Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights at Portland State University pass divestment

Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights (SUPER) helped pass a resolution at Portland State University, which called for divestment from several companies complicit in Israeli apartheid.

The resolution, proposed last spring by SUPER, calls for divestment of university funds from four companies complicit in the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land: G4S, Hewlett Packard, Motorola, and Caterpillar. The companies are popular targets for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns because of their documented involvement in violations of Palestinian human rights, such as home demolitions, surveillance, and the prison-industrial complex.  

“These four companies aren’t only responsible for human rights violations in Palestine, but all over the world,” SUPER explained in a press release. “They are also involved in the U.S. prison system, immigration and human rights violations all around the globe.”

The resolution passed with an overwhelming majority of 22-2 with one abstention.

However, the campaign for divestment came with serious opposition from well-funded national and international pro-Israel groups. StandWithUs, an international organization dedicated to influencing and shutting down critical discourse of Israel on university campuses, acknowledged the involvement of these groups in the counter-campaign in a statement after the vote.

“We are also proud of the work we did with the ICC, Hillel International, Greater Portland Hillel, and the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland to support these efforts on the ground. We look forward to continuing these partnerships into next year and beyond, as we help to build a thriving pro-Israel community at PSU,” StandWithUs’ statement read.

Resolutions submitted to student senate must first be approved by a committee. International affairs committee members revoked their support of SUPER’s resolution at the last minute after facing backlash from Zionist groups for their original cooperation. The students had to submit it to another committee, sustainability, which supported its submission.

SUPER member Dana Mustafa says outside actors also came to the senate meetings where the resolution was discussed.

“Organizations that had nothing to do with Portland State whatsoever were coming and speaking against it, and kept pushing it back, and were working with some of the senators about certain bylaws,” according to Mustafa.

The student-run campaign was even attacked by the university administration itself, when President Wim Wiewel released a statement in June calling the resolution “divisive” and linking it to “anti-Semitism” before the student body had a chance to vote.

But Mustafa says that SUPER, which has a solid foundation and many active alumni and community members, is simply looking forward to continuing to raise awareness on campus, regardless of outside pressure.  

“Just because we passed this, we’re not done,” she says.

Cara Piraino

Cara Piraino is a student at the University of Chicago studying Arabic and the modern Middle East. She is an active member of UChicago Students for Justice in Palestine.

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