On June 5, the final day of the semester for students at Arizona State University, the Undergraduate Student Government unanimously passed a bill demanding the university to divest from companies that provide material or financial support to Israel’s military and to the genocidal regime in Darfur. Mondoweiss first reported the story. Lina Bearat, President of the Students for Justice in Palestine at Arizona State and a Student Government senator, helped lead the charge for this divestment bill. Here, she outlines the bill’s purpose and its importance, especially as it relates to movements outside of the Israel-Palestine spectrum.
Guest contribution by Lina Bearat
This victory was not just a victory for Palestine, it was meant to be a victory for human rights worldwide. You see, in Arizona, solidarity is extremely important because is not easy to stand up for what you believe within a state so prone to racism and discrimination. Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) constantly builds ties with other groups with the same goals, not only to educate about our cause, but because our diverse group of activists care and are passionate about many different causes. For example, our solidarity with M.E.Ch.A, and their constant support, helped our SJP chapter flourish so strongly throughout these years.
So on to the good stuff. The bill, imploring human rights divestment on campus, was brought to the Senate’s attention by the Coalition of Human Rights, which was co-founded by Danielle Back, who is also a member of SJP. The Coalition is an umbrella organization for many human rights groups on campus, such as Women Beyond Borders (a women’s rights organization), STAND (the Student Anti-Genocide Network), and of course, Students for Justice in Palestine, among others. The idea of passing a divestment bill through undergraduate student government was sparked by SJP but supported by other organizations. STAND works to actively fight against genocide anywhere, but particularly in Darfur, Sudan. Members of STAND were concerned that ASU may be inadvertently investing in corporations complicit with the Sudanese genocide, thereby fueling the conflict in Sudan. Because SJP shared a similar vision of conflict-free investing, it made sense to collaborate on a bill with STAND. This is solidarity at its best.
Launching the campaign this year required a lot of preparation. Our BDS campaign was only announced publicly a year ago. I and many other SJP members had little time left before graduation so we pushed to get the bill through to the Senate this year. It took a lot of courage to convince the Senators that they should not stand by and be complicit, and that even their small vote would be a historical move in helping stop injustice worldwide. Thankfully, the hard work paid off when the bill passed, but not without a struggle. Up until this point, we had faced difficulty after difficulty with the ASU administration.
With this bill, we hope to get a foot in the doorway for the future activists. The ultimate purpose of this bill was to show the university’s administration that students are indeed conscious of human rights and believe that their university should pursue policies of socially responsible investing. This is just the first step, but hopefully it will lead to real progress in getting Arizona State University to divest from corporations involved in human rights abuses. More importantly, if this bill could pass in Arizona of all places, then there would be a little more hope for our cause. Although this victory is a small milestone, it brings us that much closer to a free Palestine.
Lina Bearat is a recent graduate of Arizona State University where she was heavily involved in student government and in organizing with Students for Justice in Palestine.