Students call on California community colleges to divest from human rights abuses in Palestine

We, Students for Justice in Palestine, as well as countless individuals from across the California Community College system, have banded together from all walks of life. We are a diverse coalition that consist of all people of every color, nationality, religion, etc. Despite these differences, what brings us together is our common human identity. That’s why we are greatly concerned about the human rights abuses in Palestine, and the thought that our college system could be complicit in such gross violations is unbearable.

For almost half a century, the Palestinian territories have been brutally occupied, which eventually resulted in the subjugation of millions of people, constructed on racial superiority and an illegal colonial network. The occupation, as documented by numerous human rights groups and multinational entities, results in some of the most horrid conditions. Conditions such as, but not limited to: water deprivation, segregation, racially-based legal systems, systematic home demolitions, and the restrictions against the freedom of movement, have resulted in one of the worst cases of systematic oppression gone largely unchecked. This system of abuse, as documented by many reputable organizations, including the United Nations, directly parallels the former South African system of Apartheid. This unjust system of human rights abuses has created an urgency amongst students throughout the community college system to take action in order to hold the Board of Governors accountable for any investments that profit from these abuses.

As a result, we, the students of the California Community College system, call upon the Student Senate for California Community Colleges (SSCCC) to stand in solidarity with other California and National Universities by passing a resolution to divest from companies that profit from human rights abuses in Palestine. It is imperative that the college system examine it’s financial holdings to be certain that students aren’t paying their tuition dollars that in turn, is invested into certain companies that directly profit from the abuses in Palestine. Companies such as RE/MAX directly profit from the selling of segregated housing, and these housing units are illegal under international law. Others, such as Veolia, also profit from segregated systems such as roads and bus-lines. Lastly, companies such as Caterpillar Inc. profit from the systematic and discriminatory bulldozing of Palestinian homes, rendering thousands homeless.

As students of the community college system, we have an obligation to stand for justice and make a difference. The issues of the world are our issues, for we are the future leaders of the free world and retain a common human element that’s unlimited. Divestment from companies that profit from human rights abuses is nothing new. It is directly modeled after divestment from companies that profited from apartheid in South Africa, where Blacks fell victim to a system of colonialism, segregation, and White supremacy. Back then, millions of students in the State and across the Nation stood up and deplored investments in companies that profited from such a system. Now, students are rallying once again to ensure that our colleges are not invested into companies that are once again profiting from human rights abuses. We urge that the SSCCC, that has the privilege of representing all 112 of California’s community colleges, to stand on the right side of history by urging divestment from companies that profit from human rights abuses in Palestine—in which our tuition dollars is invested, and to send a message that human rights abuses are unacceptable no matter where they may be.

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Claremont SJP overcomes censorship attempts to display mock wall on campus

“Student activists at Pitzer College in southern California are risking administration sanctions this week to bring attention to Israel’s violations of the rights of Palestinians.

Members of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) had constructed a mock wall on campus on Tuesday as part of their actions marking Israeli Apartheid Week — a global series of events intended to spark discussions on campuses about Israel’s occupation in Palestine and the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

On 27 March, the Pitzer administration warned SJP that their plans to construct the mock wall would be “in blatant defiance” of college policy. The mock wall is a colorful, sixty-foot-long replica of Israel’s wall in the occupied West Bank, emblazoned with artwork, facts and statistics highlighting Israel’s violations of human rights.

By going forward with their creative direct action, Pitzer SJP could face punishment by the administration.

“Not surprising”

The administration seems to have come under pressure by on-campus Israel-aligned students who reportedly sent a letter of complaint in February to the Pitzer College Aesthetics Committee.

The group “anticipat[ed] SJP’s proposal to display the mock separation wall and claim[ed] that the wall is anti-Semitic and would make Jewish students on campus uncomfortable,” according to a letter to Pitzer’s administration sent by Palestine Solidarity Legal Support this week.

Noah Latkin, a member of SJP at Pitzer, told The Electronic Intifada on Tuesday that “it wasn’t necessarily surprising” that the group has been singled out for scrutiny by the university.

