Blackspot

Campus Divestment Victory

Hampshire College has become the first US educational institution to divest from Israel.

Hampshire College in Amherest, MA was the first educational institution to divest from Apartheid South Africa. And now, thirty-five years later Hampshire has become the first educational institution to divest from Apartheid Israel. Activists at Hampshire College have been pushing for divestment for two years and their efforts are sure to kick off a wave of divestment movements across the world.

In a press release issued today by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), the student group behind the divestment push, explain that their actions targeted six specific corporations who profit directly from the Israeli occupation:

"Our group pressured Hampshire College’s Board of Trustees to divest from six specific companies due to human rights concerns in occupied Palestine. Over 800 students, professors, and alumni have signed SJP’s "institutional statement" calling for the divestment.The six corporations, all of which provide the Israeli military with equipment and services in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza are: Caterpillar, United Technologies, General Electric, ITT Corporation, Motorola, and Terex. Furthermore, our policy prevents the reinvestment in any company involved in the illegal occupation."

More information about the divestment campaign at Hampshire College can be found in the SJP Press Release and SJP Press Kit.

Hampshire was first, who will be next? Is this the start of a nationwide divestment surge?

Update: Hampshire College administration is contradicting the reports of SJP. While Hampshire admits to divesting from the above mentioned six companies, they are claiming that this was not directly focused on Israel. The Boston Globe is carrying the administration's perspective (link). The whole story is likely to emerge in coming days.

Update #2: The response from SJP is posted below in the comments.

Micah M. White is a Contributing Editor at Adbusters Magazine and an independent activist. Micah is currently writing a book of philosophical meanderings into the future of activism. He lives in Binghamton, NY with his wife and two cats. www.micahmwhite.com

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24 comments on the article “Campus Divestment Victory”

Displaying 11 - 20 of 24

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Alex Cachinero-...

The administration is currently in the tired old process of political maneuvering. This is the same thing that happened with South Africa divestment. Everybody gambles for their job security, too worried about what making a statement might mean. The fact of the matter is, the "100 other companies" being divested from were only looked into a week before the final vote for divestment. This is clear if you look at all the available meeting notes. Meanwhile, the board has also agreed not to reinvest in 14 other companies which also benefit from the Occupation. Meanwhile: consider the fact that SJP has been campaigning for divestment for the past two years. Before its efforts, CHOIR (Committee at Hampshire on Investment Responsibility) was almost non-existent; its efforts *alone* brought it back from the dead. Anyone who has been on this campus for more than a few months knows why this is happening and who made it happen--the students. Once again, Ralph Hexter & his administration have decided to avoid taking a stand on a human rights issue as much as possible. They will go down in the history of cowardice as exemplary for their self-interest & complacency. But in 20 years time, will we hear them all saying that they were just a "victim of the times?" That they would've done anything they could, if the "times" were different? It is likely. Meanwhile the media has a hard time reporting the story because they can't "corroborate" it. What would we say in retrospect about a University which made similar statements about divestment from apartheid? Wouldn't we only be able to muster a laugh at such a fatuous & disingenuous claim? That the administration's voices are given precedence over the students in this case is natural, to be sure, but quite an error: until the "coast is clear", mainstream civil institutions will never be able to make statements openly condemning the Occupation. The fact that SJP is being put on trial for its "claims" will, again, look somewhat absurd when all the facts come to light in due time. Nonetheless--thank you, Adbusters, for at least running the story. Cheers.

Alex Cachinero-...

The administration is currently in the tired old process of political maneuvering. This is the same thing that happened with South Africa divestment. Everybody gambles for their job security, too worried about what making a statement might mean. The fact of the matter is, the "100 other companies" being divested from were only looked into a week before the final vote for divestment. This is clear if you look at all the available meeting notes. Meanwhile, the board has also agreed not to reinvest in 14 other companies which also benefit from the Occupation. Meanwhile: consider the fact that SJP has been campaigning for divestment for the past two years. Before its efforts, CHOIR (Committee at Hampshire on Investment Responsibility) was almost non-existent; its efforts *alone* brought it back from the dead. Anyone who has been on this campus for more than a few months knows why this is happening and who made it happen--the students. Once again, Ralph Hexter & his administration have decided to avoid taking a stand on a human rights issue as much as possible. They will go down in the history of cowardice as exemplary for their self-interest & complacency. But in 20 years time, will we hear them all saying that they were just a "victim of the times?" That they would've done anything they could, if the "times" were different? It is likely. Meanwhile the media has a hard time reporting the story because they can't "corroborate" it. What would we say in retrospect about a University which made similar statements about divestment from apartheid? Wouldn't we only be able to muster a laugh at such a fatuous & disingenuous claim? That the administration's voices are given precedence over the students in this case is natural, to be sure, but quite an error: until the "coast is clear", mainstream civil institutions will never be able to make statements openly condemning the Occupation. The fact that SJP is being put on trial for its "claims" will, again, look somewhat absurd when all the facts come to light in due time. Nonetheless--thank you, Adbusters, for at least running the story. Cheers.

