Towards a Divestment Policy that Makes Global Connections
University of Massachusetts/Amherst Calls for Divestiture of Companies that profit from War and Occupation
On March 25, The Student Government Association of the University of Massachusetts/ Amherst, passed a resolution calling for divestiture in companies that profit from war and occupation. While not specifically mentioning Israel , this motion, which is not binding on the University, had the clear intent of addressing Israeli Apartheid within a global context of war profiteering and colonization. Taken on the heels of the very successful campaign at Hampshire College, also in Amherst, that resulted in divestiture of similar companies, the resolution is part of a consolidated campaign to focus and address responses to Israeli Apartheid.
I have long argued that any discussion of Palestinian human rights is best made in a global context, that ties together the particular conditions of Palestinians with human rights struggles historically and globally. This methodology provides three important possibilities for activists:
1. International Solidarity: It draws important connections between the struggle for Palestinian human rights and other human rights struggles, focusing on issues such as war profiteering, military occupation, neo-liberalism, the military industrial complex, expropriation of resources, labor, guest worker programs, free enterprise zones, racism, apartheid, imperialism, U.S. empire, funding for education, health care and other social programs; differentiating this movement from the neo-liberal agenda that includes in its analysis, the living conditions of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, but ignores the overall issue of western hegemony and U.S. empire. This approach also distinguishes itself from the White supremacist movement, which repeatedly attempts inroads into this movement, with similar rhetoric to the neo-liberal argument, but with the added emphasis, and whose purpose is fighting what they see as the ZOG, the Zionist Occupied Government, here in the U.S. and around the world. For them, fighting for Palestinians, is essential for defeating “global Jewish domination.” They see Palestinians on the front lines of that battle, though as racists, their empathy for Palestinians usually ends there.
2. Israeli Accountability: Such an approach, shields the movement from attacks of “singling out Israel.” When the position on Israeli apartheid is part of a broader human rights agenda, within a larger human rights analysis, it is the Zionists who are insisting on singling out Israel, as the only country beyond reproach.
3. U.S. Accountability: It is hypocritical for amerikans to call for BDS and human rights for Palestinians without holding accountable the U.S. government and the U.S. corporations, who are the main supporters and beneficiaries of U.S. military aid to Israel (75% of which MUST be spent on U.S. weapons systems!) The U.S. is not a neutral player here, but a very vested ally that must be brought to task as well. Additionally, while Israel shares a special relationship with the U.S. on so many levels, not least of which is a parallel narrative of colonization, divine purpose/destiny, control of and destruction of a “hostile” indigenous population, entitlement, suffering, exceptionalism, and victimization, the U.S. is the belly of the beast in regard to global empire and neo-colonialism. Israel by all accounts is simply U.S. lite. It is only fitting that any criticism of Israel be placed in the context of the larger global arena in which this travesty of justice is able to thrive.
Calling for investment policies that are socially responsible, globally, and not merely regionally, is the only investment policy that is socially responsible. On the other hand there are agencies (unions, pension funds) that have similar policies, but have singled out Israel in their unwillingness to apply these standards to Israeli militarization, human rights violations and hegemony. If we come to the conclusion that investment be universally responsible, because of awareness raised by the outrageous violations of human rights committed by Israel, or that Israel must be held accountable because of an awareness that international standards must be applied universally, as well, the outcome is the same: a human rights agenda, a connection between the lives of students and workers in the United States and around the world, (pensions, educations, etc.) and the corporations that benefit from our endowments and the extreme exploitation of workers, globally.