The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project

Statewide Academic Union Calls for University of Wisconsin Israel Divestment

Al-Awda, The Electronic Intifada, 27 April 2005

(Madison, WI- 04/27/05) – The Association of University of Wisconsin Professionals (TAUWP) has adopted a resolution that calls on the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents to divest from companies that provide the Israeli Army with weapons, equipment, and supporting systems. TAUWP is a statewide local of the American Federation of Teachers-Wisconsin representing faculty and academic staff from 25 University of Wisconsin campuses. The resolution was passed at the TAUWP delegate assembly on April 23rd by a vote of 24 to 2, with four abstentions.

Citing the precedent set by the University of Wisconsin’s elimination of investments in apartheid era South Africa, the resolution urged divestment from Boeing, Caterpillar, General Dynamics, General Electric, Lockheed Martin, Northrop-Grumman, and Raytheon ‘based on evidence of the active role these companies play in enabling Israeli forces to engage in practices that violate international law and the human rights of the Palestinian people.’ The University of Wisconsin Trust Fund’s investments in the companies specified by the resolution exceed $3.8 Million.

The resolution is part of The University of Wisconsin Divest from Israel Campaign, a project led by Al-Awda Wisconsin (The Palestine Right to Return Coalition), in partnership with several local social justice, student, and community organizations. The campaign gained significant momentum when the Faculty Senate of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville passed a similar resolution at it’s regular meeting on January 25th 2005. The UW-Platteville senate became the first University faculty body in the United States to adopt a resolution calling for divestment from companies providing material aid to Israel. A similar resolution was adopted by the Teaching Assistant Association and called on the Board of Regents to divest from weapon manufacturers.

TAUWP cited reports by independent international, Palestinian, and Israeli Human Rights organizations that document widespread war crimes and human rights violations committed against Palestinian civilians. It was pointed out that in many instances, these abuses are perpetrated using weapons and equipment manufactured by the companies identified in the resolution. Holdings in these companies are therefore contrary to the University of Wisconsin’s code of socially responsible investment, which requires the Board to divest from companies whose corporate practices or policies are discriminatory or cause substantial social injury.

Caterpillar Corporation – one of the companies identified in the resolution – provides the Israeli Army with the D-9 bulldozer and other equipment used to carry out widespread and systematic demolition of Palestinian civilian homes, acts which have been classified by the UN Commission on Human Rights as war crimes.

Numerous civil society institutions have recently voiced support for divestment from Israel. The Presbyterian Church (USA) has resolved to divest its portfolio from companies aiding Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands. Earlier this year, the World Council of Churches recommended that its 347 member churches and denominations follow the example of the PCUSA. Other churches such as the Anglican Church, United Methodist Church, and United Church of Christ are currently considering divesting their investment portfolios from companies with links to Israel. Several US-based labor unions, and organizations such as the National Lawyers Guild, have endorsed divestment from Israel. Last week, the Association of University Teachers, the UK’s largest lecturer’s union, voted to boycott two Israeli universities for their role in facilitating human rights violations perpetrated by the Israel government.