In this week’s roundup of news from the global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, Arizona State University’s student government votes to divest from Israel; Evergreen State College’s student-run campus cafe boycotts Israeli products; Italian activists urge the city of Venice to boycott Sodastream; and more!
Arizona State University student government votes to divest from Israel
The student government at Arizona State University took a powerful stand on the last day of the school year last week, when it unanimously passed a bill “demanding that ASU divest from and blacklist companies that continue to provide the [Israeli army] with weapons and militarized equipment or are complicit with the genocidal regime in Darfur.”
In a press announcement, Students for Justice in Palestine’s ASU chapter stated:
This announcement, coming on the last day of the 2012 school year, is another victory in the global call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) on Israel as well as other global solidarity movements calling for the end to human rights violations.
Arizona State University, a university with an endowment of over $735 million, aspires to be the “New American University” with globally engaged students. We, students, at ASU want our university to make socially responsible investment decisions; we also want ASU’s investments to reflect its values as an institution. The bill calls for ASU to divest from and blacklist companies such as Alliant Tech Systems, Boeing, Caterpillar, Motorola, United Technologies, Petrochina, China National Petroleum Company, Sinopec, Oil and Natural Gas Company, and Alstom.
This is not the first time ASU has divested from companies supporting human rights abuses. In 1985 Arizona public universities supported divestment from apartheid South Africa. The undergraduate student government has also supported the idea of the creation of an Advisory Committee for Socially Responsible Investing on campus in the past. This is just another step in the right direction for the New American University. The bill concludes, “that the [ASU] Undergraduate Student Government supports on-campus divestment from and blacklisting of corporations that are complicit in human rights abuses in the occupied Palestinian Territories and Sudan.”
ASU has been a flashpoint of cross-struggle student activism, as students from Latin@ groups and Students for Justice in Palestine — and students in solidarity with both — have come together in support of global social justice and human rights (Latin@ is a gender neutral term for Latino and Latina).
In March, students from M.E.Ch.A, the largest Latin@ student group in the US, voted overwhelmingly to endorse BDS, following the previous BDS endorsement by ASU’s own M.E.Ch.A chapter.
Last year, legendary scholar Dr. Cornel West lent his support to the student groups at ASU who work to support BDS and the threatened ethnic studies classes on campus.
In a similar solidarity action on another Arizona campus, students at the University of Arizona at Tucson constructed a mock wall on campus to bring attention to both the militarized wall Israel has built in the West Bank, and the militarized wall along the US-Mexico border.
Evergreen State College’s student-run campus cafe boycotts Israeli products
In another victory on a US college campus, the Flaming Eggplant Cafe, a student-run collective at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, voted on 4 June to boycott Israeli goods.
The local, student-led BDS group, TESC-Divest! stated on its website that:
According to the Flaming Eggplant’s mission statement, one of the cafe’s goals is to “nourish the local food system by making delicious, healthy, ecologically and socially just food accessible to all.” In its statement of principles, the collective also expresses its commitment to “supporting political participation and direct action to create a just and egalitarian society.”
Office Coordinator Cris Papaiacovou said, “We came to a consensus as a collective to support the Palestinian civil society call for BDS because it is directly in line with our mission and statement of principles.” He added, “We are proud to join this non-violent movement to pressure Israel until it ends its human rights violations against Palestinians.”
… The café’s support of the boycott becomes the latest victory in ongoing student-led activism for Palestinian human rights at TESC. In the Spring of 2010, the student body voted overwhelmingly to support two resolutions, one calling for divestment from companies profiting from Israel’s occupation of Palestine, and the other prohibiting the use of Caterpillar Inc. equipment on campus. Rachel Corrie, an Evergreen student, was killed in 2003 by a weaponized Caterpillar bulldozer operated by the Israeli military as she attempted to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian family’s home in the Gaza Strip.
“We are incredibly proud of the Flaming Eggplant for taking this stand,” said Elizabeth Moore, a student and TESC Divest! organizer. “Due to the absence of accountability shown by our administration, we as students will continue to take the initiative in promoting a just peace in Palestine and Israel.”
Workers at The Flaming Eggplant, after making their decision, explained why they came out in support of BDS at the cafe:
Our Mission Statement outlines a commitment to serving socially just food. Israel’s policy of illegal land seizure and destruction on Palestinian lands means purchasing items from Israel is in conflict with our mission.
As a student-run collective with the stated principle of supporting direct action for a just and egalitarian society, and as a café representing the student body at large, we feel it is important to uphold the desire for boycott and divestment as voted for by the students at The Evergreen State College.
Italian BDS activists tell city of Venice to terminate all relations with Sodastream
Activists with BDS Italia and Stop Sodastream released a strong statement to the city of Venice this week, experssing their outrage at a city-sponsored promotional event on 27 May — dubbed “Join the Stream” — organized by Sodastream, an Israeli corporation that manufactures its products in an illegal settlement in the occupied West Bank. Sodastream products are sold in numerous chain stores across the US, Canada and Europe.
The statement reads, in part:
We are stunned to see the City of Venice involved in a shrewd marketing ploy aimed at creating an image of Sodastream as a company committed to environmental sustainability. In fact, behind this facade of a socially responsible business, Sodastream hides an ugly truth: its main manufacturing facility is in the occupied Palestinian territories in the illegal Israeli settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim. Sodastream is thus an accomplice of the Israeli occupation and profits from the systematic violation of international law and basic human rights of the Palestinian people.
Sodastream’s marketing campaign in Italy, with an investment of 3 million [euros] for 2012, seeks to leverage this image of an “ecological company,” organizing initiatives to involve individuals and organizations who, in good faith, think they are simply participating in activities in favor of the environment.
