Four universities in California held lengthy sessions over the past week as their student senates considered divesting from companies involved in the Israeli occupation of Palestine, while students at the University of South Florida submitted the largest petition in the university’s history calling on the university to divest. Also taking on a major role in the divestment campaign is the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, where graduate students recently passed a resolution which calls for divestment from companies which profit from violations in both occupied Palestine and at the US-Mexico border.The University of California (UC) Santa Barbara, UC Riverside and San Diego State held simultaneous student senate sessions, last Wednesday, to consider resolutions to divest. The sessions lasted into the night, and the votes were close at all three schools. UC Riverside voted in favor of divestment, while the other two schools voted down the resolution, in very close votes.
When the vote was announced at UC Riverside that the divestment resolution had passed, the room erupted in cheers. Students supporting the resolution were holding signs reading “Don’t make me fund the oppression of my family” and “Divest Now”.
A similar resolution was considered on Tuesday night, April 29th, at UC Davis, where it failed by one vote.
In Florida, students organizing a divestment petition said they drew inspiration from the words of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. engraved on the center of the campus: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
They submitted a petition of more than 10,000 signatures calling on the University of South Florida Foundation to divest from companies complicit in human rights violations in Palestine.
The students’ petition listed three direct demands: transparency, ethical investment, and divestment. “We support SJP’s petition to make USF a [Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions] school,” said Gage Lacharite, president of Students for a Democratic Society. “
Boycotts have historically been used in movements against oppression, such as the UFW strikes of the 70′s and the anti-South African apartheid movements of the 80′s. The occupation of Palestine by Israel is a criminal act that must be stopped.”
The University of New Mexico graduate student government’s vote in favor of divestment comes amidst a wave of similar resolution hearings, which student activists have dubbed a “divestapalooza”, reports the Electronic Intifada.
Loyola University in Chicago also passed a divestment resolution this year as well, but the implementation of the resolution was impeded by a veto from the university’s student president.
The companies targeted by the campus divestment campaign include Caterpillar, General Electric, Motorola and Hewlett Packard. These companies are all contracted with the Israeli military to supply weapons and other supplies used in the military occupation of Palestine.