The largest labor union in Britain, Unite, has passed a resolution to divest from Israel, while another U.S. College, slain activist Rachel Corrie’s school Evergreen College, has also voted for divestment.The British union passed the motion unanimously two days after an Israeli attack on an aid ship killed 8 Turkish and 1 American aid worker, and injured 60. The motion was brought by union members during a national convention in Manchester, and passed unanimously.
The Unite union committed itself to “vigorously promote a policy of divestment from Israeli companies” and a boycott of Israeli products “ similar to the boycott of South African goods during the era of apartheid”. The union did not approve another proposed measure that would have cut ties with the Israeli trade union movement, Histadrut.
One of the promoters of the measure said after it was passed by the Union, “You now have a major player supporting the boycott and the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign”, and praised the union leadership for its unanimous approval of the divestment resolution.
In a similar move, Evergreen College in Olympia WA has followed in the footsteps of Hampshire College, and voted to divest from Israel. Hampshire College was the first US college to divest from Israel, with a divestment resolution passed last year soon after the Israeli assault on Gaza. A similar resolution was passed at the University of California – Berkeley, but was vetoed, and did not manage to hold enough votes to overturn the veto. The debate caused the issue of Israel-Palestine to come to the forefront on the Berkeley campus, and supporters of divestment vowed to bring another resolution next year.
The divestment resolutions passed by Evergreen College on June 2nd call for the Evergreen State College Foundation to divest from companies that profit from Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine, as part of instituting a socially responsible investment policy, and call on the College to ban the use of Caterpillar, Inc. equipment from campus.
While other US colleges have passed similar divestment resolutions, these are the first of such resolutions passed by direct vote by an entire student body. Additionally, the student government unanimously passed its own resolution strongly supportive of the measures.
Divestment has been a popular tool employed at college campuses nationwide to protest South African apartheid and other human rights abuses around the world. The last year has seen a number of resolutions introduced at campuses around the US to divest from Israel due to Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine—and to target the corporations that profit from the illegal occupation.
The naming of Caterpillar corporation in Evergreen’s divestment resolution is particularly important for the school, as Evergreen senior Rachel Corrie was killed in 2003 by a weaponized Caterpillar bulldozer as she attempted to prevent the demolition of a civilian Palestinian home in the Gaza Strip.