If it passes out of committee, a resolution calling on the University of Washington to divest from a host of corporations that backers say are complicit in human rights violations by Israel in the Palestinian territories—Motorola, HP, and Caterpillar among them—will be up for a vote by the full student senate tonight.
Here's the resolution itself, which comes out of the global Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement. It has two co-sponsors: Peter Brannan, a biochemistry and sociology senior, and Amira Mattar, a Palestinian-American political science major.
Brennan says "the majority of the members" are on the fence. But there's clearly two passionate factions on either side, complete with dueling Facebook pages (1, 2) over the resolution, each with hundreds of likes. Note that it's hard to know how many of those are from UW students themselves.
In an op-ed last month in The Daily, the UW's student newspaper, divestment opponent Nathan Taft echoed the standard set of pro-Israel talking points, arguing that a) Israel does a lot of great things and b) why is the resolution specifically about Israel when there are worse human rights offenders out there?
In response, Brennan dug up a 1968 op-ed in the very same newspaper that makes virtually the same arguments about apartheid South Africa. It touted South Africa's relatively literacy rates, and then asked, "Why shouldn't we be boycotting Rhodesia?" UW finally divested itself from South Africa in 1989.
A resolution condemning Israel for its settlement policies, its separation wall, and its violent assaults on the Gaza Strip—and using that condemnation to justify its call for divestment—doesn't preclude any other criticism of human rights violators, Brennan told me (nor does it condemn the people of Israel).
You need to start somewhere. And some campuses already have. The UC Berkeley student senate approved a similar resolution last year.
If you need a reminder of the sheer brutality of Israel's occupation of Palestinian lands, just look at this surveillance video released by the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem today. After the 1:20 mark, it shows the death of 17-year-old Nadim Nawara, during a demonstration in the West Bank on May 15:
The Israeli army says it didn't use live ammunition, but B'Tselem "obtained medical opinions regarding the entry and exit wounds found in the bodies"—another boy was killed in the exact same way, and it's also caught on video—"which are completely consistent with injuries caused by live fire and could not have been caused by rubber-coated metal bullets—especially not when fired at a relatively long range, as was the case here."
UPDATE: The resolution failed.