lead in putting their institutions on the side of legality, human rights, justice and peace.

Therese Saliba, Ph.D., English and International Feminism
Greg Mullins,  Ph.D.,  American Studies       
Anthony Zaragoza,     Ph.D.,  American Studies and Political Economy      
Savvina Chowdhury,  Ph.D.,  Feminist Political Economy   
Naima  Lowe,  MFA,  Experimental   Media 
Jose Gomez,    J.D., Constitutional Law       
Michael Vavrus,   Ph.D., Education   and Political Economy           
Lin Nelson,   Ph.D., Social      Science           
Larry Mosqueda,   Ph.D., Political Science   
Jeanne Hahn,  Ph.D.,  Political Economy    
Anne   Fischel,   Ph.D., Documentary Media and Community Studies        
Peter    Bohmer,   Ph.D., Economics  
Arun    Chandra,   DMA, Music Composition and Performance      
Alice    Nelson,   Ph.D., Latin American Studies       
Zoltan Grossman,   Ph.D., Geography         
Amjad Faur,    MFA, Photography  
Sarah   Williams,    Ph.D., Feminist Theory  
Paul     McMillin,   MA, Sociology, MLIS   
Miranda    Mellis,    MFA, Literary Arts    
Lori     Blewett,     Ph.D., Communications Studies 

Zahid   Shariff,   DPA, Political Theory        

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