Divestment Letter

There are in fact two versions of the call for divestment circulating.  One is the original "Letter of Support", which is a longer statement that arose following the first Student Government resolution.  Second is a much shorter "petition statement" that was used to gather the majority of the signatures.  Both share the essential call for the formation of a divestment committee.


Call for the Formation of a University of Michigan Divestment Committee on Israel/Palestine

Whereas, University of Michigan Regental policy, as expressed in their meeting of March 16, 1978, states:

If the Regents shall determine that a particular issue involves serious moral or ethical questions which are of concern to many members of the University community, an advisory committee consisting of members of the University Senate, students, administration and alumni will be appointed to gather information and formulate recommendations for the Regents' consideration.

Whereas, the undersigned members of the University of Michigan community have serious moral and ethical questions concerning the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians,

Whereas, the undersigned members of the University of Michigan community believe that any University investments in entities contributing to human rights violations by either Israelis or Palestinians is inappropriate,

Resolved, the undersigned members of the University of Michigan community call for the formation by the University of Michigan of an advisory committee consisting of members of the University Senate, students, administration and alumni to determine if any University investments are questionable and in need of appropriate corrective actions.

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We, the undersigned faculty and staff of the University of Michigan, believe that there exist serious moral questions regarding University investments that help to support certain policies and actions of the Israeli government with respect to Palestine.

On March 16, 1978, the Regents approved a resolution stating that if "serious moral or ethical questions" arise with respect to the investment portfolio, then "an advisory committee...will be appointed to gather information and formulate recommendations" (Regent's Proceedings, vol. 1975-78, p. 1059).

It is clear to us that the present situation in Israel/Palestine is such an issue. A number of US corporations, frequently acting with the support of our federal government, supply arms, ammunition, and logistics support for the Israeli military. The University of Michigan holds a total of several million dollars of stock in some of these corporations, and thus bears some responsibility for their activities.

Our concerns center on the human rights violations occurring in the occupied territories. These include the forcible eviction from and demolition of Palestinian homes, the collective punishment of the Palestinian people and the massive disruption of daily life (through continual checkpoints, roadblocks, military interventions, and the 'security barrier'), and the presence of settlements in these territories that are in violation of international law. We recall that President Carter repeatedly called such settlements "illegal". The occupation itself conflicts with UN Resolutions 242 and 338, which the US supports. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Israeli human rights group B'tselem, and the International Committee of the Red Cross have all condemned it. The 'Gaza pullout' was an important first step, but it affected only 2% of all settlers; over 400,000 Israelis remain in the West Bank. Hence our belief: that the ongoing, 38-year occupation raises very serious ethical questions.

We realize that the occupation is intended to guarantee Israel's safety, but it seems unlikely to ever achieve that goal. And even if it did, the ends do not justify the means; security for one people cannot be earned through repression of another. We find attacks on Israeli citizens unacceptable and abhorrent, but they should not and do not negate the human rights of the Palestinian people.

Of course there are many other such issues of human rights abuse around the world, but none of these, to our knowledge, are directly sustained by the products and services of US corporations — corporations of which the University is a stockholder and part-owner. No other conflict has as great a global consequence, and no other is as likely to be affected by our actions. The situation in Israel/Palestine is uniquely significant, and we therefore believe that an advisory committee should be formed immediately. We call on the University to do so.

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As a point of reference, we note that the Student Government Senate of the University of Michigan-Dearborn passed a divestment resolution (SR #2005-009) on February 22, 2005. In our opinion, the students are to be commended for taking a principled stand on this difficult and complex moral issue, and we support their efforts. Regarding the specifics of their resolution, we make the following observations:

(1) We condemn all forms of racism, anti-Arabism as well as anti-Semitism. A call to explore divestment should not be confused with anti-Semitism. Neither the student resolution nor this Letter of Support questions the right of Israel to peacefully exist, side by side, with a viable and sovereign Palestine.

(2) The student resolution urges the pending advisory committee to begin immediate divestment from six defense contractors. This statement is perhaps premature, as it prejudges the work of the committee. However, we do believe that the situation at present gives just cause to pursue possible divestment. We do not see the necessity to limit or restrict potential divestment actions to the six defense contractors identified in the student resolution. We accept that other potential divestment targets may be included or substituted for these. But we leave it to the advisory committee to make these decisions.

(3) Regarding the student reference to UN Resolution 194 (the so-called "right of return" resolution, which addresses the 800,000 or so Palestinians displaced by the formation of Israel), we believe that this resolution should remain a part of the divestment discussion, even though it does not explicitly mention the concept of 'rights'. Res 194 was affirmed by a large majority of UN members in 1948 (including the US, UK, Canada, China, and France), and it has been neither negated nor superseded. Most importantly, it requires Israel to acknowledge and accept responsibility for the forced displacement of thousands of Palestinians; the failure of the Israeli government to address this issue is further indication of its disregard for the basic rights of the Palestinian people.

In summary, it is clear to us that our financial support of corporations involved with the situation in Israel/Palestine constitutes a "serious moral or ethical question", and that therefore the University is obligated, by the Regent's resolution of March 1978, to form a committee to investigate potential divestment.

The undersigned may have some disagreement with particular details of this Letter of Support, but we each endorse it in principle. Additionally, we acknowledge that the signatories to this letter hold a wide range of personal opinions on this subject, and we neither endorse nor accept responsibility for opinions held by others. We sign as individuals, not as members of any ideology, party, or group. The statement in this Letter stands on its own merit.

We call on the University to act.

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