Micah White

I received this statement from SJP: Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) wishes to respond to the “statement of clarification” issued by Hampshire College’s president and chair of the board of trustees regarding Hampshire’s recent divestment from the State Street mutual fund. SJP wishes to shed light on the college’s withdrawal from the fund by presenting a chronology of events. On May 8, 2008 SJP presented a proposal to the Committee at Hampshire on Investment Responsibility (CHOIR), a subcommittee of the Board of Trustees’ investment committee. The proposal was to divest from six companies due to their activities in the occupied Palestinian territories. On May 16, 2008 SJP made the same presentation to the full Board of Trustees, urging them to divest from the six corporations. On August 26, 2008 CHOIR voted “to recommend to the investment committee that Hampshire College divest of the following six companies: Caterpillar, Terex, Motorola, ITT, General Electric, United Technologies based on full consideration of the presentation by SJP.” This is a direct quotation from the CHOIR meeting minutes. After this recommendation, the Investment Committee made the decision to divest from the mutual fund that held these companies. On Feb 7, 2009, the Investment Committee informed the Board of Trustees of its decision to divest. The administration denies that the decision was made in response to any concerns about any particular “region” or “political movement;” however SJP was explicitly asked by the administration what companies to avoid in the future in terms of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. This fact illustrates that the Israeli occupation and SJP’s work were undoubtedly the primary reasons for the decision to divest. Furthermore, the violations of the other 200 companies cited by the “statement of clarification” were only researched days before the investment committee’s decision to divest from the mutual fund. For eight and a half months the only specific companies in the State Street fund that were discussed were the six companies SJP targeted. These facts prove that the decision was made on the grounds of the six companies’ involvement in the occupation of Palestine. We can only assume the reason the Board and administration chose to depoliticize this decision is because of the volatile nature of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. At the time of SJP’s original proposal to the Board, the College’s policy on socially responsible investment had not been revised since 1994 and the Board was considering dissolving the committee on investment responsibility. It is clear that if SJP had not introduced its divestment proposal, the college would still be invested in the State Street mutual fund. In sum, Hampshire College divested from the mutual fund for many reasons, yet the Palestine-Israel conflict was the most prominent reason behind divestment; the decision to divest was not outside of the context of SJP’s efforts. It does not matter if the Hampshire administration issues a public statement condemning the occupation; the Hampshire community understands how and why we came to divest. Divestment from Apartheid South Africa did not prove politically popular in 1977 when Hampshire became the first college in the U.S. to take a stand. It is to be expected that the first of any movement faces great pressure and criticism. SJP is disappointed that the college is choosing to shy away from the political implications of its action rather than embrace this moment. Regardless, a week ago Hampshire College was invested in the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Today, the college is no longer complicit in the funding of this injustice. This is an irrefutable fact and a historical victory that calls for both celebration and support.

