Dearborn student govt. pushes for Israel divestment

BY MICHAEL KAN
Daily News Editor
Published February 24, 2005

    While campaigns to divest from Israel at the University’s Ann Arbor campus have so far gone nowhere, an outside initiative aims to ignite the movement once again. The student government of the University’s Dearborn campus voted yesterday to recommend the University divest from companies involved with the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.

    Citing international organizations such as the United Nations, which have deemed the occupation illegal under international law, the Student Government Senate unanimously passed the resolution.

    The resolution urges the University’s Board of Regents — which presides over the Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Flint campuses — to establish a committee to investigate the moral implications of the University’s investment in companies “which directly support and benefit from the ongoing illegal Israeli occupation.”     

    Sponsored by the Dearborn campus’s Arab Student Union, the resolution was introduced to SG yesterday through a presentation detailing the human rights violations and illegal practices of the Israeli occupation. The divestment issue will be on the student government’s agenda in its town-hall meeting on March 10, where the body will seek student and faculty input. Members of SG and ASU declined to comment further on the initiative.

    Following the recommendation, University spokeswoman Julie Peterson said administrators do not believe the financial investments in companies affiliated with the Israeli occupation represent a conflict of interest with the University’s goals.

    “The University has divested stock just twice in its history.  These decisions were reached only after sustained, University-wide support,” Peterson said in a written statement.  

    “In both instances, faculty-led committees prepared a compelling case that such investments were antithetical to the basic mission and values of the University.  These conditions do not exist with respect to divestment from Israel, and there are no plans to ask the Board of Regents to pursue divestment.”

    Similar resolutions have been introduced, but not passed, in the Michigan Student Assembly. Most recently, the pro-Palestinian group Students Allied for Freedom and Economic Equality sponsored a resolution at an MSA meeting in 2003, but the assembly voted against it.

    MSA President Jason Mironov said he would not comment on SG’s initiative until he had seen the resolution.

    Israeli Students Organization President and LSA freshman Or Shotan said the current effort by SG will only work to impede the ongoing peace process in the Middle East.

    “I think when there is a time for peace, efforts should be made to bring two sides together, not to cause disputes between the two sides, and I think the University should support the peace effort in the Middle East instead of trying to favor one side or the other.”

    Shotan also questioned SG’s purpose behind the initiative: “Is it for the benefit of the Palestinian people, their goal for an independent state, for a stable and peaceful life? Or if their true intent is the elimination of Israel?”

    But divestment supporter and SAFE President Carmel Salhi said no peace process will be complete as long as the occupation continues. “You can’t have one superpower on one side of the bargaining table. And you can’t have another side with 60-percent poverty rates, you can’t call that a peace negotiation. The occupation needs to end before progress really begins”

    Salhi said SAFE will present a new resolution to MSA during the semester which will focus on divesting from companies directly involved with the occupation. Salhi said this includes companies, such as Lockheed Martin, that manufacture F-16 fighter aircraft, which have bombed Palestinian civilians in the past. The resolution comes after the University of Wisconsin at Platteville’s Faculty Senate voted on Jan. 25 to recommend the University withdraw its financial investments in companies that supply the Israeli military with arms. UW is the first American university to have its faculty vote to divest from Israel and has already submitted the resolution to its board of regents.