Letter to the Editor: Divestment calls for justice

by Osama Alkhawaja

Editor’s note: This letter to the editor is written by the co-president of Students for Justice in Palestine addressing the divestment campaign and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

As students of San Diego State University, we pride ourselves in our cultural diversity; we tell the world that “Leadership Starts Here.”

This semester we have a chance to prove it, because what is leadership but making the decisions that matter; the ones that are difficult to make, because they require us to see things differently.

Students supporting divestment envision a better world in which our university doesn’t make money off other people’s oppression. By acknowledging there is something fundamentally wrong with our university profiting off of human rights violations, we will have made the ethical choice. By lending our voice to call on our university to divest from any companies that enable and sustain the illegal military occupation of the Palestinian people, we will have heeded the call for justice.

Last summer, on TV and computer screens across America, we were all reminded of the brutal realities of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. We watched in horror as Israel launched a vicious military campaign against the Palestinian people, killing over 500 children in an assault described by Amnesty International as a force of “callous indifference.”

This disproportionate attack on civilians was made possible by our university’s continued investment in companies and corporations that supply and enable the Israeli army to continue to operate under complete impunity. Any socially responsible student would agree that our complacency in this violence must end and that the moral thing to do is to divest.

Divestment seeks to help the Palestinian people who suffer from egregious human rights violations, including the crimes of collective punishment, home demolitions, arbitrary arrest, restriction of movement, and unlawful death. In return, they have called on the international community to take peaceful action in the form of Divestment until they are guaranteed equal rights, freedom from occupation, and a right to return to their homes. These are not strange or alien demands; these are basic human rights that as Americans should resonate quite deep within all of us. We have a chance as students of SDSU to stand up for these rights and demand justice for all. Dozens of universities across the nation, including seven universities in our sister UC system, have already made their voices heard in this movement and it is our turn to do the same.

This year, the divestment resolution will be in the form of a referendum, meaning all students will get to vote on whether or not our university will continue to be invested in companies profiting off war crimes.

This movement asks that we stand with the persecuted Palestinian people, who have long been the victims of belligerent oppressors and silent observers. The former has been a direct result of the diplomatic and military backing of the United States, and the latter is in the form of institutions, such as our university, that have chosen to continue to provide the weapons and technology necessary to sustain the illegal occupation. Prior to the recent assault on Gaza, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made clear his refusal to accept Palestinian self-determination in the West Bank. Following the 50-day massacre, Israel announced that it would defy international law and seize another 1,000 acres of Palestinian land in the West Bank for future illegal settlements and issued eviction notices to Palestinians residing there.

Only international pressure can compel Israel to accept the just demands of the Palestinian people and passing divestment at SDSU can help increase this pressure. We must stand in solidarity with the oppressed; we must answer the call to divest.