Sep 9, 2010

#BDS: Divestment: from the campus to the streets

Following a sharp increase in divestment efforts across North American college campuses last spring, this academic year promises an even greater number of initiatives. The success and near-success of efforts at several campuses last year, coupled with Israel's attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla this summer, has inspired new efforts among peace and justice activists to target companies that profit from and abet Israel's apartheid regime.

Perhaps the largest divestment initiative is taking shape in California. The California Israel Divestment initiative is seeking to put a ballot measure to California voters that requires the state pension funds, the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS), to divest from companies enabling or profiting from Israeli occupation and systematic violations of Palestinians' human rights. Although not a university-based effort, it is being led in large part by faculty members and students. Their goal is clear: faced by stonewalling from university administrations, the case is being taken directly to California voters.

Students from the University of California (UC) and California State (CSU) campuses are coordinating a major drive to collect the 440,000 signatures required for the ballot initiative, and the list of volunteers keeps growing. The initiative has already received the support of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, Professor Noam Chomsky, a number of other public and religious figures, and CalPERS and CalSTRS members.

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