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Remarks on Divestment from Israel
by Mohammed Abed Tuesday, Apr. 05, 2005 at 10:22 AM

University of Wisconsin Socially Responsible Divestment Campaign - Why divestment in companies that do business with Israel is responsible action.

Remarks to the TAA on Divestment from Israel
Mohammed Abed

Tuesday 15th March 2005

http://www.madisonobserver.org/index.php?subaction=showfull&id=
1112258865&archive=&start_from=&ucat=3&

I'm Mohammed Abed, a graduate student in Philosophy and an organizer with the University of Wisconsin Socially Responsible Investment Campaign. I'm the Teaching Assistants Association member who brought this resolution to the Political Education Committee, so I wanted to explain my reasons for doing so. I hope to persuade you that a vote in favor of this resolution is a vote in favor of the Board of Regents taking their governance responsibilities seriously by implementing
this Universities ethical investment policies. A vote in favor of this resolution is also a signifier of support for the role of the TAA as an important engine for positive social change at this University. By adopting this resolution, the TAA would be actively working towards
implementing University policies that are likely to have a positive impact on people's lives both in our local communities and around the globe. A vote in favor of this resolution is also a vote in support
of domestic, international law and the impartial application of basic humanrights, even when the perpetrator of human rights abuses is a staterepresenting a people whose history has been marked with extraordinary suffering and atrocity.

For the past three years, concerned students and members of the community have attended the Board of Regents annual forum on socially responsible investment. Every year, we have made a strong case for divesting from companies like Boeing, Caterpillar, General Dynamics,General Electric, Lockheed Martin, Northrop-Grumman, and Raytheon
based on overwhelming evidence of their complicity in war crimes and humanrights abuses perpetrated by the Israeli military in the course of 38 years of military rule over 3.5 Million Palestinians living in the WestBank and Gaza Strip. We have provided the Regent'ss with dozens of reports from independent human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, B'Tselem, Israeli Committee against House Demolitions, and Al-Haq; the United Nations Human Rights Commission, and numerous NGOs. These reports meticulously document violations of international law and human rights abuses by Israeli
forces against Palestinian civilians.

As an example, we can consider the case of Caterpillar Corporation which provides the Israeli army with the D-9, a bulldozer built to military specifications. The Israeli army uses the D-9 to demolish Palestinian homes in contravention of the Fourth Geneva Convention and other
international covenants. Since 1967, Israel has destroyed, by conservative estimates, 12,000 homes in the West Bank and Gaza. Between 4000-5000 dwellings have been destroyed since the beginning of the current uprising, rendering countless people homeless. Caterpillar equipment is also used to uproot thousands of olive trees, to raze crops, to destroy infrastructure, and to build the illegal wall that
runs deep into West Bank territory and isolates Palestinian villages from their lands, natural resources, from each other, and from important civic institutions and markets. Boeing produces the AH-64 Apache Attack Helicopter which has been used in the killing of thousands of Palestinian civilians over the last four years. Lockheed Martin
provides the Israeli army with the F-16 Fighting Falcon jet which is often used to bomb Palestinian civilian areas.

Israel's military regime in the West Bank and Gaza has also had a significant impact on Palestinian labor. The unemployment rate in the fourth quarter of 2004 was 31.2% according the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. Over 70% of Palestinians in the territories are
now living below the poverty line. This process of economic
strangulation is a consequence of Israel?s policy of arbitrary closure and curfew. In 2004, to take one example, Nablus was under total curfew for 177 days out of the year. When curfews are lifted, Palestinian freedom of movement is still impeded by an extensive system of checkpoints. Often, these checkpoints are closed or passage through them is agonizingly slow and laborious. Trips that once took half an hour can regularly take 6 hours under these conditions. These policies make it very difficult if not impossible for Palestinians to have access to their places of work and to their markets. By cutting deep into the WestBank, Israel?s wall has significantly worsened these conditions. In
Qalqilya and many other towns and villages, the wall literally separates farmers from their lands in an economy that's heavily dependent on agriculture. To tend their own olive trees, Palestinians must first
of all be issued with the correct papers by the Israeli army and then they must pass through checkpoints in the wall itself. No human being should have to live like this.

By supplying the Israeli army with weapons and other equipment used to implement policies of this nature, the companies we have identified in the resolution are complicit in war crimes and serious breaches of international humanitarian law. They also stand in violation of domestic laws prohibiting the sale of arms or the provision of security assistance to states which engage in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.? Material support for Israeli practices also infringes UW-System's own ethical investmentpolicies. Destructive Israeli policy is applied exclusively to Palestinians in virtue of their ethnic identity. Corporations that aid the implementation of this policy are therefore condoning through their actions, discrimination on the basis of race, religion, color, creed or sex (Regent Trust and Fund Policy 78-1) and shall therefore be divested in as prudent but rapid a manner as possible. Regent Policy 97-1 reiterates the universities' stance on discriminatory practices and adds to it's list of concerns policies that violate, subvert, or
frustrate the enforcement of rules of domestic or international law intended to protect individuals and/or groups against deprivation of health, safety, basic freedoms or human rights.

I'm sure there will be forceful disagreement tonight. This is part of the laborious process of positive social change and it should not obscure the importance of the TAA taking a position in favour of divestment from these companies. Any movement that works for positive social change is invariably opposed by good people who are not motivated by ill will in their hearts. I'm sure the overwhelming majority of dissenters present here tonight support the application of international humanitarian law and reject human rights abuses whatever their rationale. I ask these people to make their core ethical principles the most important determinant of their decision tonight. The systematicsubjection of an entire people cannot be seriously considered a means to the security and flourishing of the Israeli nation. A vote for this
resolution is therefore a vote in support of Israeli rights and interests and is as the resolution states ?an expression of the hope for a free and secure future for every Israeli and Palestinian currently suffering under the burden of conflict.

The arguments for the claims made in this resolution are well founded in fact and supported by extensive documentary evidence gathered from a variety of sources. The scope of the resolution is well defined as
are its terms. Our arguments concern specific companies implicated in specific rights violations. A vote for this resolution is therefore not a vote against the Israeli nation but a vote in support of corporate accountability, UW's own ethical investment commitments, and domestic
and international law. I ask my fellow members to make this the basis of the decision they make tonight.

University of Wisconsin Divest from Israel Campaign
Visit us at: http://alawda.rso.wisc.edu/

Mohammed Abed
Department of Philosophy

Madison, WI 53706

e-mail: mkabed@wisc.edu

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