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LSE Union Demands Divestment from Israel

February 15, 2008
Palestine Solidarity Campaign: The London School of Economics Students' Union (LSESU) yesterday voted overwhelmingly to call on its university and the National Union of Students (NUS) to divest from companies that provide military and commercial support for the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, condemning the decades of human rights abuses and systematic oppression that has occurred as a result.

Palestine Solidarity Campaign: The London School of Economics Students' Union (LSESU) yesterday voted overwhelmingly to call on its university and the National Union of Students (NUS) to divest from companies that provide military and commercial support for the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, condemning the decades of human rights abuses and systematic oppression that has occurred as a result.

A motion, brought to the weekly Union General Meeting of more than 400 LSE students by the LSESU Palestine Society, resolved to lobby the LSE and NUS to divest from companies that provide military support for the Israeli occupation, facilitate the maintenance of the illegal "annexation" wall or operate on illegally occupied land or within Jewish only settlements. With a six to one margin, the Union voted to support the aim of targeted divestment until companies cease such practices or until Israel ends its discriminatory oppression and colonisation of Palestinian communities.

The Union also resolved to affiliate to the international campaign to end the siege on Gaza and engage in education campaigns to publicise more widely the injustices of Israel's discriminatory polices. This includes working with Palestine solidarity organisations such as Jews for Justice for Palestinians, the British Committee for Universities in Palestine (BRICUP), the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Zochrot and the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), in a bid to end the legalised racial and religious discrimination in Israel.

This has been the result of much debate on LSE's campus over recent weeks, following an earlier motion which acknowledged growing public comparisons made between Apartheid South Africa and the legalised ethnic segregation that has been imposed for decades by the Israeli state. As such, the original proposed motion was amended to provide consensus across the Union in unequivocally condemning Israel's policy of ethnic segregation, with 339 students voting in favour of divestment compared to just 46 against.

Irene Calis of the LSESU Palestine Society stated: "This is an historic moment in the struggle for justice and peace for all citizens of the Middle-East. It is time for us to demand our universities divest and stop funding Palestinian oppression. By putting political and economic pressure on the Israeli state, the student movement can not only show continued solidarity with the Palestinian people, but also expedite the end of the Israeli occupation"

Emilano Huet-Vaughn, who spoke in favour of the motion added, "The resounding support for divestment after lengthy debate shows growing awareness of Israel's systematic discrimination against the Palestinian people and a disgust with the colonial settler regime in the West Bank, and the brutal siege of the Gaza Strip. As a result many LSE students of all backgrounds have voted to take a stand for justice, equality and human rights for all."

*ENDS*

su.soc.palestine@lse.ac.uk

LSESU Palestine Society

The text of the motion is below. Please write to info@boycottIsrael.ps if you would like the full version with extensive footnotes.

HOLD ISRAEL ACCOUNTABLE - DIVEST

Proposer: Estelle Cooch 200701725
Seconder: Nina Gora 200402250

The Union notes:

1. 2008 marks the 60th anniversary of the “Nakba” - the expulsion of the great majority of Palestinian Arabs from their homes and homeland in historic Palestine between 1947 and 1949. The expulsion – planned and systematically carried out by the founders of the state of Israel – was essential to the creation of an expressly Jewish state in the political Zionist sense of the term in a country where, in 1947, the population was still 70% Muslim and Christian and non-Jews still owned 94% of the land. Those dispossessed during the Nakba and their descendants now make up a refugee population of more than 4 million living without normal citizenship status. Their right to return to their home, legally recognized under international law, including United Nations resolution 194, has never been accepted by Israel.

2. 2008 marks the 41st year since passage of United Nations resolution 242 which calls for the “withdrawal of Israeli forces from territories occupied” in the 1967 war. During the war, Israel inter alia took military possession of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, which remain militarily occupied to this day. Resolution 242 notes the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war.”

3. Israel continues to build a 8 metre high “annexation” wall on Palestinian land inside the post-1967 occupied West Bank, contravening the July 2004 ruling by the International Court of Justice (the highest legal body in the world, whose statutes all UN members are party to) and causing the forcible separation of Palestinian communities from one another and the annexation of additional Palestinian land.

4. Within the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, Israel continues a policy of settlement expansion in direct violation of Article 49, paragraph 6 of the 4th Geneva Convention which declares “an occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into territories it occupies.” The settlements for Jews only, housing approximately 500,000 residents, are made possible through the settler-colonial theft of Palestinian Arab land , flouting Article 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that “no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.”

5. Since 1967 Israel has demolished over 18 000 Palestinian family homes to sustain a policy of “quiet transfer” of the indigenous Palestinian population and the annexation of their land, leaving some 70,000 Palestinian civilians traumatized and without shelter or compensation.

6. Hundreds of kilometres of Jewish settler-only roads, on which the indigenous Palestinian Arab population is not permitted to drive, carve up the West Bank.

7. Some 500 checkpoints and roadblocks – designed to corral the Palestinian Arab population - pockmark the occupied West Bank, causing significant damage to Palestinian commerce and access to medical care and education. This ghettoization or “Bantustanization” of the Palestinian people markedly violates the spirit of Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states “everyone has the right to freedom of movement.”

