Friday, September 21, 2018
Opinion

Maxwell: Divestment in support of Palestinians' rights

Around the campus of the University of South Florida in Tampa, students, staff and visitors are reminded that it is an institution that promotes and exemplifies human rights.

The words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., winner of the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize, for example, are inscribed on a building: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." In other places, the campus community is told it has an obligation to "respect the dignity and intrinsic value of all persons."

As noble as those words are, members of Students for Justice in Palestine, SJP, are convinced that USF's administration and Student Government Association aren't living up to the university's noble human rights ideals and values.

Omar Erchid, public relations officer for SJP, told me that the organization wants the USF Foundation, which manages the school's $391 million endowment, "to stop investing in U.S. companies notorious for profiteering from human rights violations in Palestine."

A short list of these U.S. companies includes Hewlett-Packard, General Dynamics, Raytheon, Volvo, Boeing, General Electric, Lockheed Martin, Motorola Solutions and Caterpillar. SJP also wants USF to boycott and sanction any enterprise that enables oppression.

"The goal of SJP is to raise awareness for the plight of the Palestinians and how we, as students, can directly make a difference," Erchid said. "We believe that our mission as students living in a free democracy is to promote the cause of justice and speak out against oppression. More and more people are standing up against Israel's injustices as its occupation and expansionism in Palestine continue to intensify.

"Now, more than ever, the movement for Palestinian rights is growing all over the world, and in particular, on college campuses. SJP has become a fast-growing network of campus organizations, representing chapters all over the United States from San Francisco to New York."

During its founding in 2010, SJP leaders, all American citizens, adopted the nonviolent approach of King and Gandhi to challenge the accepted Israeli narrative about its subjugation of Palestinians.

I asked Erchid to explain why SJP has been able to gain such strong support among students.

"We helped students understand what an endowment is and how the money is invested," Erchid said. "We informed students that the $391 million endowment does not have any policy that ensures ethical investment. We helped them understand how our university's investments were hardly transparent."

Last year, when SJP asked the Student Government Association to draft a resolution expressing support for boycotting and divesting from corporations that violated Palestinian human rights, the SJP was told that if it delivered a petition with at least 1,540 signatures supporting its objectives, the SGA would put the issue on the ballot for a student vote. The signatures were obtained, but the day before the referendum a USF official advised student government to take it off the ballot and cited potential legal concerns. The referendum remained on the ballot, but days after the election the student body president emailed the student body to apologize and said the referendum wouldn't be recorded as an official SGA referendum.

This year, SJP bypassed student government and collected 10,200 signatures on a petition requesting that the foundation divest. It will present those signatures at a meeting this week with the USF Foundation.

"When students spoke with 10,000 signatures, it shows how serious students are about revising our university's endowment policies,'' Erchid said. "The Israel-Palestine question should not be dismissed. SJP at USF works towards raising awareness with the hopes of bringing about a peaceful end to the occupation with equal rights for both Palestinians and Israelis living side by side."

 

Comments
Editorial: Florida needs uniform standards for voting by mail

Editorial: Florida needs uniform standards for voting by mail

Vote by mail has been a stunning success in Florida, increasing turnout and making it easy and convenient to cast a ballot with time to research and reflect. But a new study shows that mail ballots cast by African-American, Hispanic or younger voters...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Editorial: Borrowers need protection from Marlin Financial

Editorial: Borrowers need protection from Marlin Financial

State and federal lending regulations exist to protect consumers from being surprised — and overwhelmed — by ballooning debt. Marlin Financial, a shadowy auto lender doing business around Florida, seems to be skirting those protections ...
Published: 09/21/18
Editorial: Putnam hire stinks of patronage, secrecy

Editorial: Putnam hire stinks of patronage, secrecy

In addition to a lesson on political patronage, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam needs a refresher on the particulars of state public records law.In January 2017, Putnam hired the 27-year-old son of a former Publix executive to a high-pay...
Published: 09/20/18
Editorial: Investigate first, then hold Kavanaugh confirmation vote

Editorial: Investigate first, then hold Kavanaugh confirmation vote

There should be a timely investigation of the allegation of sexual assault against Judge Brett Kavanaugh before senators hear from him and his accuser, let alone vote on whether they should confirm his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. The proces...
Published: 09/20/18
Editorial: Immigrants help to make America great

Editorial: Immigrants help to make America great

The heated debate on immigration could benefit from some more facts, which the U.S. Census has helpfully provided. And the facts show that rather than building walls, the United States would do far better to keep opening doors to legal immigrants. Th...
Published: 09/19/18
Updated: 09/20/18
Editorial: FDA acts to keep e-cigarettes from kids

Editorial: FDA acts to keep e-cigarettes from kids

The federal Food and Drug Administration is bringing important scrutiny to the increasing use of e-cigarettes, requiring companies that make and sell them to show they are keeping their products away from minors. Vaping is the new front in the nation...
Published: 09/18/18

Tuesday’s letters: Honor Flight restored my faith in America

Dogs are the best | Letter, Sept. 15Honor Flight restored my faith in AmericaJust as I was about to give up on our country due to divisiveness and and the divisions among its people and politicians, my pride was restored. As a member of the recen...
Published: 09/17/18
Updated: 09/19/18
Editorial: Senate should delay vote on Kavanaugh

Editorial: Senate should delay vote on Kavanaugh

The Senate and the nation needs to hear more about the sexual assault allegation against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Setting aside Kavanaugh's judicial record, his political past and the hyper-partisan divide over his nomination, a no...
Published: 09/17/18
Editorial: Tampa council has another chance to show it takes Stovall House changes seriously

Editorial: Tampa council has another chance to show it takes Stovall House changes seriously

The Tampa City Council has yet to hear a compelling reason to allow a private social club in a residential neighborhood off Bayshore Boulevard, and a final meeting on the matter scheduled for Thursday offers the council a chance to show the diligence...
Published: 09/14/18
Editorial: Focus on Hurricane Florence, not defending poor response in Puerto Rico

Editorial: Focus on Hurricane Florence, not defending poor response in Puerto Rico

Hurricane Florence began lashing down on the Carolinas Thursday and was expected to make landfall early Friday, washing over dunes, downing trees and power lines and putting some 10 million people in the path of a potentially catastrophic storm. Flor...
Published: 09/13/18