“There was opposition to us even becoming a club,” he said. “People in the student senate labeled us as inherently anti-Semitic. We had to meet with the president of the student senate who asked us ‘how can we make sure you don’t offend people on campus?’”

Smears and attacks against Palestinian students and members of SJP are not new to students of the Claremont College consortium, which includes Pitzer.

In 2013, a professor at Pitzer’s sister campus Claremont McKenna College called a Palestinian student “a cockroach” during a mock checkpoint action on campus as part of Israeli Apartheid Week. The student, Najib Hamideh, attended Pitzer College and was a member of Students for Justice in Palestine. The professor, Yaron Raviv, is an Israeli citizen.”

 

Read more at The Electronic Intifada

Below is a letter drafted by several SJPs around the State of California in support of Claremont SJP’s right to display their wall:

To the University Administration:

SJP West, a coalition of Students for Justice in Palestine chapters across the West Coast, wishes to express its deep concern regarding the recent decision of Pitzer College’s Campus Aesthetics Committee to prohibit the display of a pro-Palestinian exhibit on campus. As part of its annual Israeli Apartheid Week activities, Pitzer College’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine planned to display a mock apartheid wall, similar to the one illegally constructed by the Israeli occupation on Palestinian land. The display of the mock wall is intended to raise awareness of the plight of Palestinians who suffer a brutal occupation, which is partially funded by our American tax dollars. The students were not provided with any official justification for the college’s decision but there is ample evidence that the college prefers to suppress SJP’s message because it would make some students uncomfortable.

Banning the display is nothing short of censorship and constitutes a clear infringement on the First Amendment rights of Pitzer students, protected by California law and Pitzer’s own policies. In fact, the presence of a Campus Aesthetics Committee with an authority to disapprove certain forms of free speech on campus in itself raises serious questions about the openness of the campus to harboring a marketplace for the free exchange of ideas. Moreover, students have voiced concern that the display was possibly banned due to its content and after external political pressure. Such concerns are very alarming, providing further evidence for the presence of a chilling effect consequential to such actions, which can suppress the students’ legitimate, constitutionally protected exercise of free speech.

Similar mock walls are routinely displayed on campuses in California and across the nation without incident. We urge you to promptly resolve this matter and affirm the students’ right to display the mock wall. We will continue to work with Students for Justice in Palestine at Pitzer College to ensure that the rights of consciousness students advocating for human rights and social justice are not infringed upon on campus. We look forward to working with you to reach a remedy.

Sincerely the undersigned,

Students for Justice in Palestine at UC Riverside

Students for Justice in Palestine at UC Berkeley

Students for Justice in Palestine at LAVC

Students for Justice in Palestine at Occidental College

Students for Justice in Palestine at UC Santa Cruz

Students for Justice in Palestine at UC San Diego

Students for Justice in Palestine at Stanford University

Students for Justice in Palestine at UC Irvine

 

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UC Davis SJP Statement on Judicial Board Divestment Verdict

Dear UC Davis Community members,

A trial by the UC Davis Campus Court was held on 2/18 regarding the legality of Senate Resolution 9 under the constitution of ASUCD. This student court ruled in favor of nullifying the resolution, which was a call for UC Davis to divest from corporations that are complicit with Israel’s human rights violations against the Palestinian people, on the grounds that the resolution didn’t directly affect “student welfare” on campus and was “primarily a political document.”

Yet SR #9, deemed too “political” for the ASUCD to vote on, is similar to past resolutions including the call to divest from Apartheid South Africa and Sudan. Thus this court ruling was highly selective and politically biased in targeting only divestment from Israel. It also suggests that the welfare of UC Davis students who are Palestinian and their families who are displaced from Israel or targeted by Israeli violence and restrictions on freedom of movement, freedom to education, and freedom to live does not matter. Palestinian Lives Matter!

