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US: Brown University votes to divest from businesses violating Palestinian rights

December 3, 2019 at 1:40 pm

Brown University, 17 October 2018

An advisory committee that includes faculty, students, staff and alumni yesterday voted in favor of Brown University joining the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement , which seeks to financially pressure Israel into ending the occupation of the Palestinian territories and allow full equality for its Arab-Palestinian citizens.

The Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policies (ACCRIP) voted on resolutions surrounding “ethical and moral issues or issues of alleged social harm with respect to the activities of corporations in which the University is an investor,” according to its website.

Six members of the ACCRIP voted in favour of the motion, while two alumni were against it, and one abstained from the vote.

The vote followed the non-binding referendum in March, when 69 per cent of Brown undergraduate who voted supported the same motion.

However, university President Christina Paxson issued a statement to the Brown community, writing: “Brown’s endowment is not a political instrument to be used to express views on complex social and political issues,” despite stating she would like nothing better than to see “peace, prosperity and stability for all people who live in the region.

READ: Pro-BDS event held in University of Massachusetts despite backlash

In response, more than 90 faculty published a statement that defended the student organisers who are “exercising their democratic right”, urged the university to listen to the demands of the referendum, and criticised Paxson for her “unacceptably narrow” conception of what constitutes productive student activism.

The vote by ACCRIP came after eight months of consultation and activism since the referendum, pushing the university to “divest from companies that profit from Israeli human rights abuses in the occupied Palestinian territories.”

BDS protesters [Twitter]

Demonstrators supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement [Twitter]

Last month, Brown Students for Justice in Palestine and Brown Jewish Voice for Peace hosted a panel for community members to learn about the BDS movement “beyond the headlines”.

The panel included BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti, Jewish Voice for Peace co-Executive Director Rabbi Alissa Wise and Palestinian American feminist activist and organiser Linda Sarsour, who represented their diverse work of building global solidarity with Palestinians through BDS and other campaigns.

READ: Israel lobby fakes campus anti-Semitism say US journalists

After the proposition was accepted, and the resolution passed, the ACCRIP made Brown the first Ivy League University where an advisory committee has voted for divestment from companies that are facilitating the occupation and its human rights abuses in the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip.

Student group Brown Students for Israel voiced concern over the outcome of the vote in a Facebook post. “We strongly condemn this motion,” the group wrote. “Moreover, we are appalled by the disregard and disrespect to which anti-Divest students, faculty, alumni and even ACCRIP members, were subjected in the course of today’s meeting.”

In addition, Professor of History and Judaic Studies Adam Teller argued against the divestment claiming that student group Brown Divest’s proposal was too vague to address the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Update on 05 December 2019 13:00 (GMT) clarification was added to the piece to highlight that an advisory committee voted to call for divestment and that Brown University had not passed a motion approving such action.