Micah White

I received this statement from SJP: Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) wishes to respond to the “statement of clarification” issued by Hampshire College’s president and chair of the board of trustees regarding Hampshire’s recent divestment from the State Street mutual fund. SJP wishes to shed light on the college’s withdrawal from the fund by presenting a chronology of events. On May 8, 2008 SJP presented a proposal to the Committee at Hampshire on Investment Responsibility (CHOIR), a subcommittee of the Board of Trustees’ investment committee. The proposal was to divest from six companies due to their activities in the occupied Palestinian territories. On May 16, 2008 SJP made the same presentation to the full Board of Trustees, urging them to divest from the six corporations. On August 26, 2008 CHOIR voted “to recommend to the investment committee that Hampshire College divest of the following six companies: Caterpillar, Terex, Motorola, ITT, General Electric, United Technologies based on full consideration of the presentation by SJP.” This is a direct quotation from the CHOIR meeting minutes. After this recommendation, the Investment Committee made the decision to divest from the mutual fund that held these companies. On Feb 7, 2009, the Investment Committee informed the Board of Trustees of its decision to divest. The administration denies that the decision was made in response to any concerns about any particular “region” or “political movement;” however SJP was explicitly asked by the administration what companies to avoid in the future in terms of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. This fact illustrates that the Israeli occupation and SJP’s work were undoubtedly the primary reasons for the decision to divest. Furthermore, the violations of the other 200 companies cited by the “statement of clarification” were only researched days before the investment committee’s decision to divest from the mutual fund. For eight and a half months the only specific companies in the State Street fund that were discussed were the six companies SJP targeted. These facts prove that the decision was made on the grounds of the six companies’ involvement in the occupation of Palestine. We can only assume the reason the Board and administration chose to depoliticize this decision is because of the volatile nature of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. At the time of SJP’s original proposal to the Board, the College’s policy on socially responsible investment had not been revised since 1994 and the Board was considering dissolving the committee on investment responsibility. It is clear that if SJP had not introduced its divestment proposal, the college would still be invested in the State Street mutual fund. In sum, Hampshire College divested from the mutual fund for many reasons, yet the Palestine-Israel conflict was the most prominent reason behind divestment; the decision to divest was not outside of the context of SJP’s efforts. It does not matter if the Hampshire administration issues a public statement condemning the occupation; the Hampshire community understands how and why we came to divest. Divestment from Apartheid South Africa did not prove politically popular in 1977 when Hampshire became the first college in the U.S. to take a stand. It is to be expected that the first of any movement faces great pressure and criticism. SJP is disappointed that the college is choosing to shy away from the political implications of its action rather than embrace this moment. Regardless, a week ago Hampshire College was invested in the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Today, the college is no longer complicit in the funding of this injustice. This is an irrefutable fact and a historical victory that calls for both celebration and support.

Patrick Gibbs

SJP, rock on!! You do amazing work!! I am incredibly proud of you, and as I said in the fall of 2008 at your presentation, I admire your perseverance and the continuity you have achieved in the organization and focus of SJP. You are an inspiration, and many community organizing groups can learn from your example. I cheer you for maintaining your focus and your understanding of the scale and significance of your actions, even amidst the day-to-day activities of college and life. Hurrah! Here's to "acting on what you know" (shout out to James Baldwin)!! The war in the Palestinian territories is clearly an attempt not only at genocide, but complete ecocide -- killing the entire community of life. I see such divestments as an outstanding example of the ways that we can reclaim the use of money as an instrument for fostering community instead of exploiting, enslaving, and killing humans and entire ecosystems. I will throw a celebration in my community to recognize this victory for humanity, and I will include some awareness raising about the situation and what we can do about it.

Patrick Gibbs

SJP, rock on!! You do amazing work!! I am incredibly proud of you, and as I said in the fall of 2008 at your presentation, I admire your perseverance and the continuity you have achieved in the organization and focus of SJP. You are an inspiration, and many community organizing groups can learn from your example. I cheer you for maintaining your focus and your understanding of the scale and significance of your actions, even amidst the day-to-day activities of college and life. Hurrah! Here's to "acting on what you know" (shout out to James Baldwin)!! The war in the Palestinian territories is clearly an attempt not only at genocide, but complete ecocide -- killing the entire community of life. I see such divestments as an outstanding example of the ways that we can reclaim the use of money as an instrument for fostering community instead of exploiting, enslaving, and killing humans and entire ecosystems. I will throw a celebration in my community to recognize this victory for humanity, and I will include some awareness raising about the situation and what we can do about it.

mr.teller ulman

judging history i think the jews in israel will survive long after Hampshire College and its students are dust in the ground.the usa and canada will not be here in 2100.the new world super-state will arise and all people will be made to live with each other. [except for a few troublesome freedom lovers].

mr.teller ulman

judging history i think the jews in israel will survive long after Hampshire College and its students are dust in the ground.the usa and canada will not be here in 2100.the new world super-state will arise and all people will be made to live with each other. [except for a few troublesome freedom lovers].

STC, MA, USA

Email the Hampton College's president, [email protected] to voice your concern about the Trustee's statement. More importantly voice you objection to Harvard Law professor, Alan Dershowitz' intimidation tactics!

STC, MA, USA

Email the Hampton College's president, [email protected] to voice your concern about the Trustee's statement. More importantly voice you objection to Harvard Law professor, Alan Dershowitz' intimidation tactics!

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