April 9, 2014

Resolution Criticizes Cornell for Israeli Ties

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Students for Justice in Palestine will present a resolution to the Student Assembly Thursday calling for the University to divest from companies that “profit from the Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian territories,” according to an SJP statement.

Citing human rights abuses and violations of international law by the state of Israel on Palestinian territories, SJP argues that part of the University’s endowment is currently invested in a way that does not carry with the University’s mission to better the lives of its students, residents of the state and others around the world and to carry out all financial transactions “with integrity.”

According to the resolution, Tata Motors, Sodastream, Ingersoll-Rand, Raytheon, G4S and Hewlett Packard are companies that theUniversity either contracts with or holds portfolio and direct investments in that “participate actively” in the Israeli millitirization of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

“The resolution is extremely controversial and upsetting to many members of the Cornell community which the S.A. represents.” —Rachel Medin ’14 and Claire Blumenthal ’14

For this reason, the resolution states that Cornell is in violation of international law and a “complicit” third party in human rights abuses.

The resolution posits that Israel’s actions include those that have violated United Nations agreements stipulating against “transfer[ing] parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies” and that “all measures undertaken by Israel to exploit the human and natural resources of the occupied Arab are illegal.”

“Israel has repeatedly flouted international law and U.S. requests that it refrain from building settlements,” members of SJP said in a statement. “To this end, Palestinian civil society called in 2005 for an international movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions as a nonviolent method to pressure Israel to end its occupation. This resolution is an answer to that call.”

The resolution, which also calls for the University to make information about its assets public is being sponsored by Nicholas Vasko ’15, undesignated at-large, and Inge Chen ’15, minority liaison at-large.

Rachel Medin ’14 and Claire Blumenthal ’14, co-presidents of Cornell Israel Public Affairs Committee, said they were “deeply concerned” that the resolution will be brought to the S.A.

“The resolution is extremely controversial and upsetting to many members of the Cornell community which the S.A. represents,” Medin and Blumenthal said in an email. “We believe that this resolution is divisive and will create strong tensions between students on campus, and therefore it is not in the S.A.’s best interest to support this misleading and hurtful resolution.”

At Thursday’s S.A. meeting, the general body will ask the sponsors questions about the resolution, and unless a motion passes to table it, it will be eligible to be voted on during the April 17 meeting.

A body of faculty members has also come to support the resolution and has created their own statement that has accrued 40 signatures as of Wednesday night.

Prof. Eric Cheyfitz, English, said that though the faculty statement is completely independent from SJP’s resolution — for example, the faculty statement features a critique of Cornell’s partnership with the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, while SJP’s resolution does not — the signers have expressed solidarity with SJP’s efforts.

“I do hope that the assembly brings the resolution to a vote so that a democratic process can go forward based on the resolution rather than tabling it and short-circuiting that process,” Cheyfitz said.

According to SJP’s statement, this resolution supports Cornell’s “legacy for advocating for justice” and cites parallels to previous student efforts toward divesting from companies operating with South Africa under apartheid era.

“Much as thirty years ago, when campuses across the United States divested from South African apartheid and helped bring an end to that regime, today United States colleges and universities have a moral duty to divest from the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and bring forth its end,” the statement said.