This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Dear SJP Members and Friends, I am proud and honored to support the student-initiated movement to divest the University of California of its shares in firms that support Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank. We all know that companies such as HP, Caterpillar, Cement Roadstone Holdings, General Electric, and others provide electronic and data services to maintain checkpoints, materials to build the illegal “apartheid wall,’ bulldozers that are used to demolish Palestinian homes and olive groves in violation of international law, and weapons systems that are used against Palestinians in violation of our own Arms Export Control Act prohibiting the use of U.S. weapons and military aid against civilians. I applaud your efforts as a proud graduate of UCLA (PhD 1987), and a faculty member concerned about human rights and social justice. Exactly thirty years ago, as a graduate student, president of UCLA’s African Activist Association, and chair of the Los Angeles Ad Hoc Committee to Keep South Africa Out of the Olympics, I added my voice to the movement calling on the University of California to divest its holdings from apartheid South Africa. This was my generation’s “Boycott, Sanctions, Divestment” moment, and many of us put our bodies on the line building makeshift shanty towns on campus and sitting in at the South African Consulate in Beverly Hills. We supported the call for boycott and divestment from South African activists and organizers representing a broad spectrum of civil society—trade unionists, youth groups, political organizations, cultural workers, etc. The movement was not popular at first, but we educated our community, built momentum, and by the summer of 1986 succeeded in persuading the U.C. Regents to divest its $3.1 billion worth of holdings from South Africa and Namibia. Although it took nine years, and the University of California took longer to divest than most major banks (including Citibank, Chase Manhattan, and Barclays), its leaders ultimately decided to abide by the wishes of the students and faculty and take an ethical stance against apartheid. Three decades later, we are asking the University of California to uphold the principles that led to their historic 1986 decision. We understood then – and now—that apartheid did more than strip black South Africans of voting and civil rights. The regime dispossessed Africans from their land, and through legislative and military acts, razed entire communities and transferred Africans to government townships and Bantustans. It was a system of racial classification and population control that limited the movement of Africans in towns and cities, denied them social and economic privileges based on race, outlawed organizations that challenged the apartheid state, and used violence and detention to suppress opposition. Israel has been practicing a form of apartheid since its inception. After destroying some 380 Palestinian villages, and ethnically cleansing Palestinian towns and neighborhoods in mixed cities in 1948, confiscating land without compensation, Israel passed The Absentees’ Property Law (1950), effectively transferring all property owned or used by Palestinian refugees to the state, and then denied their right to return or reclaim their losses. The land grab continued after the 1967 war and military occupation of Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. In violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories have expanded exponentially since
1967. Currently, there are over 500,000 settlers living in the West Bank, and at least 43% of the land has been allocated to settler regional and local councils, and therefore is off-limits for Palestinian use. Furthermore, the most recent violent racist attacks on African immigrants in Israel represent some of the worst examples of human rights violations. Some 60,000 undocumented workers, many having fled war-torn or economically devastated countries such as Sudan and Eritrea, are denied refugee status, subject to deportation and imprisonment for up to a year without trial, and endure horrifying violence from racist mobs. The South African experience proves that peace and reconciliation is possible, but can not be achieved without justice, nor will it be achieved as long as we continue to financially support a regime that violates international law with impunity. The occupation is illegal, it perpetuates more than a half century of dispossession, it does not serve the interests of the majority of Israeli citizens, and it is costing American citizens some three billion dollars a year. The University of California, a leading global light in public higher education, should not profit from occupation and dispossession. Divest Now! Peace and Solidarity, Robin D. G. Kelley, PhD Gary B. Nash Professor of American History UCLA