DePaul students vote for divestment despite Israeli government interference

Students celebrate victory of DePaul divestment resolution.

DePaul Divest

Students at DePaul University in Chicago have voted by 1,575 to 1,333 (54% to 46%) in favor of a referendum calling for divestment from companies “that profit from Israel’s discriminatory practices and human rights violations,” the campus student government announced today.

The question approved by students calls on the university to divest its funds from “corporations that manufacture weapons and provide surveillance technology to the Israeli government, army and prison services,” including Hewlett-Packard, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Caterpillar.

These companies, the question states, “profit from Israel’s violation of the human rights of Palestinians and minorities within Israel” and help “violate people’s rights to life, movement, healthcare, education and freedom.”

“It is clear that Palestinian human rights, the rights of minorities within Israel and ethical investment are issues that concern the DePaul student body,” DePaul Divest, the student coalition supporting the initiative, state in a press release sent to The Electronic Intifada.

“This victory did not come without immense outside interference by pro-Israel lobbyist group StandWithUs, whose paid staff frequently presented themselves as individuals affiliated with DePaul University, canvassed the student body in a counter campaign to DePaul Divest,” the release states.

“Scare tactics were used to deter the student body from voting to affirm the human rights of Palestinians, but our victory today is evidence that this was not enough to stop DePaul students from standing on the side of justice,” campaign organizer and DePaul Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) member Areej Hamdan is quoted as saying in the release.

As part of the counter campaign, the Israeli consulate general in Chicago actively worked and organized against the referendum question.

DePaul SJP member Hanna Alshaikh explained in an op-ed for The Electronic Intifada last month that activists had decided to go for a campus-wide referendum precisely because they thought that such lobbying would be less effective on the student body as a whole than it has been on student legislatures on other campuses.

It appears that student activists at DePaul got it right.

SJP DePaul press release

DEPAUL DIVEST DECLARES VICTORY IN STUDENT CAMPAIGN

Student coalition DePaul Divest declares victory in campaign calling for student support to divest from corporations that profit off of human rights abuses against Palestinians.

CHICAGO – Following two months of campaigning at DePaul University, student coalition DePaul Divest declares victory in a campaign to divest from corporations that profit off of human rights violations perpetrated against Palestinians via the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine.

While a majority of divestment campaigns have been carried out through student government resolutions, DePaul Divest opted to pose the question of divestment to the entire DePaul student body through a Student Government Association (SGA) referendum this week.

With a majority of 1,575 votes in favor and 1,333 against, it is clear that Palestinian human rights, the rights of minorities within Israel and ethical investment are issues that concern the DePaul student body.

This victory did not come without immense outside interference by pro-Israel lobbyist group StandWithUs, whose paid staff frequently presented themselves as individuals affiliated with DePaul University, canvassed the student body in a counter campaign to DePaul Divest.

“Scare tactics were used to deter the student body from voting to affirm the human rights of Palestinians, but our victory today is evidence that this was not enough to stop DePaul students from standing on the side of justice,” said campaign organizer Areej Hamdan.

In the days leading up to the student vote, members of the opposition circulated false rumors and misinformation about the DePaul Divest campaign, despite the clarity and transparency of the movement’s goals.

This misinformation was addressed in an 18 May DePaulia article, “DePaul Divest speaks out: No more intimidation, no more misinformation.”

These tactics were not enough to halt the momentum of the divestment movement, whose actions this week grabbed the attention of the university community through a sit-in, flag drop and rally.

The presence of the Israeli consul general on campus during the last full day of voting did not silence DePaul Divest supporters, who rallied on campus under his gaze. Harassment and intimidation tactics used by the anti-Divestment canvassers (many of whom are admittedly trained by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee or work as StandWithUs employees), like taking photographs of student organizers, proved incapable of impeding the success of the DePaul Divest campaign.

“We have proven that the DePaul student body is a socially conscious community, one that recognizes the humanity of the Palestinian people and how their basic human rights have been denied at the hands of the Israeli government and these corporations we target” said student organizer Hamdan.

While the passage of this referendum is not binding on the administration, the SGA is prohibited from passing resolutions in the upcoming school year that contradict the results of the referendum.

DePaul Divest organizers will now turn their attention to working with the DePaul administration in moving forward with implementing divestment from these corporations. Working with the Fair Business Practices Committee, DePaul Divest organizers will encourage the university administration to establish investment screens. This will require that the human rights record of each potential investment is investigated, making ethical investment a priority and requirement for the university’s money managers.

“It is clear that DePaul students do not wish to have their tuition dollars invested in weapons manufacturers,” said student organizer Roya Naderi. This has generated discussion on ethical investment on campus, with students in agreement that DePaul University should not be invested in war profiteers.

While campaigning at the university is now over, divestment does not end here. This is a moment in which the student body has taken a stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people, long denied of their basic human rights. The passage of this divestment referendum is a step towards removing the university’s complicity in the occupation of Palestine, and is a step towards establishing a standard of ethical investment practices at DePaul University.

DePaul Divest is a coalition of students, student organizations, staff, faculty and alumni that call on the DePaul University administration to pull its investments from corporations that profit off of the illegal occupation of Palestine and the human rights abuses these companies help perpetuate. For more information, visit dpudivests.org.

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CONGRATULATIONS, DePaul students on your victory in campaign calling for student support to divest from corporations that profit off of human rights abuses against Palestinians. It's time for the Israeli government to reexamine its "policies" of imposing apartheid, occupation and blockade on the Palestinians in their own land!

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Amazing that the students were able to vote and stand for justice despite the thousands of dollars invested by pro-apartheid groups that support Israel's illegal activity. I am truly proud of all the 1575 honorable students who stood for justice today and will be on the right side of history tomorrow.

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Three RESOUNDING LOUD CHEERS and kudos for the DePaul student body!

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.