Letters of Support

Jewish Voice for Peace, Twin Cities Chapter

Letter in Support of Students for Justice in Palestine 

Regarding Divestment

To:  The Minnesota Student Association

From:  Jewish Voice for Peace, Twin Cities Chapter

Date:  February 6, 2016

Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) is a national organization that opposes anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim, and anti-Arab bigotry and oppression.  JVP seeks an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem; security and self-determination for Israelis and Palestinians; a just solution for Palestinian refugees based on principles established in international law; an end to violence against civilians; and peace and justice for all peoples of the Middle East. Jewish Voice for Peace is a diverse and democratic community of activists inspired by Jewish tradition to work together for peace, social justice, and human rights. We support the aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians for security and self-determination.  JVP, as an organization, supports the 2005 call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) by Palestinian civil society organizations.  

Locally, the Twin Cities chapter of JVP supports the initiative brought forth by the Students for Justice in Palestine in petitioning the Minnesota Student Association to heed the BDS call.

As Jews of conscience, we take issue with companies that profit from human rights abuses and the illegal military occupation of Palestinian land.  We also feel it is the duty of communities to take these companies to task.  We applaud the students who have researched the investments made by their university, have found them to be unconscionable, and have therefore decided to use their democratic power to encourage the University of Minnesota Investment Office to fully divest from these corporations.

These students are creating the opportunity for the U of M Investment Office to consider what kind of corporate investments support a healthier, vibrant society for all.  Society at large benefits from the courage of these students, who envision a world that respects humanity and the planet.  

Amnesty International UMN

We, the members of Amnesty International UMN, stand in support of UMN Divest and their resolution to end the complicity of the University of Minnesota in the subjugation of the Palestinian people. We are part of an organization seeks to end human rights abuses around the world. By supporting the call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against perpetrators of crimes against humanity, we can come closer to achieving that goal. It is also our duty to use our power as students to hold our institution accountable for its investments and the implications thereof.

The UMN Divest resolution lists four companies directly involved in the imposition of the crime of apartheid and other human rights abuses: Caterpillar, Elbit Systems, G4S, and Raytheon. It is morally abhorrent that the University of Minnesota has financially supported companies that violate international law and abuse human rights for so long. Amnesty International UMN proudly stands with UMN Divest in their mission to right the wrongs of our institution.

Minnesota Break the Bonds Campaign 

Letter of Support for Divestment Resolution

To:  The Minnesota Student Association

From:  Minnesota Break the Bonds Campaign

Date:  January 29, 2016

Minnesota Break the Bonds is a statewide organization with a long history of activism on behalf of Palestinian rights following the 2005 call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) by Palestinian civil society organizations.  In particular, we have been instrumental in petitioning the State Board of Investment to divest its Israel bonds since 2009.  Thus, we are engaged in activity that parallels what is being advocated here.

We know from this long experience that it takes time and effort to bring about political change and thus we strongly support the efforts of the petitioners to the Minnesota Student Association to push forward the issue of Palestinian rights.  We know, too, from our experience that there are entrenched vested interests that would prefer to maintain the status quo.  Thus, we applaud the courage of these members of the MSA for challenging these interests.

Institutions of higher education more than any other educational entities have a responsibility to go beyond technical training to raise issues of values for the academic community to consider and reflect on.  For this reason all ideas and opinions must be given opportunity for thorough consideration and debate in a democratic fashion if the university is truly to touch the universal.  Human rights is surely one of these universals.

Fiduciary responsibility is not just a matter of maximizing monetary resources.  Students will gratefully remember any grant or scholarship they receive to help them through their four years in school.  But they will take with them for all their lives the values they learn and learn to act on.

Minnesota Break the Bonds strongly supports the resolution that calls on the University of Minnesota Investment Office to divest fully from companies that engage in human rights abuses and violations of international law.

Black Student Union

We, the Black Student Union at the University of Minnesota, are writing to express our formal endorsement of UMN Divest and the push for University of Minnesota to Divest from the following corporations: Caterpillar, Elbit Systems, G4S, and Raytheon. As the representative body of Black students on campus, we fight for the protection of civil and human rights against the abuses of racist, oppressive governments who use surveillance, policing, and extreme violence against minority populations within their borders. As activists, we recognize that systems of oppression are linked across oceans and country lines. Therefore, we are unable to ignore the similarities between the struggles of our people here in the U.S. and that of our Palestinian brothers and sisters abroad. We vehemently denounce the actions of Israel, and see BDS as an important tactic to force the hand of justice. As such, we support the Students for Justice in Palestine and stand with them as they ask that the Minnesota Student Association pass the proposed resolution to call for the Divestment from the aforementioned companies that allow this violence to continue.

