Harvard College Palestine Solidarity Committee


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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Huge victory! German company pulls out of Israel rail project

From the Washington Post:

Deutsche Bahn confirmed Monday that it backed out of the project amid political pressure.

Several German lawmakers had criticized Deutsche Bahn’s participation.

A separate light rail project in Jerusalem has generated similar concerns. An Israeli partner in that project has said pressure from pro-Palestinian groups forced French multinational Veolia to drop out.

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Cornel West Endorses BDS


Cornel West's Letter to UA: Supporting Divestment, Ethnic Studies

Center for African American Studies
Stanhope Hall
Princeton, NJ 08544
Telephone: 609.258.0021
Fax: 609.258.3382

28 April 2011
Dear University of Arizona Community,

My visit to your university in Tucson earlier this month filled me with utmost joy and reverence, especially for the youth who are engaged in one of the most important struggles of our time—the right to education.

I was glad to hear of the “Right to Education” tour that my brothers and sisters in Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) are organizing around the nation at this moment. I was similarly delighted to hear that one of the tour engagements would follow my own talk and focus on globalizing a preservation and defense of Ethnic Studies. Arizona is the epicenter of the struggle for human rights—especially educational rights. I anticipated that the JVP event at your university last Thursday would be just as inspiring as the one in which I had the honor to participate and was thrilled to find out the outcome.

At this event brave Ethnic Studies youth activists in Arizona exchanged their experiences, triumphs and tribulations with strong Palestinian youth who live a world apart yet whose struggles are intertwined. The international fight for education comes from the same deep place of drawing on cultural and historical knowledge to build a better world for our precious children. After all, Ethnic studies is integral to education, particularly through its quality of instilling self-confidence in students who can find out what’s possible in life by learning about what their own people and ancestors achieved through decades of struggling through adversity.
Today, these youth are taking education into their own hands, pulling from the immeasurable wisdom of their ancestors. Ethnic Studies—from Arizona to Palestine—is about the quest for truth, from the standpoint of the weak and the vulnerable who are rising up to speak, to educate, to struggle and to build justice from the ground up.

The intercontinental meeting that took place on your campus between these courageous youth held true to its promise and was a profound demonstration of love. Bold Arizona youth who are fending off attacks on their cherished Ethnic Studies in an environment of racism and hostility; courageous Palestinian youth who aim to preserve and defend their own fragile Ethnic Studies from the violent, cultural destruction of a vicious, 44-year Israeli occupation—an occupation whose length continually represses the memory of a peaceful time.

But in recognizing the obstacles and praising those struggling to overcome them, we would be remiss not to attempt to trace the origins of this treachery targeting our youth’s future. Attacks on education are big business. Greed is amuck in Arizona and in occupied Palestine. U.S. corporations like Caterpillar and Motorola—and others especially in the prison-Industrial complex—continue to profit from the suffering of peoples who seek dignity and self-determination in Arizona. Similar corporations profit from the misery of occupied and distressed peoples in Palestine.

These corporations should not be profiting from Palestinian suffering under occupation; they should not be profiting from immigrant and indigenous suffering and youth cultural censorship in Arizona and nationwide. Like my brother Desmond Tutu wrote in his recent letter to your community, I also support your institution’s divestment from corporations which shamefully engage in criminal activities, from racist-ridden Arizona to the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza. It is worth pointing out that both Caterpillar and Motorola are involved with a leading pension fund for educators, TIAA-CREF, which is the focus of Jewish Voice for Peace in the “Right to Education” tour and part of a noble campaign urging the fund to divest from these corporations.

Powerful social movements such as the one that helped end South African apartheid have shown that when world governments fail to enforce the rule of law, international civil community must arise to meet the challenge of upholding fundamental human rights and securing justice. Ethnic studies youth activists and groups like Jewish Voice for Peace are doing just that. As Tutu and many others point out in the case of the Palestinians—as well as that of Latina/o immigrants and indigenous peoples in the U.S.—the tactic of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) is an effectively nonviolent means of exerting moral and economic pressures to end unjust policies, from racial profiling to repressive laws, to foreign occupation and land settlement. Perhaps the most vulnerable right in these situations is the right of education, because of the endangered cultural future it represents. Those in the United States and Israel who hold the levers of power and influence over such policies must be beckoned to the negotiating table so that vulnerable peoples can anticipate a peaceful future through living a just and honorable peace.

A decent education cannot be limited to tolerating youth accessing their ethnic and cultural history but must be about facilitating their right to do so, without the hindrance of state or corporate exploiters. The late Edward Said liked to quote the marvelous Martiniquan poet, Aimé Césaire, who urged us to remember that “there is room for everyone at the rendezvous of victory”—where all of us and our children can harmonize our lives together in universal humanity and mutual love.

