February 11th, 2019
Dear Brown University Undergraduates,
We are a coalition of undergraduate students who call upon the Brown University administration to divest all stocks, funds, endowment, and other monetary instruments from companies complicit in human rights abuses in Palestine including Boeing, Caterpillar, G4S, Hewlett Packard Enterprise CO, Motorola Solutions Inc., Oaktree Capital Group LLC, Textron, AB Volvo, and The Safariland Group.
Our campaign is in response to a call issued by members of the Palestinian civil society in 2005 asking “people of conscience” from around the globe to pressure the state of Israel to halt violations of international law through a movement to Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) the state of Israel. Inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, BDS is a non-violent movement that urges individuals, organizations, and countries to put economic pressure on the Israeli government until it recognizes and respects the fundamental rights of Palestinians. BDS does not propose a political solution, rather it brings awareness to Israel’s discrimination against its Arab-Palestinian citizens and devastating occupation policy.
Since 1967, the Israeli government has demolished over 48,000 Palestinian homes in the West Bank to clear land for the construction of Israeli settlements, which has been deemed a form of collective punishment and a flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Palestinians protesting for their right of return are continuously shot at from across the border fence in the besieged Gaza Strip. In response, the United Nations has condemned Israel for the use of “excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate force” against these civilians. These issues have intensified under the Trump administration, which has recently cut funding to agencies such as the WFP, UNRWA, and USAID which provide food and humanitarian assistance to Palestinian refugees.
With increasing urgency, it is clear we must take action. The #BrownDivest campaign is organized by a coalition of undergraduate students to identify and divest from companies that profit from Israeli violations of human rights. Since Brown is a private institution that does not publicize its investments, we are unaware of the extent to which Brown invests in the corporations we have listed. However, we have outlined in detail the ways in which the aforementioned companies engage in human rights violations and how they are connected to Brown. For example, Brown contracts with Caterpillar, which is the number one supplier of excavators and bulldozers used in demolitions of Palestinian homes. Hence, while we call for divestment from these companies, we are simultaneously calling for greater financial transparency from the Brown Corporation.
We believe that by supporting such companies, Brown University is complicit in crimes against Palestinians. As Brown students, we should not tolerate our university profiting off of oppression. #BrownDivest follows in the footsteps of other successful divestment campaigns that have effectively pressured the investor to withdraw investments from an institution associated with a harmful practice. In the past, Brown students have successfully rallied for divestment from the tobacco industry and the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. Even now, our peers encourage divestment from corporations that destroy environments and rely on prison labor. And yet, we remain silent on Palestine while universities across the country, including but not limited to Stanford, George Washington, NYU, University of Michigan, Tufts, University of Indianapolis, and UCLA, have passed resolutions calling for divestment from Palestinian suffering. The time has come for us to oppose our University’s investment in the disenfranchisement, displacement, and death of Palestinians.
The Brown Divest campaign aims to structure these collective concerns raised by the undergraduate student community at Brown and present them to the Undergraduate Council of Students (UCS) in late February. If the UCS members vote in favor of holding a referendum on the #BrownDivest demands, then the undergraduate student community will vote on divestment in the UCS general election. Leading up to the vote, we strive to engage the campus in critical and informed conversation on the situation in Palestine. We will host a number of prominent guests over the next few weeks who will help raise awareness through lectures, workshops, and panel discussions. Although our campaign is explicitly directed towards violations of Palestinian human rights, we hope to raise important questions on the intersectionality of different resistance movements. In doing so, we seek to elevate the struggles of marginalized communities fighting institutional oppression near and far.
So join us in planning this campaign, stand in solidarity with this cause, and ask your friends to vote for divestment!