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Students at University of Illinois at UC and Columbia University vote to divest from Israel

September 30, 2020
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Two campus BDS victories are indicative of the rapidly changing tide across the US

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) and Columbia University have both passed historic resolutions calling for divestment from Israel.

Last week, the Illinois Student Government passed a resolution calling for the school to divest from transnational companies that contribute to the American and Israeli military, prisons, police forces, or ICE. The resolution was first brought to the student government in February, but was originally vetoed.

“This victory means a lot to me, both as a Palestinian and as a UIUC student. There is rampant anti-Palestinian racism among students and faculty, which is emboldened and protected by the university administration,” UIUC student and resolution co-author Buthaina Hattab told Mondoweiss. “To me, this victory reinforced Palestine as central and critical to any struggle that seeks to maintain and uphold free speech and human rights.”

Hattab also drew a connection between the resolution and the current Black Lives Matter movement gripping the nation. “At the time of the resolution hearing, there was an emergency protest for Breonna Taylor at the Champaign Police Department (CPD),” she said. “Many of our allies were at the protest and actually living with the reality of injustice as we tried to pass this resolution. Passing a resolution calling for the divestment of police and military companies could not come at a more critical time in our struggle. I hope that people will realize the urgency and immediacy of divestment as police and military forces in US cities, at the Mexico-US border, and in Palestine continue to harm us.”

The student body at Columbia University passed a referendum that had been developed by Columbia University Apartheid Divest (CUAD), a group that was formed in 2016. The referendum asked, “Should Columbia University divest its stocks, funds, and endowment from companies that profit from or engage in the State of Israel’s acts towards Palestinians, that according to Columbia University Apartheid Divest (CUAD), fall under the United Nations International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid?” 

 Columbia University President Lee Bollinger immediately distanced himself from the vote and made it clear that he does not agree with the move. In a statement, Bollinger said that “altering our endowment in order to advance the interests of one side is not among the paths we will take.”

“These campus BDS victories are indicative of the rapidly changing tide we’re seeing across the United States,” the BDS Movement’s North America coordinator Olivia Katbi Smith told Mondoweiss. “Despite the escalating campaigns of repression on campuses and in the halls of government, it is becoming impossible to be ‘progressive except Palestine’, because it is becoming impossible to silence our movement. The Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality so clearly intersects with all other struggles of oppressed peoples everywhere.”


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