Photo: Yusif Barakat, who was displaced from his Palestinian home as a child after Israel was established in the 1940s, speaks at a U-M Dearborn event Tuesday about a recent visit to Gaza, currently under siege by the Israeli military. As Barakat spoke, Student Government members in an adjacent room voted to pass a resolution calling for investigation into University investments in companies that support ongoing occupation of the Palestinian territories.
By Khalil AlHajal
ARAB AMERICAN NEWS (Dearborn, Michigan)
Friday, 02.26.2010, 10:12pm
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The University of Michigan—Dearborn's student government body passed a resolution on Tuesday calling for investigation into ethical implications of University investments in companies that do business in Israel.
The measure came after more than a week of events on campus that discussed human rights issues in the occupied Palestinian territories and efforts to broaden boycott and divestment movements modeled after those once used to fight South African apartheid.
The body passed similar resolutions calling for divestment from the Israeli occupation in 2005 and 2006, but failed to do so again over the last few years, meeting opposition from members who said the wider student population didn't know enough about the issue, and that a divestment effort could be perceived as anti-Semitic.
Speaker of the student Senate Rashid Baydoun said student groups like the Arab Student Union and Students for Socially Responsible Investing with the help of community groups like Jewish Voice for Peace made a special effort this year to hold a series of informative events advocating for divestment.
"We had people who opposed it last year that voted on it yesterday," Baydoun said.
The resolution cites several U.N. resolutions, the Fourth Geneva Convention and a University of Michigan Regent policy that states "If the Regents shall determine that a particular issue involves serious moral or ethical questions which are of concern to many members of the University community, an advisory committee consisting of members of the University Senate, students, administration and alumni will be appointed to gather information and formulate recommendations for the Regents' consideration.
The resolution calls for the formation of such an advisory committee.
"Any University investments in entities contributing to human rights violations by either Israelis or Palestinians is inappropriate," the document states, naming several companies in which it says the University is known to have millions in investments, including Boeing, Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics.
"... on behalf of the students at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, we will urge this committee to recommend immediate divestment from companies that are directly involved in the ongoing illegal occupation, because we deem these investments to be profoundly unethical and in direct conflict with the mission of this University," the resolution reads.
Baydoun said student government and several student groups plan to follow through with the effort by gathering petition signatures to present to the Board of Regents.
He said the movement has gained support from several faculty members.
Philosophy professor David Skrbina, who has encouraged the effort and advised the students, said passage of the resolution was an impressive and meaningful achievement.
"This is an important accomplishment, given how few student bodies around the country have been able to pass a definitive statement on the injustices in Israel/Palestine," he said. "This reaffirms the student resolutions from 2005 and 2006, with a focus on the practical next step, which is to form an investigatory committee.
Skrbina said a campus divestment petition currently has 1,500 student signatures and 120 faculty signatures.
"There will be requests for follow-up meetings with Chancellor Dan Little, and the U-M Regents in Ann Arbor, to discuss how to proceed," he said.
Similar efforts on the university's Ann Arbor campus have not been successful, facing fierce opposition stemming from perceptions of anti-Semitism.