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Wayne State University: Govenors over turn Student Council vote to divest from Israel

Three articles on the subject, first a background piece, then the victory vote and finally the govenors over turning the vote


Divestment WSU

By Shemon Salam
The South End (official student newspaper of WSU)
26 September 2002

Across the nation, socially conscious students are pushing their respective universities to divest from Israel. The divestment campaign is now beginning at Wayne State University and is sure to bring in a slew of attacks from conservatives, Zionists and defenders of the status quo that this campaign is anti-Semitic.

The notion of the divestment campaign is very simple and precise. It stems from the divestment campaign in the '80s in South Africa. The premise is that because universities divested from South Africa since it was an apartheid state, they should likewise divest from Israel - since it, too, is an apartheid state.

The argument that Israel is an apartheid state is a convincing one, and to those who put the spectra of anti-Semitism to this article, it should be noted that at no point are Jews themselves being criticized, but instead it is the policies of the Israeli Government that are under criticism.

One quick example of how the Israeli Government disenfranchises Israeli-Arab citizens in a similar fashion that Southern states marginalized

African-Americans before the Civil Rights legislations of the 1960s is a look at how the state funds child support. This year the Israeli Knesset passed legislation that children whose parents did not serve in the army will receive a 24 percent cut in allowance from the state. Now this piece of legislation largely applies to Arab-citizens who are exempt from military service. Children of Jewish ultra-orthodox parents who do not serve in the military will also receive the cuts, but they are eligible for subsidies, including educational supplements, not available to Palestinian children.

Now lets change the names from Arab-citizens to blacks and Jews to whites and look at the reaction. If this was a Black and White issue, it would be branded as racist. So why isn't the same analysis used when it is Arabs? This was the same tactic used by the U.S. government in disempowering African Americans during the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments - give them illusionary rights on paper, but strip them of everything in practice, as it is currently being done with the Palestinian children. Zama Coursen-Neff, counsel to the Children's Rights Division of Human Rights Watch, said, "Palestinian Arab children are the poorest in Israel, with the least access to education. These cuts will disadvantage them even more."

Is it not a tactic of societies in the past been to keep the oppressed population illiterate? Isn't Israel doing exactly this - maintaining a whole generation of Palestinian children who will not be able to defend themselves in the court of law, gain economic independence, and fight for their freedom through peaceful means.

Coming back to divestment, it means in its simplest form: to disinvest. Applying this to Wayne State means pulling out the university's $21,592,000 (a figure that comes right from WSU's financial department) tied to the Israeli economy. This money is the tuition money from the students, which the university in turn invests in American companies that invest in Israel.

It is a simple strategy with a simpler focus - justice.

Locally students at Wayne State have started A.N.S.W.E.R. and a Web site (, which is a good source of information regarding socially conscious events that are going on at Wayne State, nationally, and in the Metro-Detroit area.

The following months, groups like A.N.S.W.E.R. (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism), and the Arab Student Association will be pressuring the Student Council and the administration to sell all investments tied to the Israeli government.

The campaign has already begun, but its public inauguration so to speak is on Oct. 1, where students will be rallying in front of the Undergraduate Library at 11:30 a.m. The protest will march through campus and eventually drop off a petition signed by students and concerned citizens demanding the university divest from Israel to President Irvin D. Reid in the Faculty Administration Building.

Students across the nation are standing up for justice and demanding it from their universities, that they end this racist practice of supporting unjust governments around the world. Hopefully, divesting from Israel will be the first step in fighting injustice on the road to a better world.


Student Council votes to divest from Israel

By Cheryl Labash, Detroit
Workers World Service Newspaper
May 1, 2003

The Wayne State University Student Council has demanded that the university divest all funds from and prohibit any transactions with companies that do business in Israel. The 9 to 7 vote resulted from a campaign by the Students Movement for Justice (SMJ), which was kicked off last fall at the beginning of the academic year. The WSU Student Council action appears to be the first time that a resolution proposed by this new movement in solidarity with the Palestinian people has been enacted.

UAW Local 2322 at the University of Massachusetts has passed a resolution supporting divestment and active campaigns to end the illegal Israeli military occupation of Pales tin ian land are growing on many campuses, including the state universities of North Carolina, Massa chu setts, Florida, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, California, Minnesota, Penn syl vania and Virginia, as well as Col umbia/Barnard, Rutgers, Prince ton, Tufts and Yale.

