Listen to your courageous students and divest from Israel – Mondoweiss

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Dear University Presidents and Chancellors,

We write to you as members of the Presbyterian Church (USA), a 300-year-old institution that divested from companies profiting from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory in 2014. We encourage you to take similar measures at your university. 

As the first mainline denomination to divest from companies involved in human rights abuses against Palestinians at a time when such a move was still controversial, Presbyterians were hesitant to take such a bold action. Today, with more than 34,000 dead in Gaza, it is not difficult to stand on the right side of history. 

We are happy to report that upon selling more than $20 million of shares in Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions, and HP, the sky did not fall, and the denomination’s $9 billion investment portfolio has remained strong. Divestment is a significant step toward liberation and equality in the Holy Land. It is a non-violent and moral tool for institutions like ours and yours. 

Our divestment action in 2014 followed a long history of the church selling off its investments in companies whose business practices ran counter to our values. Our denomination was active in the South African anti-apartheid movement, divesting from several companies that propped up the white supremacist government. We divested from all military-related companies in 1982, from tobacco companies in 1990, from for-profit prisons in 2014, and from the five biggest fossil fuel companies in 2022.

Divestment in each of these cases was possible because denominational leaders allowed constituents to vote on the matter. It was ordinary pastors and laypeople who, through a democratic process, called upon the church to divest, and the church responded. Now your students are calling on you for transparency and morally sound investing policies. Instead of inviting the police to assault and arrest them, we urge you to do the right thing and heed their call. 

Like most churches, your universities exist not simply for the sake of making a profit but rather to, each in our own way, make the world a better place. As institutions of higher education, you cannot justify investing in companies that are complicit in the Israeli military’s destruction of all twelve of Gaza’s universities. As universities with some of the best medical schools in the world, you are collecting dividends from companies that profit from Israel’s takeover and destruction of more than two-thirds of the hospitals in Gaza. How can you educate the next generation of global citizens while the companies in your endowment aid and abet the murder of more than 34,000 people, including 15,000 children? How can you offer classes on the Armenian genocide, the Nazi Holocaust, or the Rawandan genocide while your money is tied to a genocide in Gaza that is unfolding before our very eyes?

As people of faith we believe in a better way. It is not too late for you to change course and rid yourself of these deadly investments. Many times throughout our history we have needed to confess our collective sins, repent for the harm that we have helped create, and choose a better path.  

We invite you to join us in this ongoing process, a course that will help lead to a world where, in the words of the prophet Amos, “justice rolls down like water and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.” 

Join your courageous students and please divest now. 

Sincerely,

Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

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