Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Campaigns at Stanford University, and at UC-San Diego, to divest from the Israeli occupation of Palestine:

STANFORD DAILY (At Stanford University)

March 5, 2013

To the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU)

Nelson Mandela once said: “We can easily be enticed to read reconciliation and fairness as meaning parity between justice and injustice. Having achieved our own freedom, we can fall into the trap of washing our hands of difficulties that others face. Yet we would be less than human if we did so. It behooves all South Africans, themselves erstwhile beneficiaries of generous international support, to stand up and be counted among those contributing actively to the cause of freedom and justice.”

This is exactly why I see it as my moral obligation to stand up for Palestinian rights and to support Palestinian civil society’s nonviolent efforts to gain freedom, justice and equality.

Struggles for freedom and justice are fraught with huge moral dilemmas. How can we commit ourselves to virtue – before its political triumph – when such commitment may lead to ostracism from our political allies and even our closest partners and friends? Are we willing to speak out for justice when the moral choice that we make for an oppressed community may invite phone calls from the powerful or when possible research funding will be withdrawn from us? When we say “Never again,” do we truly mean “never again” or do we mean “never again to us”?

It is always inspiring when young people inspire the rest of us and lead the way in promoting international law and human rights for all humans. I have supported several U.S. campus campaigns to divest University money from companies that enable and profit from the injustice of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and violation of Palestinian human rights.

Principled stands like this, supported by a fast-growing number of U.S. civil society organizations and people of conscience, including prominent Jewish groups, are essential for a better world in the making. Based on the same principles, I support the call for Stanford University to divest from companies implicated in Israel’s brutal occupation and human rights violations.

No matter what detractors may allege, students pushing for divestment are doing the right thing. They are doing the moral thing. They are doing that which is incumbent on them as humans who believe that all people have dignity and rights, and that all those being denied their dignity and rights deserve the solidarity and support of their fellow human beings.

I have visited the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and I have witnessed the racially-segregated roads and housing that reminded me so much of the conditions we experienced in South Africa under the racist system of Apartheid. I have witnessed the humiliation of Palestinian men, women and children made to wait hours at Israeli military checkpoints routinely when trying to make the most basic of trips to visit relatives or attend school or college, and this humiliation is familiar to me and the many black South Africans who were corralled and regularly insulted by the security forces of the Apartheid government.

In South Africa, we could not have achieved our freedom and just peace without the help of people around the world, who through the use of nonviolent means – including boycotts and divestment – encouraged their governments and other corporate actors to reverse decades-long support for the Apartheid regime. Students played a leading role in that struggle, and as I write these words of encouragement for student divestment efforts, I am well aware that it was students, including Stanford students, who played a pioneering role in advocating for equality in South Africa and promoting corporate ethical and social responsibility to end complicity in Apartheid.

The same issue of equality is what motivates today’s divestment movement, which tries to end Israel’s 45-year-long occupation and the unequal treatment of the Palestinian people by the Israeli government ruling over them. The abuses they face are real, and no person should be offended by principled, morally consistent, nonviolent acts to oppose them. It is no more wrong to call out Israel in particular for its abuses than it was to call out the Apartheid regime in South Africa in particular for its abuses.

To those who wrongly allege unfairness or harm done to them by this call for divestment, I suggest, with humility, that the harm suffered from being confronted with opinions that challenge one’s own pales in comparison to the harm done by living a life under occupation and the daily denial of basic rights and dignity.

It is not with rancor that we criticize the Israeli government and call for divesting from its human rights violations but with hope – a hope that a better and more peaceful future can be made for both Israelis and Palestinians.

True peace must be anchored in justice and an unwavering commitment to universal rights for all humans, regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender, national origin or any other identity attribute.

These students advocating today for divestment from Israel’s occupation are helping to pave that path to a just peace. I heartily endorse their divestment move, encourage them to stand firm on the side of what is right and urge others to follow their lead.

-- Desmond Tutu
Archbishop Emeritus and 1984 Nobel Peace Prize winner


A divestment vote will also be held at the University of Califrnia - San Diego...

"UCSD Needs to Divest to Uphold Basic Human Rights and Help End Apartheid in Israel and Palestine"

"...People with intimate knowledge of that oppressive system have deemed Israel an apartheid state. South African Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is a man who can credibly make the comparison. And he does: 'Israel becoming an apartheid state or like South Africa in its denial of equal rights is not a future danger, as three former Israeli prime ministers — Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert and David Ben-Gurion — have warned, but a present-day reality.'

"Just as divestment was a tool that played a part in pressuring the apartheid government there, divestment can play a role in ending apartheid in Israel/Palestine. Divestment is a well-known nonviolent tool of resistance to destructive corporate practices that has historically been widely utilized by students such as with the current campaigns on university campuses to divest from fossil fuels.

"There are those who say this bill is divisive. All political issues are divisive. But already, UCSD is taking a side on this issue by having money invested in companies that are integral to maintaining the Israeli occupation. That is divisive. Our university, through its investment portfolio, has taken a position that is diametrically opposed to the human rights of Palestinians. Divesting would put UCSD on the side of human rights — and in solidarity with Palestinians and their allies, who have called for boycotting, divesting and sanctioning a country that has maintained a decades-old military occupation with no end in sight. Those allies also include a growing number of American and Israeli Jews who recognize the injustice of the status quo.

"Opponents claim that targeting companies with financial and research ties to UCSD will harm job projects for engineering students. Similar arguments were made to do nothing against apartheid South Africa and even in regard to ending Jim Crow discrimination in the American South. But human rights matter. The message we send with divestment is far more powerful than the miniscule possibility an engineering student will lose a job because of our conscientious efforts here.

"The tide is turning for the Palestinian Solidarity Movement. People are becoming more conscious, and it is clear that Israel’s policies are not sustainable. History has proven that walls fall, dictatorships end and oppressive regimes come crumbling down by the power of ordinary activists worldwide. It is time to take a stand for human rights. It is time to make history."

— Students for Justice in Palestine Officers 2012-2013


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