The verdict attempts to silence not only pro-Palestine activists on campus who are personally affected by UC Davis’s complicity with Israeli occupation and apartheid, but also future student activists who organize grassroots movements and participate in ASUCD’s democratic process. It is a tactic of campus ‘lawfare’ similar to that used by national Zionist groups to undermine the BDS movement. But this procedural maneuver cannot change the clear student consensus in favor of divestment for human rights.

Students for Justice in Palestine considers this court ruling invalid because it would infringe on free speech rights to disallow “political” statements and because the ruling attempts to override the democratic process that operates in ASUCD. This discriminatory and repressive verdict will not be accepted by the SJP community, and there will be an organized response to this injustice. The fact is that the divestment movement has won at UC Davis, and we and the Palestinian rights movement stand by this victory.
In solidarity,
SJP

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Stanford Student Senate Votes to Divest from Occupation of Palestine

For Immediate Release
February 18, 2015

Press Contacts: EKela Autry eautry@stanford.edu; Sherif Ibrahim sherif10@stanford.edu

STANFORD, Calif. – On February 17, the Undergraduate Senate of Stanford University voted 10-1-4 to pass a resolution to divest from the occupation of the Palestinian Territories. The resolution, entitled A Resolution to Divest from Companies Violating Human Rights in Occupied Palestine, calls on Stanford to stop investing in multinational corporations facilitating human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

The Senate Chair and Senate Deputy Chair motioned to reconsider the resolution after it was narrowly defeated by one vote last week (9 for, 1 abstention, 5 against). The senators stated that the hostile environment opponents of divestment created at last week’s hearing impeded their ability to vote with clarity and requested the opportunity to align their votes with their true opinions. In the original vote, the two senators had respectively abstained and voted no. After their motion to reconsider passed in Tuesday’s hearing, they changed their votes to a ‘yes’ and ‘abstain.’ The re-vote followed a two hour-long hearing and ended in a historic vote in favor of divestment with 10 senators voting in support, one abstention, and 4 against.

Organizers of the campaign were surprised that the Senate decided to vote on the resolution again and expressed excitement about the Senate vote.

“After months of hard work, it is gratifying to witness the Senate answer our call and affirm our efforts towards divestment.” said sophomore Ramah Awad. “Our next step is to pressure the Board of Trustees to follow through. We ask the Board and President Hennessy directly: ‘Are you going to listen to the student voice?’”

Another student expressed support for the senators who decided to reconsider their vote.

“Students from the campaign against divestment have written us acknowledging their ‘hateful and spiteful’ behavior during last week’s hearing,” said senior Manny Thompson. “We appreciate that the Chair and Deputy Chair spoke up about how they felt intimidated to vote their conscience and that the Senate ultimately reaffirmed its majority support for divestment.”

The resolution focuses on multinational corporations and identifies multiple actors as being complicit in the violations against Palestinians living under occupation, including the governments of Israel, Egypt, Hamas, and the Palestinian Authority. The resolution states that the Undergraduate Senate is not connected to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement and affirms both Israelis and Palestinians’ rights to life, safety, and self-determination.

The resolution was brought forth by the Stanford Out of Occupied Palestine (SOOP) coalition. The diverse coalition consists of 19 student groups including the Black Student Union, MEChA, and Stanford Students for Queer Liberation. The resolution called on the University to evaluate its investments and divest from companies fitting the following criteria:

  1. Maintaining the illegal infrastructure of the Israeli occupation, in particular settlements and separation wall.
  2. Facilitating Israel and Egypt’s collective punishment of Palestinian civilians.
  3. Facilitating state repression against Palestinians by Israeli, Egyptian or Palestinian Authority security forces.

Stanford Out of Occupied Palestine came together in pursuit of selective divestment as a response to the call from Palestinian civil society to exert economic pressure to end to the violations of their basic human rights.  Over the course of seven weeks SOOP’s campaign gathered immense student support; over 1,600 Stanford students signed SOOP’s petition.

With tonight’s vote, Stanford joins a growing number of student governments–most notably the University of California Student Association–in responding to a call from Palestinian society for divestment. After this vote, SOOP will work with Senators to pressure the Board of Trustees to divest from the violation of Palestinian human rights.

