The Georgetown, Divest! forum on University investment in Palestine and Israel

On Tuesday night, the new student group Georgetown, Divest! presented their case for University divestment from companies that they say profit from human rights violations in Israel and Palestine.

The campaign’s kick-off event came days after an April 9 meeting with officials from the Investment Office who, according to a Georgetown, Divest! press release, said that the complexity of the Georgetown’s investments prohibit it from pursuing selective divestment as a realistic goal.

“We were told the University values the maximizing of return over ethics. This is not acceptable,” said Students for Justice in Palestine VP Jackson Perry (COL ’12). (Disclosure: Perry is an assistant photographer for the Voice).

Nonetheless, the campaign launch event, attended by roughly 40 people, pressed for the University to pursue selective divestment from several multinational corporations. Perry outlined the four categories from which the select companies could profit: “Operation on illegally occupied land, the construction and maintenance of the separation barrier, the facilitation of collective punishment including home demolition and land confiscation, and institutionalized discrimination.”

Georgetown, Divest! also called for the University to divest from the following corporations whose work they say falls within those four categories—Ahava, which is a cosmetics company, Motorola Israel, Roadstone Holdings and Riwal, both construction companies, Lockheed Martin, Caterpillar, Veolia Transportation, and Mekorot, a water company.

“Georgetown University has a tradition of social responsibility. Its investment policies must reflect its foundational values … It is not acceptable for a university dedicated to justice and social responsibility to ignore these ideals in its investments,” Perry said.

Dr. Mark Lance, Professor of Justice and Peace, spoke after the presentation and compared the situation to apartheid-era South Africa.

“Every citizen of Israel has the legal nationality of Jewish or Arab. Imagine that the U.S. passed a law that there are white people and black people and that’ll be your nationality. Or Christians and Muslims. I take it that we would call it as it is—racist and evil,” Lance said. “We pay for it, and it’s extremely important to remember. Every person in this room pays for what you saw on this screen. Every person who pays taxes in this country supports this whether you like it or not.”

Father Raymond Kemp also lent his moral support to the campaign, citing the power of non-violent resistance within Catholic social teaching.

“I’m here to applaud you and stand with you. You’re in a great tradition,” Kemp said.

“It is no more anti-Semitic to boycott Israel than it is to say anti-white to boycott South Africa. We all know Israel has a tendency to call anything anti-Semitic,” said Shelley Fudge, a representative from Jewish Voices for Peace.

The group also held an open discussion forum, taking questions from the roughly forty-person audience.

Both Father Kemp and Dr. Lance said that officials from the Investment Office were misrepresenting the University’s long-standing commitment to social justice by claiming that they have no way of ensuring socially responsible investments.

“I’m stunned by it,” said Father Kemp.

Representatives from Georgetown Divest! said that they are planned for a long battle and remain steadfast in their demands that the University’s $1 billion endowment be divested from the companies they named. They also plan to approach GUSA to discuss the matter.

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