Coalition Seeks GU Stance on Israeli Human Rights Violations

By Matt Joseloff | Apr 09 2010

Following a growing international movement to curb human rights abuses in Israel and Palestine, students have formed a coalition demanding the university cut any assets traced to companies tied to such violations.

Comprised of student groups such as the Georgetown Solidarity Committee and Students for Justice in Palestine, the coalition is campaigning for the university to divest from any organizations that are facilitating the abuses. As the university’s investment information is private, coalition members do not know whether or not the university has financial links to any companies connected with human rights abuses, according to Elise Garofalo (COL ’12), president of SJP.

In a case report on the coalition’s Web site, organizers state that Israel has a system of segregation that creates strong inequalities between the Israeli and Palestinian populations.

“The [Palestinian Authority], much like the black ‘homelands’ of South Africa, has symbolic value, but ultimate control over the daily lives of Palestinians remains in Israel’s hand,” the report states.

While Students for Justice in Palestine has committed to educating students on campus about the human rights abuses, organizers want to shift their efforts to directly assisting people in the region.

“We want to do something that actually affects the situation on the ground,” Garofalo said.

Coalition members authored a letter to University President John J. DeGioia in February, asking the university to divest from organizations that facilitate certain activities. Such activities included home demolition, military action against civilians and any practices that involve discrimination against race, religion or ethnicity. The letter also demands divestment from organizations that support the “separation barrier,” constructed on the West Bank, according to the letter.

The letter names several U.S. organizations that allegedly profit from the human rights abuses.

The coalition will present its case to members of the university community in a forum on Tuesday evening. Organizers hope to recruit additional students to the coalition, according to Jackson Perry (COL ’12), a member of the nascent group.

Fr. Raymond Kemp, of the Woodstock Theological Center, will be one of three faculty panelists at the forum. Kemp said that this campaign aligns closely with the university’s instructional mission.

“It’s all in keeping with our educational process,” he said. “When women and children are where live [ammunition] is being used you can trace it to injustice and discrimination. It’s time for people to take action.”

Perry said recent divestment campaigns at other universities, as well as Georgetown’s divestment in 2008 from companies supporting human rights abuses in Sudan, provide evidence that such an effort can be productive.

Director of Media Relations Andy Pino said, “The endowment fund managed by the Investment Office does not directly invest in companies, and Georgetown’s investment practices do not include the selection of individual securities. As a result, the question of divestment does not apply.”

Because the Investment Office does not publicize its investments, the coalition’s ultimate goal is for the university to release a statement saying that it divested from organizations supporting the abuses, or that it had never invested in such organizations, Perry said.

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