… Unfortunately, in the case of the City of Venice, support for Sodastream goes beyond the sponsorship of publicity events to include direct promotion of Sodastream products. The April newsletter for Veritas, the local public utility, included a discount coupon for the purchase of a Sodastream home carbonation device. This collaboration places the City at risk of being an accomplice of the Israeli military occupation through direct support of a company that produces in an illegal settlement.
We consider this inconsistent with the Charter of the City, Article 2, vowing to “recognize the human right to water, specifically, access to water as a universal, indivisible, inalienable human right, and the status of water as a public common good.” This right is denied to Palestinians under occupation, from whom Israel has expropriated water sources via the construction of the Wall and settlements, and forces Palestinians to purchase water at higher prices from the national Israeli company Mekorot.
The statement then called on the city of Venice to “terminate all relations with the Israeli company Sodastream and its representatives in Italy,” and “to use its influence as a shareholder, together with other municipalities that have stakes in the public company, to demand that Veritas immediately discontinue participation in promotions of Sodastream products.”
The entire statement can be read on the Stop Agrexco Italia website.
Minnesota Break the Bonds Campaign appeal dismissal of Israeli bonds lawsuit
Activists with the Minnesota Break the Bonds Campaign, which aims to stop the state from investing in companies that are involved with Israel’s human rights violations against Palestinians, filed an appeal on 31 May asking the Minnesota Court of Appeals to “reverse a lower court ruling dismissing the group’s lawsuit against the State Board of Investment (SBI).”
In a press release, organizers with MN BBC stated:
The lawsuit, filed in late 2011, contends that the SBI’s investments of millions of dollars in Israel Bonds are unlawful and imprudent. It alleges that the SBI’s statutory authorization to invest public employee pension funds, found in Section 11A.24 of the Minnesota Statutes, does not authorize the SBI to invest in Israel Bonds and that the SBI has done so unlawfully and with impunity. The lawsuit further alleges that the SBI’s investments in Israel Bonds are providing substantial material support for Israel’s human rights violations, including its illegal settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories which have been universally condemned as violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The lawsuit further alleges that the SBI’s material support of Israel’s human rights abuses exposes the SBI and ultimately Minnesota taxpayers to lawsuits brought against them by victims of Israel’s human rights abuses.
Judge Margaret Marrinan had ruled in the lower court that the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the lawsuit, that the language of the Minnesota Statute in question allowed the SBI to invest in any governmental bond of any country in the world; that this is a “political question” best left to other branches of government to decide; and that merely investing millions of dollars in the government bonds of another country, regardless of that country’s human rights record, is not sufficient to prove that the SBI is aiding and abetting human rights violations.
MN BBC believes that the lower court ruling is seriously flawed and that the appeal has exceptional merit. Minnesota law gives taxpayers and state pension plan beneficiaries standing to challenge the SBI’s investment decisions. MN BBC includes members meeting both criteria. The Minnesota Statute in question clearly does not permit the SBI to invest state funds in Israel’s government bonds and making an exception for Israel allows for other absurd exceptions. Further, the lawfulness of the SBI’s fiscal decisions is subject to court review. It is not a “political question.” Finally MN BBC contends that providing substantial material assistance to Israel’s illegal activities is sufficient to expose Minnesota and its taxpayers to claims and lawsuits.
MN BBC is a group of Palestinians, Jews, Christians, Muslims, students, professionals, parents, community members and allies working together to promote equality, justice and human rights by educating Minnesota communities about injustices being suffered by Palestinians. MN BBC believes that the people of Minnesota have the moral obligation to make sound investments that will not aid the oppression of any race, creed or people.
Copies of the lawsuit and the appeal are available on the MN BBC website.
French BDS activists: “Israel, ça groove pas” (“Israel, it doesn’t groove”)
Activists with BDS France appealed to local jazz clubs with a letter, which states in part (translated to English):
You would never have accepted to host in your clubs South African artists financed by the apartheid government; therefore we ask you to hear the call of Palestinian civil society and their Israeli and international partners, and to stand on the side of justice, by refusing the money which would make you accomplices to the crimes of these sponsors.
So please stay true to the code of ethics, don’t allow yourselves to be manipulated, refuse to be part of the propaganda which, under the guise of “cultural openness”, seeks to hide the realities of a colonial apartheid state which is the State of Israel.
The activists also made a YouTube video (in French) to protest the event and Israeli propaganda, entitled “Israel, ça groove pas” (“Israel, it doesn’t groove”).
Who Profits’ new report on Ahava
Who Profits, the research project of the Coalition of Women for Peace, released a new report on the business and trade of Ahava-Dead Sea Laboratories, the Israeli cosmetics company that operates out of illegal settlements in the West Bank.
According to Who Profits, the purpose of this updated report “is to explore the various companies that make up the supply chain of a company involved in the occupation as these companies are participating in practices that, on their face, are in violation of international law. As this report exposes, the company also uses natural resources from the occupied area in its mud products.”
The write-up of the report adds:
The Ahava factory and visitors’ center is located in the Mitzpe Shalem settlement, on the shore of the Dead Sea in the occupied part of the Jordan Valley and a large percentage of Ahava shares are held by two Israeli West Bank settlements.
… This study is part of a series of reports aimed to highlight various aspects of corporate activity in Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. The report is part of the ongoing effort of Who Profits from the Occupation, a project of the Coalition of Women for Peace, to expose corporate involvement in the Israeli control of Palestinian and Syrian occupied territory.
The report can be downloaded off the Who Profits website by clicking here.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this BDS roundup mistakenly attributed the mock wall action in Arizona to Arizona State University. It happened at the University of Arizona at Tucson.