Statement of Support for CU Apartheid Divest

February 29, 2016


We, Columbia Divest for Climate Justice, support the group Columbia University Apartheid Divest in calling for Columbia to divest our endowment from the following corporations that profit from Israel’s violation of Palestinian human rights, as stated in CUAD’s petitionCaterpillar, Hyundai Heavy Industries, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Elbit Systems, Mekorot, Bank Hapoalim, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin.

The history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is long and complex, and a debate over the details often obscures the larger truth: Israel is taking the land of and abusing the human rights of Palestinians and Arabs; certain corporations profit from those endeavors; and institutions like our university profit from these unethical corporations.

We support divestment as a tactic for achieving equal, human rights for Palestinians and Arabs in Israel and in the region specifically because it has been called for by a coalition of hundreds of Palestinian civil society organizations since 2005. In the face of a great power differential of legal rights, financial resources, and military power with Israel, these organizations have found turning to the international community for support through the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions (BDS) movement to be extremely powerful.

Divestment is a tactic that addresses the contemporary reality in the region. The companies represented include those that have supplied equipment to extralegally demolish Palestinian homes, erect Israeli settlements, build a wall that expropriates land and divides Palestinian communities, support asymmetric warfare, and more. Mekorot, an Israeli utility that controls water access in the area and already restricts access based on nationality, is only a suggestion of how climate change will exacerbate problems of equity in access to land and life-sustaining resources.

Let us repeat – this campaign is an affirmation of the equal rights of Palestinians and Arabs. This is not a campaign targeting Israelis or Jews as a people; divestment targets institutions that perpetuate the state’s ability to commit documented human rights violations. Furthermore, we know that neither the broader Jewish community nor the citizenry of Israel, itself, is a monolith in consensus on Israel’s practices. Israel does not speak for all Jews, or even all Israelis.

Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and anti-Arab sentiment exist on this campus, in activism of all political tendencies, in our country, and our world. We acknowledge the traumas that have affected all sides of this debate, and we are dedicated to fighting racism in every form.

We make this statement after lengthy discussion, but also knowing that our understanding of the conflict is incomplete. We, CDCJ, ask people to support fossil fuel divestment with a good but incomplete knowledge of the complex phenomenon of climate change; instead of knowing every detail of the science, we ask them to understand our values. Through conversations with Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace, the coalition that forms Columbia University Apartheid Divest, we have come to see supporting divestment from the corporations named in the CUAD petition as being in line with our values. We stand for an end to racism and for a commitment to sharing resources equitably, both now and as we face the pressure cooker of climate change in the decades to come.

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