Students call for U to divest

More than 30 student groups this week demanded the U divest from four corporations.

Tiffany Lukk

A new movement to take tuition dollars out of companies active in Israel has drawn controversy from University of Minnesota student groups.
 
 
Students for Justice in Palestine urged the University on Monday to divest from companies involved with certain Israeli interactions with Palestine. Now, other students have promised opposition to the plan.
 
 
SJP members will present a resolution to the University’s undergraduate student government, the Minnesota Student Association, in March, said SJP officer Sara Halimah. 
 
 
MSA has no say in what the University invests in, MSA President Joelle Stangler said, but an endorsement from the student body would help if they proposed the plan to the University.
 
 
The UMN Divest campaign specifically targets four major companies — Caterpillar, Elbit Systems, G4S and Raytheon.
 
 
These companies provide equipment, supplies and weapons for the Israeli Defense Force, according to the campaign’s website. 
 
 
“Those are the types of things that we really, really don’t want our university to be invested in,” Halimah said.
 
 
The campaign is a part of the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, Halimah said.
 
 
Students participated in a similar divestment campaign at universities around the country in the ’70s and ’80s to protest South African apartheid, Humphrey School of Public Affairs professor Ragui Assaad said. 
 
 
“It took a lot of activism on the part of the students including sit-ins and other sources of protests until the universities came around to doing it,” Assaad said. “I think it’ll take a lot of work on the part of student groups to convince universities to do it.”
 
 
He said the University most likely won’t heed the demands of SJP, but he said divesting from companies like Caterpillar wouldn’t greatly affect the University.
 
 
“There’s so many possible investments out there that divesting from one or two companies won’t affect the University much from a financial point of view,” Assaad said. “But it might affect the University in its public relations reputation with various groups.”
 
 
As of Tuesday, more than 30 University student groups support UMN Divest, Halimah said.
 
 
But some student groups oppose the campaign, saying the goal of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is to get rid of Israel.
 
 
“I hope that students will really dig deeper to see what this campaign is really about in its effort to not only delegitimize the state of Israel, but it creates a hostile climate towards Jewish students and other students who are supportive of Israel,” Students Supporting Israel President Sami Rahamim said.
 
 
Students for Justice in Palestine also protested an Israeli speaker last November.
 
 
“These groups, who are the same groups who are leading the Divest campaign, came to shout him down, to boycott his speech and prevent his voice from being heard,” Rahamim said. “That’s not in the spirit of academic freedom, of progress, of equality or discussion.”
 
 
He said Students Supporting Israel plans to oppose the campaign in a “swift and clear manner.”