CU is continuing its investments in Israel, despite attempts by a group in support of Palestine to persuade the university to divest.
On Wednesday, Nov. 9, the CU Board of Regents voted to continue investments with companies that operate in Israel. The Board of Regents voted 6-1 to continue their support of the CU treasurer’s office and keep the investments in place.
CU-Divest, a grassroots movement started by CU graduate Michael Rabb, has been working to encourage the CU system to divest from companies that operate in Israel. The group says that these companies should be divested from because they profit from Israel’s apartheid of Palestine.
Ken McConnellogue, vice president of communication and spokesperson for the CU system, said that the Board of Regents considered the request to divest and asked for the opinion of the treasurer.
“They’ve decided that they’re comfortable with the direction that the university has taken with its investments,” McConnellogue said.
In a letter to the editor of the Daily Camera, Rabb wrote that his organization had “collected more than 2200 signatures on a petition demanding the University divest from companies like Caterpillar, Motorola, Northrop Grumman and Veolia – companies that support and profit from Israel’s apartheid of Palestine.”
Mottsim Alkhawaja, a 29-year-old senior economics major, said he saw members of CU-Divest asking people to sign their petition at a talk given by Noam Chomsky in April, and has been involved with the group ever since.
“This conflict is something that I was raised with, it has been there my whole life,” Alkhawaja said. “If you go to the Middle East, everybody is always watching it, always talking about it. But since I came to the states I feel like I’m actually able to do something about it — nothing political, just peaceful. I’m not a terrorist.”
Alkhawaja identifies as Palestinian, though has never been allowed to enter the area because he does not have the correct papers. He said that many other Palestinian families have the same problem, which is why they so actively pursue a peaceful solution.
“CU-Divest is trying to support Obama’s solution, which is pushing Israel to go back to the 1976 borders,” Alkhawaja said. “We support the two-state solution, but the Israeli government is making this almost impossible by building a bunch of settlements. We want peace for Palestinians, and we want peace for Israelis. We just want to stop illegal things from happening, and we want to stop apartheid.”
The conflict between Israel and Palestine has left many divided on the issue. Some students in support of Israel say that claims of apartheid and illegal settlement building are false.
Josh Siegel, a 19-year-old sophomore finance major and president of CU Students for Israel, said that he does not consider events in Israel to be apartheid.
“I think that calling anything that’s happening in Israel right now apartheid is just largely disrespectful to people from South Africa,” Seigel said. “The fact that that kind of rhetoric is being used is why Israel is losing the [public relations] war. And that’s really the battle that Israel is fighting. They’re fighting PR more than they’re fighting terrorists every single day.”
CU has chosen to divest twice in the past, once from Sudan in 2006, when many said that genocide was occurring, and once from South Africa in the 1980s, during the apartheid. In both cases, student protests brought about the decision to divest.
Though there are differing opinions about whether or not the conflict between Israel and Palestine can be called apartheid, the CU system does not see its decision as a vote either way.
“I don’t see this as any kind of referendum as far as the university taking sides in a political issue,” McConnellogue said.
Seigel said that he was never worried that the Board of Regents would vote to divest from Israel.
“The fact that this issue is so polarizing right now, and will always be, makes it a situation that the University of Colorado will never take a stance on,” Seigel said. “It’s arguably on par with saying that CU is just going to become pro-life tomorrow. It won’t happen.”
Alkhawaja expressed similar sentiments about the board’s decision to continue investments.
“Personally, I didn’t have big expectations that they were going to do it,” Alkhawaja said. “It’s disappointing, but we’re not going to stop trying. This is not the end.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Hadley Vandiver at Hadley.firstname.lastname@example.org.