Statewide Academic Union Calls for University of Wisconsin Israel Divestment

From the www.monabaker.com archive (legacy material)

Al-Awda Wisconsin | 27 April 2005

(Madison, WI- 04/27/05) – The Association of University of Wisconsin Professionals (TAUWP) has adopted a resolution that calls on the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents to divest from companies that provide the Israeli Army with weapons, equipment, and supporting systems. TAUWP is a statewide local of the American Federation of Teachers-Wisconsin representing faculty and academic staff from 25 University of Wisconsin campuses. The resolution was passed at the TAUWP delegate assembly on April 23rd by a vote of 24 to 2, with four abstentions. Citing the precedent set by the University of Wisconsin’s elimination of investments in apartheid era South Africa, the resolution urged divestment from Boeing, Caterpillar, General Dynamics, General Electric, Lockheed Martin, Northrop-Grumman, and Raytheon ‘based on evidence of the active role these companies play in enabling Israeli forces to engage in practices that violate international law and the human rights of the Palestinian people.’ The University of Wisconsin Trust Fund’s investments in the companies specified by the resolution exceed $3.8 Million. The resolution is part of The University of Wisconsin Divest from Israel Campaign, a project led by Al-Awda Wisconsin (The Palestine Right to Return Coalition) and Alternative Palestinian Agenda in partnership with several local social justice, student, and community organizations. The campaign gained significant momentum when the Faculty Senate of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville passed a similar resolution at it’s regular meeting on January 25th 2005. The UW-Platteville senate became the first University faculty body in the United States to adopt a resolution calling for divestment from companies providing material aid to Israel. A similar resolution was adopted by the Teaching Assistant Association and called on the Board of Regents to divest from weapon manufacturers. TAUWP cited reports by independent international, Palestinian, and Israeli Human Rights organizations that document widespread war crimes and human rights violations committed against Palestinian civilians. It was pointed out that in many instances, these abuses are perpetrated using weapons and equipment manufactured by the companies identified in the resolution. Holdings in these companies are therefore contrary to the University of Wisconsin’s code of socially responsible investment, which requires the Board to divest from companies whose corporate practices or policies are discriminatory or cause substantial social injury. Caterpillar Corporation - one of the companies identified in the resolution - provides the Israeli Army with the D-9 bulldozer and other equipment used to carry out widespread and systematic demolition of Palestinian civilian homes, acts which have been classified by the UN Commission on Human Rights as war crimes. Numerous civil society institutions have recently voiced support for divestment from Israel. The Presbyterian Church (USA) has resolved to divest its portfolio from companies aiding Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands. Earlier this year, the World Council of Churches recommended that its 347 member churches and denominations follow the example of the PCUSA. Other churches such as the Anglican Church, United Methodist Church, and United Church of Christ are currently considering divesting their investment portfolios from companies with links to Israel. Several US-based labor unions, and organizations such as the National Lawyers Guild, have endorsed divestment from Israel. Last week, the Association of University Teachers, the UK’s largest lecturer’s union, voted to boycott two Israeli universities for their role in facilitating human rights violations perpetrated by the Israel government. ---END--- RESOLUTION ON UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN INVESTMENTS AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY (Adopted by The Association of University of Wisconsin Professionals, TAUWP, April 23rd, 2005) WHEREAS, American principles, values, and traditions emphasize the right of the individual to basic freedoms without regard to ethnic origin or religious affiliation and support the protection and extension of these freedoms to all peoples around the globe, and where the systematic denial of these freedoms prompted the University of Wisconsin System to affirm its commitment to socially responsible investment by divesting its holdings in Apartheid era South Africa, in accordance with investment policy 78-1; WHEREAS, independent human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, B’Tselem, Israeli Committee against House Demolitions, and Al-Haq; the United Nations Human Rights Commission, and numerous NGOs have documented serious and widespread violations of international law and the human rights of Palestinian civilians by Israeli forces operating in the West Bank and Gaza; WHEREAS the International Court of Justice has ruled that Israel's separation wall violates international law and the fundamental human rights of the Palestinians; WHREAS, there is irrefutable evidence that U.S. based companies in which the University of Wisconsin is invested provide material aid to the Israeli Army in the form of weapons, equipment, and supporting systems used to perpetrate human rights abuses against Palestinian civilians, and where knowingly continuing this support implicates these companies in practices that violate international humanitarian law; WHEREAS, In so far as the effort to divest from these companies has as its foundation a commitment to international law and the fundamental rights that belong to every human being, it lays the groundwork for a just and enduring peace and is therefore an expression of the hope for a free and secure future for every Israeli and Palestinian currently suffering under the burden of conflict. WHEREAS, the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, 22 USC sec. 2304, provides that "no security assistance may be provided to any country the government of which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights;" WHEREAS, University of Wisconsin System Regent Trust and Fund Policy 78-1 provides that “In accordance with Sec. 36.29(1) Wis. Stats., all investments "made in any company, corporation, subsidiary or affiliate which practices or condones through its actions discrimination on the basis of race, religion, color, creed or sex. . . ." shall be divested in as prudent but rapid a manner as possible.” WHEREAS, University of Wisconsin System Regent Trust and Fund Policy 97-1 (Investment and Social Responsibility) provides that “the Board acknowledges the importance of maintaining an awareness of public concerns about corporate policies or practices that are discriminatory (as defined by 36.29(1) Wis. Stats.) or cause substantial social injury, and (that) it will take this factor into account.” BE IT RESOLVED that TAUWP calls upon the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents to divest from Boeing, Caterpillar, General Dynamics, General Electric, Lockheed Martin, Northrop-Grumman, and Raytheon based Contact: Mohammed Abed, (608) 332-9900, mkabed@wisc.edu Fayyad Sbaihat, (608) 628-1943, frsbaihat@wisc.edu