The Michigan Student Assembly’s decision last week to not support the creation of a committee to investigate whether the University should divest from companies that do business with Israel will not end discussion of the issue at the University’s three campuses, according to members of Students Allied for Freedom and Equality.
The Student Government Council at the University’s Flint campus will vote on a similar proposal in two weeks, according to SAFE, while the recommendation that a committee be created has already passed at the Dearborn campus.
SAFE President Carmel Salhi said that affiliation with companies doing business with Israel remains a major issue on campus and that his group will continue to raise questions with the administration.
“SAFE finds that the investments, such as Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, are questionable and the University should divest,” Salhi said.
Lockheed Martin and Raytheon are both corporations that sell military equipment to Israel. SAFE has been urging the University to divest from companies that support the Israeli occupation since the 2002-03 academic year, when a divestment resolution was brought before MSA.
Although MSA voted not to recommend the creation of a committee to investigate the University’s relationship with Israel, Salhi said he believes the student body feels differently. “The MSA vote by no means represents the campus opinion,” he said.
Last Thursday, two days after the MSA vote, 25 supporters of divestment staged a silent sit-in at the University Board of Regents meeting. Dressed in black and wearing “Free Palestine” T-shirts, the students showed their support for the creation of the investigative committee, Salhi said.
Salhi added that SAFE will continue to speak with University administrators. “This issue will be continuously brought up,” he added.
While all the MSA representatives reached for comment said they supported investigating University investments in nations and companies that violate human rights, they were divided on the question of whether a specific investigation into investments in Israel is necessary.
MSA Vice President Anita Leung voted against the proposal, saying she felt the resolution was too narrowly focused on Israel and ignored similar abuses by other nations. Leung said she felt uncomfortable that the structure of the proposed committee gave it the right to determine which companies to investigate.
“The resolution should have been about investigating University investments in companies that are not morally or ethically providing arms,” Leung said. “It shouldn’t have been about one conflict or problem.”
MSA Rep. Tim Wiggins agreed, saying, “To single out Israel as the only country that we have investments in that has human rights violations, in my opinion, is not right.” He added that he would support a resolution that called for investigations into all of the University’s investments that might support human rights violators, not just Israel.
But according to Salhi, as University rules currently apply, any resolutions to investigate investments must be case-specific, as was the case when the University divested from South Africa and tobacco companies.
MSA Rep. Riana Anderson said that despite the resolution’s narrow focus on Israel, she believes it is necessary. Even though the problem with companies financing nations’ unethical actions may be more widespread than Israel, “it doesn’t mean I’m going to vote down one (resolution) because it doesn’t include all countries,” Anderson said.
MSA Rep. Laurel Harris agreed. “We’re going to have to single places out in order to get things done,” she said.
MSA Rep. Christopher Blauvelt said he believes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is important enough to warrant its own resolution. “For too long, the Palestinian issue has been side-stepped at this university and not treated fairly,” he said.
Blauvelt said he voted for the resolution because he supports the Palestinian cause and believes the University should implement its already-existing policy requiring ethical investment.
MSA voted, 25 to 11, not to petition the regents to create an advisory committee to examine the University’s relationships with companies that support the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.