“As a student in the movement, I look forward to continuously engaging the campus in this conversation,” said junior Natasha Patel, “We are not done uplifting the call of Palestinian peoples nor are we finished pushing our University to conduct an ethical review of its investments.”

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Stanford Divestment Resolution Achieves 9-5 Majority; Campaign Pushes on Despite Lack of Supermajority

Original Link: http://www.soopalestine.org/updates/stanford-divestment-resolution-achieves-9-5-majority-campaign-pushes-on-despite-lack-of-supermajority

For Immediate Release
Press Contacts: EKela Autry eautry@stanford.edu; Sherif Ibrahim sherif10@stanford.edu

STANFORD, Calif. – The Undergraduate Senate of Stanford University just voted on a resolution to divest from the occupation of the Palestinian Territories. The resolution, entitled A Resolution to Divest from Companies Violating Human Rights in Occupied Palestine, called on the University to divest from multinational corporations facilitating human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian territories. The vote followed a four-hour long Senate hearing and ended with 9 senators voting yes, 5 voting no, and one abstention.

“Stanford Out of Occupied Palestine commends university senators who voted in favor of the divestment resolution and aptly represented their constituents,” said EKela Autry. “As members of Stanford community, we are proud to be in solidarity with the Palestinian people. We resolve to continue our commitment to justice as a vehicle for peace. No rest ‘till we divest!”

“It was a victory that a majority of the Senate supported the text of the resolution,” said Manny Thompson. “This is indicative that the conversation around the occupation of Palestine is shifting, something we’ve witnessed in our monthss of campus work.”

The resolution focused on multinational corporations and identifies multiple actors as being complicit in the violations against Palestinians living under occupation, including the governments of Israel, Egypt, Hamas, and the Palestinian Authority. The resolution stated that the Undergraduate Senate is not connected to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The resolution affirmed both Israelis and Palestinians’ rights to life, safety, and self-determination.

“The senators’ internal discussion of the resolution preceding the vote was incredibly calm and reasoned,” said Sid Patel. “We applaud our senators for having such a nuanced conversation, recognizing that this issue is not black and white, and we appreciate that they took into account the perspectives of the entire community.”

On Tuesday evening, over 400 hundred Stanford students and affiliates gathered in the Tresidder Oak Room to witness the Undergraduate Senate vote on the divestment resolution brought forth by the Stanford Out of Occupied Palestine (SOOP) coalition. The diverse coalition consists of 19 student groups including the Black Student Union, MEChA, and Stanford Students for Queer Liberation. The resolution called on the University to evaluate its investments and divest from companies fitting the following criteria:

  1. Maintaining the illegal infrastructure of the Israeli occupation, in particular settlements and separation wall.
  2. Facilitating Israel and Egypt’s collective punishment of Palestinian civilians.
  3. Facilitating state repression against Palestinians by Israeli, Egyptian or Palestinian Authority security forces.

Stanford Out of Occupied Palestine came together in pursuit of selective divestment as an effective response to the call from Palestinian society for university students to exert pressure for an end to the violations of their basic human rights. Over the course of six weeks SOOP’s campaign gathered immense student support; over 1600 students signed SOOP’s petition and about 400 supporters gathered at Tuesday’s hearing.

Student organizers point to the growing number of student associations that have chosen to take a step towards ending their institutions’ complicity in the violation of Palestinian human rights. On Sunday, the University of California Student Association System voted in favor of two divestment resolutions calling for an end to the system’s investments in Palestinian suffering.

“The campus movement for Stanford to divest from companies complicit in the suffering of the Palestinian people will continue,” said Autry. “As long as Palestine is occupied, our work must continue.”