8. Israel engages in reckless collective punishment over the whole of the Palestinian population, with the recent siege of Gaza a prime example. According to Physicians for Human Rights, “The prolonged siege imposed by the Israeli government on Gaza, the closing of its borders, the tightening of policies regarding permission to exit Gaza for medical purposes, and the severe shortage of medications and other medical supplies all severely damage the Palestinian health system and endanger the lives and health of thousands of Palestinian patients.” The Red Cross calls life in Gaza “a nightmare” for the civilian population, saying that “the whole strip is being strangled, economically speaking” with essential supplies, including electricity and fuel, being denied to the 1.5 million inhabitants where 80% depend on aid to survive.

9. Within Israel's 1948 borders, where roughly 20% of the population is Palestinian Arab, over 40 “unrecognised villages” exist housing over 100 000 Palestinian “citizens of Israel.” The Israeli government ignores the existence of these villages even though many have existed for hundreds of years. These villages have not appeared on any map, they lack basic infrastructure, and the state of Israel has made numerous attempts to demolish them constituting a gross violation of human rights.

10. In July 2007 the Israeli Knesset in a 64-16 vote, put forward the Jewish National Fund Law which endorses the allocation of Jewish National Fund land (compromising 13% of Israel, much of it confiscated from Palestinian Arab inhabitants expelled in 1948) exclusively to Jewish residents of Israel.

11. Israeli law openly discriminates on the basis of religion, race, and nationality, with different laws regarding citizenship, housing, land ownership, and marriage applying depending on whether someone is classified in law as “Jewish” or “non-Jewish.”

12. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and South African anti-Apartheid activist wrote in The Guardian: “I've been very deeply distressed in my visit to the Holy Land; it reminded me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa.”

13. Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jimmy Carter said the violations of Palestinian freedom of movement constitute “even worse instances of apartness, or apartheid, than we witnessed even in South Africa."

14. The UN's special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, South African law professor John Dugard, in a 2007 UN report concluded that “there is an apartheid regime” in the occupied Palestinian territories “worse than the one that existed in South Africa.” He went on to state: “It is difficult to resist the conclusion that many of Israel's laws and practices violate the 1966 Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination. House demolitions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are carried out in a manner that discriminates against Palestinians. Throughout the West Bank, and particularly in Hebron, settlers are given preferential treatment over Palestinians in terms of movement (major roads are reserved exclusively for settlers), building rights and army protection; and laws governing family re-unification unashamedly discriminate against Palestinians."

15. Israel's former attorney general Michael Ben-Yair noted in his 2002 Haaretz article, "Israel enthusiastically chose [after the Six-Day War in 1967] to become a colonial society, ignoring international treaties, expropriating lands, transferring settlers from Israel to the Occupied Territories, engaging in theft and finding justification for all these activities. . . In effect, we established an apartheid regime in the occupied territories immediately following their capture. That oppressive regime exists to this day.”

16. From 2002 to 2004 nearly sixty academic, professional, and cultural associations and trade unions in the occupied West Bank, representing a broad cross section of Palestinian society, requested internationals work more actively to support Palestinian rights and specifically that those outside Palestine “promote divestment and disinvestment from Israel by international academic institutions.”

17. Ronnie Kasrils, the Jewish South African Minister of Intelligence said “The boycotts and sanctions ultimately helped liberate both blacks and whites in South Africa. Palestinians and Israelis will similarly benefit from this non-violent campaign that Palestinians are calling for.”

18. LSE played an important role in the international solidarity campaign against South African apartheid by divesting the university's funds from South Africa, supported the divestment of funds from Sudan and severed links with China after the Tiananmen massacre.

Union believes:

1. Any government that gives, as Israel does, one group of people it governs rights over another based on race, religion, ethnicity, or nationality is morally wrong and anti-democratic
2. Attacks on innocent, unarmed civilians, whether carried out by Palestinians or Israelis, are to be condemned
3. Equality and human rights should be upheld
4. The worthy goal of a lasting peace in Israel and Palestine is best served by the recognition of universal human rights and an end to the policies of separation practiced by Israel
5. Israel is wrong to have institutionalized two distinct legal regimes in the 1967 Occupied Territories, and to have created separate infrastructures for the Jewish settler and indigenous Palestinian populations, in violation of international law including the Fourth Geneva Convention. The Occupation is illegal and it should end immediately
6. Israel should cease at once the systematic discrimination against its Palestinian citizens within its 1948 borders and be a state for all its citizens
7. The Palestinians have the right to return to their homeland and receive just compensation and Israel should implement all international law that it is currently violating
8. Palestinians should have free access to their holy sites including the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
9. Student debate over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should continue, and no part of this motion should be seen as discriminating against students on the basis of their religion, nationality, or views held on Middle East relations

Union resolves:

1. Establish an LSE SU campaign to lobby the school and NUS to divest from Israel and companies that a) provide military support for or weaponry to support the occupation b) facilitate the building or maintenance of the illegal “annexation” wall or the demolition of Palestinian homes or c) operate on illegally occupied land and within Jewish-only settlements, with the goal of maintaining the divestment, in the case of said companies, until they cease such practices, and, in the case of Israel, until Israel stops its discriminatory regime and the oppression and colonization of Palestinians

2. Actively support and work with Palestine solidarity organisations such as “Jews for Justice for Palestinians” (JfJfP) , BRICUP , Zochrot , ICAHD , and PSC that campaign to stop the occupation of Palestine and to end legalized racial and religious discrimination in Israel

3. Affiliate our Union to the “the international campaign to end the siege on Gaza” and engage in education campaigns to publicize the injustice of Israel’s discriminatory policies against the Palestinians and its illegal occupation

February 15, 2008
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