Resolution passed at University of South Florida calls for divestment from Israel
A joint resolution passed on January 19 by the student government at the University of South Florida calls for the Board of Trustees of the USF Foundation to divest from six companies which are complicit in human rights violations against Palestinians.
The resolution, titled “In Support of Student Voices,” was passed 32-12 with five abstentions after three hours of debate. Along with calling for divestment from companies involved in Israel’s apartheid regime, it also demands that the Board of Trustees create a socially responsible investment policy and a committee for financial transparency which would publish quarterly reports.
Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, G4S, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrup Grumman are listed as corporations in which the university has invested funds. The text of the resolution details how these corporations “support and profit from” the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
The passage of the resolution last week comes after years of campaigning by students facing formidable opposition. In 2013, students passed a campus-wide referendum on divestment, which was then voided by the university administration.
Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of South Florida then gathered 10,000 signatures on a petition calling for socially responsible investment – the largest petition ever put forward in a Florida university. The resolution passed Tuesday contained the exact text of that petition, to ensure it was an accurate reflection of student voices.
The university once again ignored the call for divestment after discussing it for only thirteen minutes. Alan Bomstein, the board member who motioned for the dismissal of the referendum, is personally invested in Israel bonds and the Jewish National Fund, which fund the colonization of Palestine.
SJP fundraised and put up a large billboard outside of campus, which read “10,000 students silenced,” in reference to the petition which had been ignored by the administration.
When the resolution was put before the student senate this year, the university continued using confusing and antagonistic tactics to try to defeat it. They claimed that the Florida legislature was on the verge of passing an anti-BDS bill, which would make the enforcement of the resolution illegal.
Students countered that boycott and divestment have been upheld by the supreme court as legal forms of civil rights activism.
Muhammad Imam, a student senator and sponsor of the resolution, said the campaign over the past several years galvanized student opinion.
“More and more students are getting involved, more and more students representatives are taking stances,” Imam said.
Now that the referendum has been passed in the student senate, it moves to the faculty senate and the staff senate. Imam said it is up to them “whether they want to be on the right side of history, whether they want to side with their conscience, or follow in the footsteps of their predecessors.”