Oberlin College, the historically progressive liberal arts institution in Oberlin, Ohio, successfully passed a divestment resolution on Sunday, 5 May.
In a press release sent to The Electronic Intifada, the Oberlin College Students for a Free Palestine (SFP) group say that after a three-hour plenary session, the student senate voted “by majority” to support the resolution, with several modifications from the original draft.
The resolution calls for divestment from six companies which profit from Israel’s occupation, including companies in the settlement industry (SodaStream) and Israel’s checkpoints and prison system (G4S). The resolution was supported by a wide variety of student groups on campus.
Oberlin College is the latest university in North America to hold or pass such a resolution in the student senate during the 2012-2013 school year. In California alone, student senates at the University of California at Irvine, UC Riverside, UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara and UC Berkeley have all held divestment votes (with UC Irvine, UC San Diego, and UC Berkeley passing and upholding the resolutions). The undergraduate student union at York University in Toronto, Canada, passed a divestment resolution in March.
Oberlin College Students for a Free Palestine’s press release is below:
In a historic moment on Sunday May 5th, Oberlin College Student Senate voted to divest from a set of 6 companies that profit from the occupation and oppression of Palestinians. Oberlin College Students for a Free Palestine (SFP) presented a resolution calling for divestment and a supporting petition. After a three-hour plenary, Student Senate voted by majority to support the resolution with several modifications.
“We are thrilled that this resolution has passed. We’re proud that our senate has decided to stand on the side of justice,” says Lucia Kalinosky, OC ‘13, a member of SFP.
This is a major milestone in SFP’s Oberlin Divest campaign, which follows the principles of the 2005 Palestinian Call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS). Next semester, SFP will take their resolution to the Oberlin College Board of Trustees’ Finance Committee, which will determine if Oberlin adopts the financial policies outlined in the resolution.
Oberlin’s divestment campaign provides students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members with an opportunity to raise the cost of the Israeli government’s human rights violations in a non-violent initiative to effect change. It has been endorsed by Oberlin’s Responsible Investing Organization, Student Labor Action Coalition, Mexican American Students Association, La Alianza Latina, South Asian Students Association, Oberlin Queer Wellness Coalition, Edmonia Lewis Center for Women and Transgender People, and Multicultural Resource Center.
Oberlin SFP specifically calls for Oberlin College divestment from Hewlett-Packard, Caterpillar, Veolia, Elbit Systems, G4S, and SodaStream. These six companies represent a wide range of injustices perpetrated on the Palestinian people by Israel. By endorsing the resolution, Oberlin College will join a growing global movement for justice in Israel/Palestine. This resolution comes on the heels of similar resolutions at UC Irvine, UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, and Brown University.
Four modifications were made to the resolution by the Senate. First, “Palestinian Territories” was defined as The West Bank, The Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem. Second, the Palestinian BDS Call was removed from the stated reasons for divesting. Third, a clause stating that the list would be updated to include other companies doing similar actions was removed, and senators asked SFP to write a detailed plan forming a committee to update the list, which will be voted on in the fall. Finally, senates added the word “directly” to the clauses giving criteria for divestment.
“The Palestinian people called on all people of conscience throughout the world to take action to advocate for justice,” says Hannah Elhard, OC ‘13. “By voting for divestment, Oberlin lives up to its progressive history and reputation.”
Students for a Free Palestine is a Palestine solidarity group at Oberlin College. It is a nonhierarchical organization of students with a variety of backgrounds and points of view. We all agree, however, that Israel must end its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and that all sides must respect human rights. Students for a Free Palestine is the oldest student Palestine solidarity organization in the United States.