American Indian Student Cultural Center

We, the American Indian Student Cultural Center at the University of Minnesota support UMN Divest’s mission to protect the human rights of Palestinians, and to eliminate any complicity our university has in human rights abuses internationally. As students, we want the University of Minnesota Investment Committee and any other responsible bodies authorized to make investment decisions divest fully from the companies mentioned in the UMN Divest resolution due to the profiting from human rights abuses and violations of international law, within the bounds of their fiduciary responsibility, until the mentioned companies cease to enable the human rights violations identified in the UMN Divest resolution.

Queer Student Cultural Center

The QSCC stands with Students For Justice In Palestine in respect to their request that the University of Minnesota divest in corporations which have violated human rights. In the interest of financial neutrality, the QSCC would urge the University of Minnesota to cease financial support of these businesses.

Minnesota Public Interest Research Group

The Minnesota Public Interest Research Group is a grassroots, nonpartisan, nonprofit, student-directed organization that empowers and trains students and engages the the community to take collective action in the public interest throughout the state of Minnesota. Just as we support efforts to divest from fossil fuels and private prisons, MPIRG fully supports Divestment from companies complicit in human rights violations in Palestine to ensure adherence to University of Minnesota’s Socially Responsible Investment Policy. MPIRG believes that student dollars should be invested in areas that represent the mission set forth by the University and that truly represents the ideals of the student body.

Lisa Albrecht, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Founder, Social Justice Undergraduate Minor & Morse-MN Alumni Association Distinguished Professor of Teaching

February 25, 2016

TO: Students for Justice in Palestine and Hillel

FROM:  Lisa Albrecht, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Founder, Social Justice Undergraduate Minor & Morse-MN Alumni Association Distinguished Professor of Teaching

RE:  My support for U of MN Divestment

I am unable to be present at the Hillel-led panel discussion about the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) Movement since I will be in the hospital recuperating from surgery.  I write this as a faculty member at the U of MN, and an American Jew who supports the BDS movement against the Israeli government.  

U of MN faculty supported the movement to end South African apartheid several decades ago.  The original BDS movement was a way to non-violently challenge South African racist policies.  We succeeded, as I hope we will in the struggle for Palestinian self-determination.  Palestinian civil society social justice groups have asked countries around the world, as well as financial institutions, educational  institutions and non-profit social justice organizations to stand against the Israeli government’s policies of hate against the peoples of Palestine.

I am an American Jew who stands with many other American Jews.  We are not self-hating, nor are we anti-semitic or anti-Jewish.  We love ourselves as Jews, which is why I am honored to support Palestinians, other Arabs and Muslims, and many others on this campus that support the U of MN’s divestment of any Israeli bonds that the U has invested in. 

When the Israeli government speaks as if it “represents” all Jews around the world, I am offended.  When the Israeli government kills unarmed Palestinians, when it pushes Palestinians off their own lands, and when the Israeli government characterizes all Palestinians (and other Arab peoples) as people who hate Jews and Israel, it is extraordinarily painful for me as a Jew to support the Israeli government.  Just as I have a right as a U.S. citizen to criticize this country’s oppressive and racist public policies, I have a right as a Jew to critique Israeli government policies.  My tax dollars already support Israeli government policies of violence.  I do not want any U of MN investments to support the Israeli government. It is not anti-Jewish or anti-semitic to criticize the state of Israeli’s racist policies directed at Palestinians.  Jews who unequivocally support Israel and claim that any criticisms of Israel are anti-semitic are wrong.

I urge the U of MN (as well as the state of Minnesota), to stand for justice for all people because an injustice toward one is an injustice to all.  Divest now from any investments in companies that support the Israeli economy, and in Israeli bonds.  As a Jew, I want to be proud once again of the U.S., the state of Minnesota and the U of MN for taking public stands against the violence perpetuated by the Israeli government.

