Renewing the Call for BDS: One Year Into Our Campaign

One year ago today, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) made a historic announcement: the launch of a Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign at Swarthmore. Our campaign calls for the college to divest from seven companies invested in the illegal military occupation of Palestine and the legal system of apartheid that exists within the Israeli state.

As reported by the United Nations in 2018, Israel imposes an apartheid state on Palestinians. Israel’s matrix of oppression, beginning with the mass displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in 1948, continues today with a military occupation that violates international law according to United Nations resolutions 446, 452, 465, 471 and 476; racist ID laws; restrictions on movement; frequent home demolitions; and the denial of the legally established right for Palestinian refugees to return to their home. That’s why we support the call that Palestinian civil society made in 2005 to boycott, divest from, and place sanctions on the state of Israel until it abides by international law.

Since we launched our BDS campaign, we’ve made incredible progress. We’ve held two rallies, three educational events, and one event with a former Israeli Occupying Forces soldier speaking about the connections between American police and the Israeli army. Most importantly, we achieved astounding support from the Swarthmore community, reaching over 1,000 signatures on our BDS petition and receiving fourteen independent letters of support for our campaign from different student groups. In March, we won the support of the Student Government Organization (SGO) as they passed a referendum for BDS. This makes Swarthmore one of close to 30 U.S. student governments that have voted for their universities to divest from Israeli apartheid. In recognition of this achievement, over thirty scholars and activists including Professor Angela Davis, Rebecca Vilkomerson, Linda Sarsour, and many others signed a letter in support of our campaign and our movement.

Despite this overwhelming support from the student body, the student government, the larger Swarthmore community, and the international community, Swarthmore College has yet to divest.

Today, on the one year anniversary of the launch of our BDS campaign, we are renewing our call to BDS. Swarthmore College, it is far past time to make a moral decision and end this institution’s financial support of Israeli apartheid. 

The seven companies outlined below help the Israeli government violate international law. 

Caterpillar supplies the Israeli army with weapons and bulldozers, which it regularly uses to extralegally demolish Palestinian civilian homes. Hyundai contracts with an Israeli group that also extralegally demolishes Palestinian civilian homes. Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Elbit Systems design the weapons and aircrafts the Israeli Occupying Force uses to commit a range of well-documented crimes against humanity in the Gaza Strip, including chemical warfare and the indiscriminate targeting of civilians. Bank Hapoalim finances the construction of illegal Isareli settlements and engages in banking discrimination against Palestinians. Hewlett Packard (HP) aids Israel in the tracking of Palestinians by issuing biometric ID cards, which enforce a system of ethnic identification and segregation. HP maintains the information system of the Israeli Prison Service, in which Palestinian political prisoners — including hundreds of minors — are subjected to torture and discriminatory treatment after their processing in the unjust military court system. To learn more about the roles these companies play, see here.

Taken together, these seven companies subcontract apartheid. These practices directly violate the UN Human Rights Norms for Business, which require “businesses to exercise due diligence regarding the source or potential uses of goods or services, and in some instances to forego business opportunities in order to avoid complicity in, or encouragement of, human rights violations.”

As an institution that professes to uphold social and ethical concern and responsibility as core values, Swarthmore College has a moral imperative to divest from Israeli Apartheid. Further, our institutional prominence and location in the United States, which contributes the largest portion of its economic and military aid to Israel, uniquely positions us to pressure our government to cease support of this regime and to set an example for other civil society bodies.

It is our moral imperative to take a stand and demand a change. 

As long as Swarthmore College is invested in these corporations, it is invested in colonization, occupation, and apartheid. Swarthmore, divest now.

Tell Swarthmore College to divest from apartheid here: