Harvard College Palestine Solidarity Committee


Statement in Solidarity with the Irvine 11

September 24, 2011

Solidarity with the Irvine 11

The Harvard College Palestine Solidarity Committee and the GSAS Alliance for Justice in the Middle East stand in solidarity with the “Irvine 11.” We are appalled by the criminalization of these students for nonviolently protesting a 2010 speech by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren.

Yesterday, the Orange County Superior Court found ten University of California-Irvine students guilty of two misdemeanor counts of disturbing a meeting and of conspiring to disturb a meeting. The students had stood up during Oren’s speech and raised objections to Israel’s criminal assault on Gaza, during which more than 1,400 Palestinians were killed, including over 300 children. The interruptions lasted several minutes, and the protesters were escorted out of the room.

The Irvine 11 should be commended for confronting Oren’s propaganda effort to whitewash Israel’s criminal actions and policies in front of college audiences. Instead, they have been unjustly punished for constitutionally-protected dissent that is a routine part of student activism, including here at Harvard.

On November 23, 2009, Harvard students also staged a walk-out of a speech by Oren at the Harvard Kennedy School. Last year, AIDS activists from Harvard and other colleges heckled and interrupted President Obama while he spoke in Boston. In neither case were students punished for exercising their right to protest.

We also note with dismay that the selective prosecution of the Irvine 11 would likely never have gone forward if the protesters were not Muslim. As Jewish Voice for Peace noted: “Our young Jewish members engaged in a nearly identical protest of Israeli policies-only the venue was larger and the target was the Prime Minister of Israel, Bibi Netanyahu. They were let off without even a mark. Their Muslim peers were tried and criminalized.”

The decision to criminalize the Irvine 11 for their courageous action is an attack on all people who seek peace and justice in Israel/Palestine. However, such intimidation techniques will neither silence students nor will they quell protest. We call on students to support the Irvine 11 as they move ahead in appealing this unjust verdict. Further, we call on students to redouble their Palestine solidarity efforts. This attack only reinforces the urgency of continuing to organize in support of equality, justice and freedom for Palestinians and all oppressed peoples.

(For additional information about the protest of Oren’s speech at Harvard, see this op-ed in the Harvard Crimson.)

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Presbyterian committee recommends divestment

Via Mondoweiss:

The Presbyterian Church (USA)'s Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment has recommended that the church divest from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions due to their relationship to Israeli human rights abuses in the occupied territories. This decision comes as the result of a corporate engagement process which began in 2004 and sought to influence corporate policy vis-a-vis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. From a church press release:

“The General Assembly asked us to do everything we could to bring about change through dialogue, and we have done this, even asking the Assembly for more time over the years,” said committee chair the Rev. Brian Ellison, a pastor from Kansas City, Mo. “Today we are sadly reporting that these efforts have not produced any substantive change in company policies or practices, and that there is little reason for hope they will do so in the future. According to the Assembly’s prior directives and the church’s ordinary engagement process, we have little choice but to recommend divestment.”

The committee has been engaging several companies profiting from non-peaceful pursuits in the region, including activity connected with Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, since the 2004 General Assembly. MRTI’s recommendations will be presented in February 2012 to the General Assembly Mission Council and then, with the Council’s approval, to the General Assembly in July 2012.

“We have not made this decision lightly, but have undertaken it with prayer and great care,” Ellison said. “We have appreciated the witness of brothers and sisters around the church in our process, both from presbyteries where these corporations are located and from those who have called us to move more quickly in this direction. We continue to pray for employees of these companies and their congregations as they are affected by this decision. We also continue to pray that all companies and individuals in the region will redouble their efforts to seek a just peace and support for human rights for all Israeli and Palestinian people.”

The press release also included the following information about the companies in question:

Background on Companies

Caterpillar has profited from sales of its products to Israeli military and civilian authorities, including its D-9 bulldozers which are used to demolish Palestinian homes and construct settlements and Israeli-only roads on Palestinian land, acts deemed illegal under international law. The company has never accepted responsibility for how its products are used and has not responded to requests for dialogue since 2009 from MRTI or other religious groups.

Hewlett-Packard has profited from sales of specialized technology used in invasive and unjust biometric scanning processes at checkpoints in the separation wall constructed on Palestinian territory. It has also provided hardware used by the Israeli Navy in its internationally condemned blockade of the Gaza Strip and in the municipal governments of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, deemed illegal under international law. Discussions with the company have been unproductive, and the company has been unwilling to address serious issues of concern.

Motorola Solutions, one of two companies to emerge from a corporate reorganization of Motorola at the start of 2011, has profited from providing communications technology to the Israeli military used in operations in the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza, and has built and supported high-tech surveillance systems in the separation barrier and Israeli settlements built illegally on Palestinian land. The company has consistently declined to have dialogue with religious investors.

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