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February 2, 2016 4:22 pm

BDS Event to Be Held by Columbia Students Demanding University ‘End Investments in Israeli Apartheid’

avatar by Ruthie Blum

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The Columbia University campus in New York City. Photo: Columbia.

The Columbia University campus in New York City. Photo: Columbia.

Two student groups have banded together to pressure Columbia University into divesting “from companies that benefit from or provide funds for the continued presence of Israeli homes, business, and infrastructure in the West Bank,” the CU student-run, campus news website Bwog reported on Monday.

Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace have dubbed their joint organization “Columbia University Apartheid Divest” (CUAD), and are advertising their “first-ever” event on Thursday evening at the Ivy League school on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

They are also circulating an online petition and referring students to a Facebook invitation page, BDS 101, on which there is the following post:  “CUAD is happy to announce that Barnard Columbia Socialists will be cosponsoring this event with us!”

The lecture hall where the event is slated to take place is in the mathematics department, in a room that purportedly seats 55 – though as of the time of this writing, there are 96 people who say they are definitely going and another 106 who have expressed interest in attending.

In its “Statement to the Columbia Community,” CUAD says its campaign – “against the backdrop of Columbia and Barnard students’ history of moral commitment to social, political, and economic justice” — is “embedded in the larger Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement directed toward the State of Israel until it complies with international law by:

1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall;
2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.

The statement goes on to explain the logic by which CUAD believes it can convince Columbia to succumb to its pressure, invoking two instances – one from a few months ago and another in 1985 (relating to South African apartheid) — in which students were successful at such an endeavor:

On June 22nd 2015, the Columbia University Board of Trustees voted to sell its stocks in Corrections Corporation of America and G4S, making Columbia the first academic institution in the United States to divest from the private prison industry. This victory, achieved through the tireless work of Columbia Prison Divest, inspired in student organizers a renewed dedication to hold the Columbia administration accountable for maintaining global systems of oppression.

This was not, however, the first of such movements. On October 7th 1985, under the pressure of student activists, the Board of Trustees voted to sell $41 million of its endowment investments in American companies with ties to South Africa. In doing so, Columbia became the first Ivy League university to divest from Apartheid South Africa.

Thanks to the efforts of our allies at Columbia Prison Divest, Columbia has already divested from G4S, a private prison corporation that profits from the incarceration of Palestinian political prisoners, 470 of whom are child prisoners, equips military checkpoints and the Apartheid Wall with security technologies, and enables the expansion of illegal settlements by providing security technology. We must continue the hard work of divesting from corporations that fuel and maintain the State of Israel’s continued human rights abuses. As Columbia University Apartheid Divest, we call upon the University to divest its endowment from the following corporations that profit from Israel’s violation of Palestinian human rights: Caterpillar, Hyundai Heavy Industries, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Elbit Systems, Mekorot, Hapoalim, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin.

By investing in such companies, Columbia actively supports Israel’s continued occupation of and assaults against the Palestinian people, including the most recent military operation on the Gaza Strip which claimed over 2,104 Palestinian lives, including 1,462 civilians, of whom 495 were children and 253 women, according to the UN. The Israeli Defense Forces use technologies such as F-16 fighter jets, GBU-9 small diameter bombs, and Apache helicopters produced by Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing. These companies directly profit from the ceaseless military violence faced by Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem, as well as the Syrian Golan Heights.

Columbia students are implicated through the University’s investments in these same companies. The movements to divest from the prison industrial complex and Apartheid South Africa have shown us that divestment at Columbia is an effective way of ending our institutional complicity in global systems of oppression. In both movements, it was a coalition of activists on campus that courageously spoke truth to power and challenged our institution to maintain its principles of human dignity. Columbia University Apartheid Divest is inspired by this legacy.

We demand that Columbia University end its investments in Israeli Apartheid.

We call upon the Columbia community to support Palestinian human rights.

We stand united for justice.

The Algemeiner‘s request for a response from Columbia on Tuesday has yet to be answered.

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