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
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