San Diego State University, it’s time to Divest
The following op-ed was written by San Diego State University student Osama Alkhawaja
47 years ago, MLK marched along thousands of socially conscience individuals from Selma to Montgomery. This moment marked a turning point in the civil rights movement, and stands as testimony to the perseverance of MLK and the group of troublemakers walking in his shadow. Troublemakers may not be the word commonly used to describe the movers and shakers of that era, but that is indeed what they were; they were the “misfits, the rebels, the round pegs in the square holes – the ones who saw things differently.”
As students of San Diego State University, we pride ourselves in our cultural diversity; we tell the world that “Leadership Starts Here,” and this semester we have a chance to prove it, because leadership is about making the hard decisions that matter; the ones that require us to see things differently. We have a chance to be a part of history by making “Divestment Start Here,” and by joining the growing coalition of students who see something fundamentally wrong with our university profiting off of human rights abuses, 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.
This vote comes on the heels of a summer in which we all watched in horror as Israel launched a brutal military campaign against the Palestinian people. Amnesty International described the assault as a force of “callous indifference” resulting in the brutal murder of over 500 children, and as we all witnessed the disproportionate attack on a civilian population, many of us felt guilty knowing that our student government voted last year to continue to invest in the companies and corporations that were profiting off of this bloodshed. Any socially responsible student would agree that our complacency in this slaughter must end by our university divesting from the companies and corporations that made this massacre possible.
Divestment is the last hope of the Palestinian people who suffer from collective punishment, home demolitions, arbitrary arrest, restriction of movement, and unlawful death. 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 should be offered to everyone, and if there is anything that we students at SDSU can do to ensure that the Palestinians are offered the same rights that we are all so privileged to have, then we should do everything in our power to do it.
SDSU has an opportunity to pioneer this movement by being the first California State University to divest. We will be following the legacy of students in the 60’s and 70’s who called for a similar divestment resolution that resulted in the end of South African Apartheid. We recognize that we do not have to be Arab or Jewish to stand up for Palestinian rights, we just have to be human. Furthermore, granting Palestinians the right to freedom and equality does not mean taking it away from their Jewish peers, this is not a zero-sum game as human rights applies to us all.
We must stand with the 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. Over eight students orgs have already committed to ending our university’s complicity in the occupation of Palestine, and as long as the occupation continues, we must stand in solidarity with the oppressed; we must answer the call to divest.
Osama is a fourth year Computer Science student of Palestinian descent at San Diego State University. He is the current Co-Chair of Students for Justice in Palestine and is the College of Science Representative for his student government. Osama has previously served in the Student Diversity Commission of SDSU and as Vice President of the Muslim Student Association.