Not a day passes without Israel escalating its assault on the Palestinian people. The 2018 Nation State Law has drawn mass outrage from Palestinians and ethno-religious minorities such as the Druze and Coptic Christians and Israeli Jews. Despite the law’s virtual confirmation of Israel as a racialized apartheid state, the United States has been steadfast in their support for the occupying regime.
Since Israel’s origin, the state has dispossessed countless Palestinians through violent means, starting with the 1948 al-Nakba (“The Catastrophe”) in which nearly a million indigenous Palestinians were forcibly expelled from their homes or otherwise murdered by Zionist militias. The U.S. shares a common history with Israel as a fellow settler-colonial project rooted in genocide, making the countries’ current close relationship unsurprising.
Any Cornell student opposed to imperialism and international oppression cannot ignore Cornell’s active role in perpetuating this colonial tradition. From the start, Cornell’s campus was built on land stolen from the Cayuga people, and to this day the university continues to work closely with companies and institutions that facilitate the dispossession of the Palestinian people.
If we claim to be an institution that is a “bastion of intellectualism” founded on progressive and egalitarian values, we must critically evaluate our actions as a university and individuals. How are we, as conscious members of this University, holding our administration accountable for their ties to an oppressive, occupying state? In the context of the Palestine question, we are nowhere near upholding our founding values. We have an obligation to answer Palestinian civil societies’ call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against the state of Israel.
This movement is a global campaign fighting to end international ties with the State of Israel until it meets its obligations under international law. These obligations include three distinct requests. First, Israel’s complete withdrawal from all occupied Palestinian territory. Second, the removal of the separation barrier (apartheid wall) in the West Bank. And third, allowing all Palestinian refugees their right to return.
The BDS movement was inspired by the 20th century movement to end South African apartheid. Anti-apartheid activists called on the international community to divest its economic, cultural and academic ties from South Africa until the end of the legal disenfranchisement of the indigenous black South African population. While the divestment movement swept across our nation, Cornell never divested from South African apartheid, holding tens of millions of dollars in stock in South African companies in the years leading up to the end of the apartheid regime. Thirty years later, history is repeating itself now when Cornell fails to stand up against another apartheid regime.
We call upon Cornell’s administration to divest its endowment pool from companies complicit in the morally reprehensible human rights violations in Palestine. As stakeholders of this University, our responsibility is to ensure that our actions align with our values, and our values do not include supporting the ethnic cleansing and military subjugation of the Palestinian people. We hope that those in power — our administration and Board of Trustees — fulfill their responsibility of holding our university to basic ethical standards.
Our campaign has taken hold with communities across campus, which underscores the unifying belief and support that we hold in the basic human rights for the people of Palestine.
Malikul S. Muhamad ’20
Cornell Students for Justice in Palestine’s divestment campaign is officially endorsed by:
- Black Students United
- Cornell Asian Pacific Student Union
- South Asian Council
- La Asociación Latina
- Native American and Indigenous Students At Cornell
- Islamic Alliance for Justice
- Cornell Collective for Justice in Palestine
- Climate Justice Cornell
- The People’s Organizing Collective, USAS Local #3
- Muslim Educational and Cultural Association
- Men of Color Council
- Amnesty International at Cornell University
- Cornell Welcomes Refugees
- Queer Political Action Committee
- Cornell DREAM Team
- Womxn of Color Coalition
- MEChA De Cornell
- Arab Student Association
- Cornell Young Democratic Socialists
- Asian Pacific Americans for Action