As we write this piece, more than 5,300 Palestinians are imprisoned in Israeli jails. Zero Israelis are imprisoned in Palestinian jails. A total of 24,813 Palestinian homes have been demolished by Israel since 1967. Zero Israeli homes have been demolished by Palestinians since then. Some 172 Jewish-only settlements and 101 “outposts” have been erected on confiscated Palestinian land. Zero Palestinian settlements exist on any Israeli land. These facts and many like them make clear that what is happening in Israel and the Palestinian territories is not simply a “conflict.” It’s a decades-long colonial campaign led by the Israeli military that aims to disenfranchise the indigenous race and to purify the land of non-Jews by implementing an apartheid system.
MichiganBDS is a new student organization that is dedicated to the philosophy that students have the power to help end apartheid in Israel and the Palestinian territories. This power is derived from our ability to hold our University accountable for its complicit role in injustice: Our University invests in corporations — such as weapons manufacturers Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, among many others — that profit off the injustices in the Middle East. Our initiative does this by bringing together a diverse group of student activists dedicated to responding to the 2005 global call by Palestinian civil society for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions. BDS is defined by a rights-based approach that aims to launch broad boycotts, implement divestment initiatives and demand sanctions against the Israeli government until it meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and until it meets its obligations by:
1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the wall separating the Palestinian territories.
2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality.
3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.
MichiganBDS is not concerned with implementing a particular state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian impasse. We are rights activists who focus on pressuring the Israeli and American governments — since America gives $8 million per day in military aid to Israel — to end racist practices that deny the rights of Palestinian refugees, of Palestinians in Israel proper and of Palestinians in the occupied territories. For example, Jewish-only roads and illegal Israeli checkpoints are located throughout the West Bank — restricting Palestinian movement and freedom. Humiliated, Palestinians must routinely wait hours for access through these checkpoints as they attempt to live their daily lives. Furthermore, Palestinians within Israel are treated as second-class citizens. Israel has more than 30 main laws that both directly and indirectly discriminate against their Palestinian citizens. One law passed explicitly outlaws citizenship to non-Israeli non-Jews who marry Jews. These realities are too reminiscent of the institutionalized racism that existed in South Africa, the United States and elsewhere in the world not too long ago.
The inspiration for BDS as a tool for resisting the racist policies of the Israeli state comes from the victory of the South African anti-apartheid movement’s boycott call, which pressured firms that profited from the South African apartheid regime. The movement empowered masses in the United States and elsewhere to demand that institutions boycott the apartheid regime. University students were at the forefront of that struggle and have long been committed to divestment as a legitimate method for ensuring that our University is not complicit in injustice. In 1978, a group of students successfully convinced the Board of Regents to withdraw its deposits from and discontinue purchasing short-term money market instruments from banks who dealt with the racist South African regime. This momentous success gives us hope that one day the University will divest from the racist practices of the Israeli government as well.
MichiganBDS invites all students to join us in demanding the University not serve as an accomplice to apartheid in Israel. Our University needs to divest from companies that profit off selling equipment to the Israeli government that is used to oppress Palestinians. We have a moral obligation to demand that our University divests from socially irresponsible companies. MichiganBDS will work tirelessly to make that happen.
Ahmed Hasan is an LSA senior. Abbas Alawieh is in LSA. Bayan Founas is an LSA sophomore.