A national movement behind a campaign calling for institutional divestment of stock in companies with ties to the Israeli military is under relentless attack on a multitude of issues that leaves out divestment itself. Critics shy away from debating divestment for the lack of a case for those who oppose it. In reality, divestment is the way out for Palestinians and Israelis, and has been proven successful in South Africa, India and other locales facing struggles.
The Palestine Solidarity Movement is an umbrella coalition of diverse organizations from across North America dedicated to putting an end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The PSM is preparing for its fourth annual conference slated to take place in mid-October on the campus of Duke University in Durham, N.C.
The conference and its organizers have been under a verbal attack starting several weeks before the conference was announced earlier this summer. Amusingly, none of the attacks or critiques has been focused on the conferences message: divestment. Rather, critics resorted to personal attacks on conference affiliates and mysterious allegations linking the group to violence.
Decades of state-led diplomacy to solve the conflict have proven to be futile. The successive resolution proposals led by the United Nations, United States and the European Union failed to recognize the root cause of the bloodshed and attempted to treat some symptoms without dealing with disease, the Israeli occupation. The monopoly maintained over the hypothetical peace process preempted the grassroots participation in it, neither by the Palestinians and Israelis, nor concerned individuals around the world. It also allowed special interest groups and powerful Washington lobbies to dictate the course of such initiatives and proposals.
Divestment is potentially the most effective non-violent tactic that would prepare the atmosphere for peaceful resolution, where the outcome is not dictated by military might. It calls for institutions, starting with universities, to sell off their stocks in companies that provide the Israeli army with weaponry that are used to kill innocent civilians and violate the basic livelihood of the others.
Caterpillar is among the foremost companies targeted in the divestment campaign for its Israeli military contracts. Caterpillar, primarily an agricultural and mining equipment supplier, provides the Israeli army with a bulldozer known as D-9. This massive, two-story high machine is designed exclusively for the Israeli Army to operate in densely civilian-populated areas. It has been used to demolish thousands of Palestinian homes, including much of the Jenin refugee camp in 2002, making thousands homeless, and burying many under the ruins of their homes. Other Caterpillar equipment is used to build Israel’s apartheid wall on Palestinian land, seizing much of the land, and uprooting thousands of olive trees.
In the late ’70s and early ’80s, students were the backbone of anti-apartheid, divestment movement across America that helped bring an end to the apartheid regime of South Africa. Similarly, students across the U.S., heeding the calls of the likes of anti-apartheid icon, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, are rising to lift the injustices off of yet another oppressed nation.
An increasing number of diverse, civil society organizations and institutions are recognizing the need for divestment as the only promising strategy to end the misery of both peoples. The general assembly of the Presbyterian Church, held this summer, resolved to divest the church’s holdings in companies doing business with Israel upward of $1 million. Weeks later, the 115-nation Non-Alignment Movement, the largest political body outside the United Nations, decided to call on its member nations to impose sanctions on companies contributing to Israel’s construction of the apartheid wall. In addition, last week the United Nations Conference of Civil Society in Support of the Palestinian People, which primarily bought national and international NGO’s together, issued a statement calling for placing embargo on Israel and threatened of divestment from companies doing business in the Jewish state.
Divestment is not only to protect Palestinians, but the Israelis and the world alike. Just like it saved white colonialists in South Africa from the reprisal of the oppression they inflicted on the natives of the land, it will end the bloodshed of many Israelis and save them from the madness of their army generals, be them in the ranks of the military or the Prime Minister’s office. Beyond ending of the apartheid-like regime against the Palestinians, divestment is about restoring the long-lost respect to the United States in the international arena.
Now is the time that you take charge and stand for what’s right. Divestment is your peaceful way to put an end to the suffering of both peoples.
Fayyad Sbaihat (