Swarthmore Should Divest from Israeli Apartheid Now

Editors Note: This article is a part of “Swat Takes,” a curated conversation between two authors about a contentious topic. This article is in conversation with an article written by Rebekah Katz entitled “BDS is a Denial of My Existence.”

This is written on behalf of Students for Justice in Palestine.

On October 9, Swarthmore Students for Justice in Palestine launched our Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions  campaign, calling on Swarthmore College to divest from seven companies invested in Israeli apartheid and occupation in Palestine. Recognizing that Israel’s decades-long projects of settler-colonialism, apartheid, and occupation are facilitated by the support of international corporations and foreign governments, this movement places nonviolent pressure on the State of Israel to affirm Palestinian humanity and end the ongoing occupation and colonization of Arab lands. As an institution that professes to uphold social concern and responsibility as core values, Swarthmore College has a moral imperative to divest from Israeli apartheid.

As stipulated by a 2018 United Nations report, “Israel is a racist state that has established an apartheid system that persecutes the Palestinian people.” Israeli apartheid is upheld through illegal land seizures, racist ID laws restricting movement and citizenship status, an internationally-condemned apartheid wall, home demolitions, the ongoing mass displacement of Palestinians, and the violent repression of peaceful protest.  Palestinians are legally considered lesser than Israeli Jews, as this summer’s racist nationality law — officially denying Palestinian self-determination — made clear. President Trump is the strongest accomplice to apartheid yet, giving Israel nearly $4 billion in foreign aid, supporting the unification of Jerusalem under Israeli control, all the while withdrawing critical aid to UN relief for Palestinian refugees.

Given the depth of this crisis, we call Swarthmore College to take moral action and end its financial support of apartheid. We demand that Swarthmore College divests from seven companies that provide the Israeli government and military with a wide range of services to carry out apartheid. Hyundai Heavy Industries and Caterpillar supply construction equipment used to build and maintain the internationally-condemned apartheid wall, demolish Palestinian towns, and murder Palestinian civilians solely for remaining in the houses they themselves own. Bank Hapoalim finances the construction of such settlements and engages in banking discrimination against Palestinians.

Hewlett Packard aids Israel in the tracking of citizens, Palestinian “residents” of Israel, and Palestinian nationals by issuing biometric ID cards, which enforce a system of ethnic identification and segregation. HP also maintains the information system of the Israeli Prison Service, in which Palestinian political prisoners — including hundreds of minors — are subjected to torture and discriminatory treatment after their processing in the unjust military court system.

Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Elbit Systems all design the weapons and aircrafts the Israeli Defense Forces use to commit a range of well-documented crimes against humanity in the Gaza Strip, including chemical warfare and the indiscriminate targeting of civilians. The goals of these companies in particular stand against peace in Palestine. Taken together, these seven companies subcontract apartheid. These practices directly violate the UN Human Rights Norms for Business, which require “businesses to exercise due diligence regarding the source or potential uses of goods or services, and in some instances to forego business opportunities in order to avoid complicity in, or encouragement of, human rights violations.”

Throughout history, governmental change has often followed social and institutional change. During South African apartheid, divestment was an essential way to shift international public opinion — and thus forced our elected leaders to take action. BDS has already proven this to be true. With hundreds of BDS victories last year alone, we are slowly shifting the public to stand against apartheid. Our governments will be forced to follow. This is particularly true of the United States, whose uncritical support of apartheid and occupation continues to prevent international action. BDS at Swarthmore is thus critical to creating the swell of popular support we need to end our community and our country’s support of apartheid.

Given our commitment to social responsibility, Swarthmore College has a moral imperative to divest from Israeli apartheid. Furthermore, our institutional prominence and location in the United States — whose financial and material aid to Israel constitutes a larger portion of Israeli foreign aid than any other country — uniquely positions us to pressure our government to cease support of this regime and to set an example for other civil society bodies. By stigmatizing companies that support Israeli apartheid, BDS at Swarthmore can contribute to much larger changes in public opinion, as our communities come to grips with the American funding of apartheid in our name.

As long as Swarthmore College supports these corporations, it supports colonization, occupation, and apartheid. Swarthmore, divest now.

We encourage you to sign our petition which can be found on our Facebook page at Swarthmore SJP.



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