A divestment movement at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor (UM) is calling for a committee to investigate three companies operating in Israel that are allegedly involved in human rights violations against Palestinians, according to the Michigan Daily.
The anti-Israel movement, led by UM Divest, finally succeeded after 15 years of actively seeking a favorable vote on a divestment motion. Their resolution passed in the Central Student Government on Wednesday, with 23 voting in favor, 17 against, and 5 abstaining. Now, the university’s board of regents will create the investigative committee.
The resolution demands that the committee “investigate the ethical and moral implications of our investments in the corporations, Boeing, HP, and United Technologies, which are involved in human rights violations against the Palestinian people, according to international law.”
Students at UM say the pro-Palestine resolution was passed by the CSG for the first time because of the new political environment on campus, following the 2016 presidential election.
“Since Trump, students are more politically aware than ever, and they are more willing to be active in situations where they are not personally affected. They are rooting for the underdog and don’t want to be seen as the bad guys who are impeding progress on very real issues of racism, bigotry, violence, oppression, and abuse,” said Allison Taylor, a culture writer for the Michigan Daily.
Talia Katz, the co-founder of Think-M: The Israel Network at Michigan, an independent Zionist club, said the win can be attributed to a new tactic used by the divestment group.
“They painted it as a referendum on whether Palestinian lives matter,” Katz said. “They said if you don’t vote in favor, you are silencing Palestinians and marginalizing a whole group of oppressed people. They didn’t make the distinction between marginalizing and disagreeing.”
Pro-Israel students didn’t counter with a compelling argument, according to Katz.
Taylor said that it is “hard to compete with the emotional manipulation of [divestment].”
“They say if you believe in equality, then you cannot be opposed to their movement,” Taylor wrote. “At Michigan, buzzwords like ‘oppression’ have a huge impact on the way people see things.”
The Washington Free Beacon spoke to students at UM. Students Allied for Freedom & Equality (SAFE) spoke anonymously and as a group, citing “real safety concerns.” After SAFE and its partners celebrated the resolution’s passage on social media (see example below), they told the Free Beacon, “[W]e fully reject” any argument that frames the resolution as anti-Semitic.
“Highlighting one’s struggle is not an attack on an identity, and [it] is offensive to be framed in such a way,” said SAFE.
But Sarit Mafouda, a UM student and intern at the pro-Israel group, David Project, said the resolution is anti-Semitic and cited its connections to the “broader BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) movement.”
“There are numerous instances in which BDS leaders have called for the demolition of Israel and the end goal to replace Israel with a Palestinian state,” said Mafouda, noting that Israel is mentioned 18 times in the divestment document.
According to the Free Beacon, BDS activists often chant, “From the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea, Palestine will be free.”
— UofM YDSA (@UofM_YDSA) November 15, 2017
— #BBUM (@THEBSU) November 14, 2017
I support #UMDivest because our endowment doesn’t belong in the hands of companies which contribute to the creation of Palestinian refugees and deepen the global displacement crisis. ✊
— Zoe (@zoeproegler) November 15, 2017
— SJP UW-Madison (@SJPuwMadison) November 15, 2017