The WSU resolution points out that "Israel was a long-time, close ally" of the racist apartheid regime in South Africa overthrown by the African National Congress. It states, "African Archbishop Desmond Tutu has urged us all to divest from Israel due to its violent and humiliating apartheid policies."

In addition to the divest from Israel campaign, the SMJ has led many on-campus demonstrations against the U.S. war on Iraq. Wayne State Uni ver sity has investments in military profiteers like General Electric, Boeing, United Techno logies, Gen eral Motors and Dow Chemical, as well as the hated symbols of globalization, McDonald's and Coca-Cola.


Text of Student Resolution

"WHEREAS, the Student Council of Wayne State University has grave misgivings about financing violent ethnic cleansing, racially directed against millions of occupied Palestinian civilians, who are both innocent and helpless,

"WHEREAS, those millions of Palestinians suffer long-term malnutrition, are surrounded by Israeli army bulldozers, tanks, soldiers, and by jet bombers, all of which have killed thousands of occupied Palestinians,

"WHEREAS, on Sunday, March 16, 2003, an American college student, Rachel Corrie, was killed in plain sight, while dressed in bright orange, while waving, and while shouting at an Israeli Army bulldozer through a megaphone, by that same Israeli Army bulldozer, in the Occupied Gaza Strip,

"WHEREAS, that Israeli Army bulldozer ran her over twice,

"WHEREAS, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu has urged us all to divest from Israel due to its violent and humiliating apartheid policies,

"WHEREAS, Israel was a long-time, close ally of White Apartheid South Africa,

"WHEREAS, the Wayne State University Board of Governors ("the Board") has knowledge of University investments, including what governments our University is paying taxes to by means of investment, and has the authority to seek such information from its fund managers,

"THEREFORE IT IS RESOLVED, that we ask the Board to immediately divest (dis-invest) our university from Israel,

"THEREFORE IT IS FURTHER RESOLVED, that we ask the Board for a report this semester, on its progress in divesting the University from its investments in Israel, including divestment from all companies doing business in Israel, and divestment from all stocks and pension funds which include those companies."



WSU Board of Governors voted against divestment

Wonetha Jackson, Editor-in-Chief
The South End (official student newspaper of WSU)
May 5 2003

The Wayne State University Board of Governors unanimously voted down last week Student Council's resolution recommending the university divest funding from companies giving financing support to Israel.

WSU President Irvin Reid said last fall that he would not divest . BOG Chair Paul Massaron said the resolution lacked "non-intellectual dialogue" and is an issue the WSU student body should stay away from.

BOG member Richard Bernstein agreed, while congratulating the board for its swiftness and professionalism on voting against the resolution.

"This kind of distraction during a potentially massive budget cut is not appropriate," Bernstein said. "I feel voting for something like this makes us seem anti-semantic and many people in legislature feel the same way too. In a time of massive potential budget cuts to this university, the one thing you don't want to do is anger the legislature the appropriations committee who's voting on how much money we should receive."

Last month, the Student Council , with a nine-to-seven support, voted to adopt the resolution recommending the university divest from Israeli apartheid. The resolution stated, "the Student Council of WSU has grave misgivings about financing violent ethnic cleansing, racially directed against millions of occupied Palestinian civilians who are both innocent and helpless."

The campaign ,started in fall 2002 by WSU Students Movement for Justice, was one of hundreds operating nationally asking universities to divest funding from business that have investments in Israel.

But WSU student council was the only university in the nation that voted in support of the resolution.

With the university facing rehauling due to budget cuts, Bernstein said even considering a resolution of this manner is contrary to the needs of the student body.

"This resolution shows you how disconnected the Student Council is with the rest of the student body," Bernstein said. "Instead of voting against how the university may have to cut vital programs and resources, they are voting on resolutions that don't matter to the students that go here."

No student tuition dollars are invested. But divestment would hurt student scholarships and special programs, said John Davis, Vice President of Finance and Administration.

Davis said last month it would be difficult for WSU to divest form its investments with dozens of multinational companies, which would mean a considerable financial loss for the university.

But SMJ member Ben Duell said the passing of resolution should at least raise more student and faculty awareness on Israeli-Palestinian conflicts. "Although we do not believe, we'll be able to actually break the Israeli apartheid, we hope this could open dialogue on the issue."