Monday evening, the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Undergraduate Student Government (USG) passed a divestment resolution unanimously.
The resolution which demands the university divest from five major corporations—Caterpillar, G4S, Hewlett Packard (HP), Boeing, and Lockheed Martin—was proposed Feb. 7. The UIC Divest coalition led the campaign to get the resolution passed.
The businesses UIC Divest targeted encourage the occupation of Palestine by directly working with Israel to suppress Palestinians. For example, Caterpillar equipment is used for the construction of illegal Israeli settlements and destruction of Palestinian homes. Lockheed Martin is used for security systems at checkpoints, which humiliate and diminish Palestinians while they travel within the territories.
Students at UIC began planning a divestment campaign during the Spring 2015 semester, but things got serious last fall. Student for Justice in Palestine at UIC members were concerned about organizing a Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. But those concerns were squashed when 24 student organizations agreed to support the movement and more than 500 students signed the pro-BDS UIC petition in three days.
The opposition’s petition barely reached 250 signatures and was deemed invalid because it included the signatures of non-UIC students. Both petitions were presented at the proposal on Feb. 7.
The proposal took three hours to be presented and ended with a heated debate between the members of UIC’s USG.
Zionist students claimed the call for divestment from companies that do business with Israel discriminatory against Jewish students because the university is invested in many companies that violated human rights that are not involved with Israel. In response to UIC Divest’s campaign, pro-Israel students created the UIC Coalition for Peace, which stated in its petition that BDS “does not promote peace between the Israeli and Palestinian people but instead promotes discrimination.”
UIC Divest members have received “menacing” threats, according to spokesperson Manar Daghash. Because of their fear of being targeted on campus, core members have removed their names from social media.
Students who speak up on behalf of Palestinians on UIC’s campus have been met with even similar opposition in the past. Last semester, SJP UIC members received death threats, after a pro-Palestinian action members held on campus.
In order to combat the criticism, members are “transparent and clear in our actions in order so that we may promote dialogue and peace throughout our campus community and minimize the misunderstandings that may otherwise occur,” Daghash said. She credits the “overwhelming support from students, faculty, alumni, community members” for USG passing the divestment resolution unanimously.
More information on the UIC Divest campaign can be found here.