University of Minnesota Alumni 

Recently a group of UMN students have organized UMN Divest, a campaign to divest from four companies that profit off of Israel’s human rights violations in its illegal occupation of Palestine; Raytheon, Elbit Systems, G4, and Caterpillar. We, the Alumni, offer the following letter in support of their efforts.

 Horrific images from the summer of 2014 in Gaza remain ingrained in the memories of millions around the world: Israel’s constant and aggressive bombardment overtook Gaza; neighborhoods reduced to rubble; bombed hospitals, schools, and UN shelters; disproportionate killings  amounting to more than 1500 civilians dead in Gaza, six in Israel. Opinion polls in the US suggested the recurring violence needed to end and a diplomatic solution was necessary in order to establish peace between both entities. However, it is difficult to advance towards peace when the oppressed, with limited resources, are confined to aggressive policies continuously imposed upon them. Meanwhile, their oppressors are protected by a strong military and the U.S. government.

 Although negotiations and cease fires take place, the occupation remains continuous. Numerous checkpoints have been established throughout the occupied territories and between borders that prevent Palestinians from traveling freely to go to work and school. Often times children are indefinitely detained, imprisoned and tortured. Much like adults, children are met with hostile Israeli soldiers that use aggressive tactics against them during nonviolent protests and marches. Israeli soldiers indiscriminately target fisherman, farmers, and unarmed protesters. Agricultural land is often subject to burnings and vandalisms and calorie-restricted “diets” for Gazans under siege are imposed by Israeli policies. Palestinians will often face water shortages while Israelis enjoy abundant amounts of water in which they can drink and bathe in regularly. When violence comes to a halt, neither Israelis or Americans see much of the occupation as is and are often blinded by constant misinformation regarding the conflict.

 The reality is that Palestinians live amidst constant, structural violence. They lay besieged by a country founded and established upon mass murder and exploitation and are viewed as a demographic threat. The overwhelming presence of settlements and checkpoints and Israel’s control of land and space have left Palestinians little space to find peace. While Israel is constantly imposes its systematic oppression under the pretext of self-defense, Palestinians remain subjected to Israel’s apartheid system and are loosing any sense of optimism.

This is where BDS comes in. As the movement against South African Apartheid expanded, so too did the international call from Palestinian civil society to resist occupation and injustice. As the University of Minnesota remains continuously invested in corporations contributing to the on-going occupation, it is to be held responsible and regarded as complicit in human rights abuses and war crimes. As previous students and now alumni, it is disappointing to know that our former university has violated its own policies of ethical conduct and integrity and now remains inconsistent with its socially responsible investments. If we look back, there were days where people defended South Africa. They asked those who worked tirelessly to end this injustice why they singled it out, much like we are asked today. They labeled it as the region’s only democracy, as Israel is labeled today.

Eventually, the injustices that were happening around the world did not allow us to overlook the human rights violations of South Africa and today, it should not allow us to overlook those of Israel.

Among many misconceptions regarding the BDS movement, some claim BDS incites to hatred against Jewish Israelis and perpetuates anti-semitism. Yet divestment is not an indictment of all Israelis or Jews but a nonviolent grassroots movement against the aggressive policies of the Israeli government/military and in support of basic human rights.  As we seek to put an end to human rights abuses against Palestinians, the most practical approach in doing so would be to divest from arms manufacturers, engineering tools and bulldozers routinely used in the demolition of Palestinian homes, refugee camps, water cisterns, and agricultural fields in the West Bank and Gaza and to ensure that our university adheres to its own policies of socially responsible investments. Furthermore, each of the four companies listed in the resolution is linked to war crimes and human rights violations in the occupied territories carried out by Israel. As history has proven, peace talks and negotiations are distractions to the real issue at hand: humans rights  violations and illegal land theft. The power dynamics have never allowed the oppressed a voice in dialogue. How can a people that fear for their lives and safety be expected to sit equally to their oppressors and discuss peace? Peace that was not offered when their children were labeled “collateral damage”? Or when their homes that predate the existence of Israel were being demolished? So to those that oppose divestment: are human lives and their safety less important than our own comfort?

 Thirty years ago the University of Minnesota decided  to divest from companies complicit in South Africa’s racist policies. Let our voices be heard and call on the University of Minnesota to stand on the side of justice. Let us hope that our university heeds the words of Nelson Mandela, who said, “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”