Cornel West

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Roger Waters’ Journey to BDS

From Mondoweiss:

In 1980, a song I wrote, "Another Brick in the Wall Part 2," was banned by the government of South Africa because it was being used by Black South African children to advocate their right to equal education. That apartheid government imposed a cultural blockade, so-to-speak, on certain songs, including mine.

Twenty-five years later, in 2005, Palestinian children participating in a West Bank festival used the song to protest Israel's apartheid wall. They sang "We don't need no occupation! We don't need no racist wall!" At the time, I hadn't seen first-hand what they were singing about.

A year later in 2006, I contracted to perform in Tel Aviv.

Palestinians from the movement advocating an academic and cultural boycott of Israel urged me to reconsider. I had already spoken out against the wall, but I was unsure whether a cultural boycott was the right way to go. The Palestinian advocates of a boycott asked that I visit the occupied Palestinian territory, to see the Wall for myself before I made up my mind. I agreed.

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Folk music legend Pete Seeger endorses boycott of Israel

Today, Adalah-NY and the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) released the following:


Folk music legend Pete Seeger has come out in support of the growing Palestinian movement for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel as a program for justice for Palestinians and a route to peace in the Middle East.

Seeger, 92, participated in last November's online virtual rally "With Earth and Each Other," sponsored by the Arava Institute, an Israeli environmental organization, and by the Friends of the Arava Institute. The Arava Institute counts among its close partners and major funders the Jewish National Fund, responsible since 1901 for securing land in Palestine for the use of Jews only while dispossessing Palestinians. Although groups in the worldwide BDS movement had requested that he quit the event, Seeger felt that he could make a strong statement for peace and justice during the event.

During a January meeting at his Beacon, NY, home with representatives from the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) and Adalah-NY, Pete Seeger explained, "I appeared on that virtual rally because for many years I've felt that people should talk with people they disagree with. But it ended up looking like I supported the Jewish National Fund. I misunderstood the leaders of the Arava Institute because I didn't realize to what degree the Jewish National Fund was supporting Arava. Now that I know more, I support the BDS movement as much as I can."

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BDS Victory: Veolia Sells Shares in Jerusalem Light Rail

French firm Veolia drops its role in the Jerusalem Light Rail apartheid project:

Veolia has signed a principled agreement to sell its shares in the Jerusalem Light Rail to the Israeli transportation cooperative Egged, reports TheMarker today (15 October). This sale marks a substantial victory for the Palestinian-led international campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel.

Read the full story here.

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Major Dutch pension fund divests from occupation

From EI:

The major Dutch pension fund Pensioenfonds Zorg en Welzijn (PFZW), which has investments totaling 97 billion euros, has informed The Electronic Intifada that it has divested from almost all the Israeli companies in its portfolio.

PGGM, the manager of the major Dutch pension fund PFZW, has adopted a new guideline for socially responsible investment in companies which operate in conflict zones.

In addition, PFZM has also entered into discussions with Motorola, Veolia and Alstom to raise its concerns about human rights issues. All three companies have actively supported and profited from Israel's occupation of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip.

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Olympia Food Co-op boycott Israeli goods

From the press release issued by Olympia BDS:

The Olympia Food Co-op Board of Directors has decided to boycott Israeli goods at their two locations in Olympia, Washington. At a July 15th meeting packed with Co-op members, the Board reached this consensus. The Co-op becomes the first US grocery store to publicly join the international grassroots movement for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) on Israel for its human rights abuses.

Co-op board member Rob Richards explained, “My hope is that by being the first in the US to adopt the boycott we act as a catalyst for other co-ops to join in. Each additional organizational entity that joins may have a very small effect on the big picture, but drop by drop fills the tub.”

Noah Sochet, a Co-op member and OlympiaBDS organizer adds, “As a US citizen and as a Jew, I’m proud to say that my Co-op no longer underwrites the suffering in Palestine.”

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Illinois Methodists vote to divest from the occupation

The Northern Illinois Conference of the United Methodist Church just voted to divest all holdings in three international corporations that profit from the Israeli occupation. The press release announcing the action says, "this action is in response to a plea by Palestinian Christians for action, not just words."

Read the full story here.

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Huge outpouring of Oakland picketers stop unloading of Israeli ship

If anyone had any doubts that the movement for justice in Palestine is growing by leaps and bounds, in numbers, breadth, and determination, check out what happened this morning in Oakland, CA:

• somewhere between 700 and 1,000 demonstrators from all over the San Francisco Bay Area made their way at 5:30 on a Sunday morning deep into the Port of Oakland to stage a spirited community-labor picket line in front of a berth where an Israeli freighter, the Zim Shenzhen, was due to dock;

• dock workers from Local 10 of the International Longshore & Warehouse Union refused to cross the picket line;

• under the terms of the ILWU contract, an arbitrator was summoned to the site, he upheld the legality of the dock workers' refusal to cross the line, and the company was compelled to cancel the shift and send the workers home.

Read the full story here.

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