WASHINGTONâ€”Pro-Palestinian students in a US college are celebrating its decision to divest from firms serving the Israeli occupation of Palestine, a decision that has sparked a raging controversy.
â€œWe were able to educate and mobilize an entire community, the majority of our community,â€ Aidan Kriese, an organizer from the Students for Justice in Palestine group (SJP) in Hampshire College, Massachusetts, told IslamOnline.net.
â€œAnd the majority has made a decision.â€
On February 7, Hampshire College became the first US institute of higher education to divest from companies involved in the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
The groundbreaking decision was taken by the Committee on Investment Responsibility and approved by the Collegeâ€™s Board of Trustees.
The six companies are Caterpillar, Terex, Motorola, ITT, General Electric, and United Technologies.
They are believed to be directly providing the Israeli military with equipment and services in Gaza and the occupied West Bank.
â€œWe were interested in looking at the specific relationships that our particular institution had in the occupation,â€ Kriese said.
â€œWe found we were linked specifically to the occupation through these corporations.â€
Over 800 students, professors, and alumni have signed SJPâ€™s â€œinstitutional statementâ€ calling for the divestment from these firms.
Divestment efforts and academic boycotts of Israel have largely gained ground in the past few years.
The United Methodist Church has received five separate petitions calling for divestment from companies that support or profit from the Israeli occupation.
The divestment, widely covered in national media, has stirred a firestorm controversy leading the collegeâ€™s administration to deny the issue had anything to do with politics.
But the studentsâ€™ association insists that breaking ties with the six firms was specifically linked to helping the Israeli occupation.
â€œThe SJP was asked by the administration what companies to avoid in the future in terms of the Israeli occupation of Palestine,â€ Kriese said.
Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, a well-known supporter of Israel, has called for donors to divest from Hampshire College and halt contributions to the college until it clears up the situation.
After his column in the Israeli Jerusalem Post daily stirred a sandstorm, Hampshire College issued a statement acknowledging that the process was launched in response to the SJP proposal, but denied that the final decision had anything to do with Israel.
â€œFor eight and a half months the only specific companiesâ€¦that were discussed were the six companies SJP targeted,â€ the SJP said in a later statement.
â€œThese facts prove that the decision was made on the grounds of the six companiesâ€™ involvement in the occupation of Palestine.â€
Despite the controversy, the SJP still sees the collegeâ€™s decision to divest from the pro-occupation companies a victory.
â€œItâ€™s really clear to us that weâ€™ve done our part in raising concerns about the occupation,â€ boasts Kriese.