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On to the Regents: In Historic Vote, UC Student Association Endorses Call for Divestment in Support of Palestinian Rights

For Immediate Release:

On to the Regents: In Historic Vote, UC Student Association Endorses Call for Divestment in Support of Palestinian Rights

Contact: Students for Justice in Palestine at UCLA, sjpucla1@gmail.com
(SJP at UCLA can coordinate contacts with other student organizations)

On the morning of February 8, 2015, hundreds of students gathered in Tom Bradley International Hall at UCLA as the UC Student Association (UCSA) deliberated motions in support of divestment from companies engaged in the systematic violation of Palestinian rights in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Students from across California arrived to speak in favor of divestment, and to highlight the nearly 90 student organizations across the state which joined the call for the UCSA to endorse divestment. The historic vote passed in an overwhelming majority of 9-1 with 6 abstentions (click here to read the full text of the divestment motion).

The UC Student Association is the official voice of the student body of the University of California, and represents hundreds of thousands of undergraduate and graduate students across the UC system. Today it became the first multi-campus student association to vote in favor of divestment. This landmark vote is undoubtedly the largest victory thus far in the campus divestment movement in the United States.

Since 2012, UC Irvine, UC San Diego, UC Berkeley, UC Riverside, UC Los Angeles, and UC Davis have passed resolutions through their campus undergraduate student governments calling on the UC Regents to divest endowment and pension funds from companies such as Raytheon, Hewlett-Packard, Caterpillar, and Cemex, which facilitate and profit from Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories, its construction of settlements in contravention of international law, its violent bombing campaigns in Gaza, and its construction of checkpoints and walls throughout the West Bank. In addition, the statewide union representing teaching assistants, tutors, and readers – UAW 2865 – recently held a statewide membership vote which resulted in nearly 2/3rds support for divestment.

Students for Justice in Palestine chapters and their many allies across the UC applaud and celebrate the UCSA’s decision to affirm student activism, endorse the divestment call, and carry it forth to the UC Regents.

Quotes regarding the divestment victory:

UC Berkeley External Vice President Caitlin Quinn commented on the nature of this victory and UCSA’s relationship to the student body: “I’m so proud that we passed it, and thankful for and humbled by the years of organizing that went into this. The work is far from over, but finally UCSA has taken the progressive stance many students have been waiting for.”

The External Vice President’s office at UC Riverside addressed the issue of accountability, stating: “We are aware of the unfortunate reality of a Board of Regents that has a very poor record of accomplishment of respecting democratic calls by the student body of the University of California…As firm believers in backing up words with action, we look forward to ensuring that the UCSA remains devoted to the follow-up work critical to an effective campaign.”

UCLA Student Safwan Ibrahim commented on the meaning of divestment to Palestinians at the UC: “As a Palestinian student in the UC system, it’s incredible to see the amount of intersectional solidarity across campuses, and to witness the shift in conversation regarding support of Palestinian human rights. It is especially inspiring to see the UCSA representatives take up the responsibility of carrying our voices to the Regents.”

UC Irvine SJP issued a statement, emphasizing the relationship between the student movement and the call from Palestinian civil society: “As privileged students living in this state, it is our obligation to obey the Palestinians’ call for BDS and push divestment from corporations that profit from and participate in the violation of Palestinian human rights…we hope to see a liberated Palestine in our lifetimes.”

UC Santa Cruz Committee for Justice in Palestine issued a statement, writing “This vote was a product of a monumental struggle that has spanned decades. It is a victory that has opened new fronts for the struggle for justice in Palestine. We would like to especially thank all of our allies, without whom we could have never gotten this far.”

UAW-2865 member Alex Holmstrom-Smith commented on the meaning of this vote to graduate students and student-workers: “I am happy that the UCSA has also listened to the voice of graduate students and student-workers, who earlier this year voted by an overwhelming margin to support BDS and the Palestinian call for justice.”

Students from earlier divestment campaigns also shared their feelings about the historic nature of this accomplishment. UC Berkeley graduate Emiliano Huet-Vaughn reflected: “When we put forward the initial divestment bill at Berkeley in 2010 we knew the pro-divestment position would eventually become the consensus. It is remarkable that student activists across the UC have made that day happen so quickly. The Regents should note this moment as one in a proud tradition of UC student activism, and, seriously consider whether they want the current generation of UC students, also tomorrow’s leaders, to remember them as supporters of – or as impediments to – justice.”

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