The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project

University of Wisconsin Regents Urged To Divest From Israel

Aaron Nathans,The Capital Times, November 11, 2005

Protesters packed a hearing Thursday on the University of Wisconsin’s investment portfolio, encouraging the Board of Regents to divest from Israel.

Many held Palestinian flags, as speaker after speaker called for the university to divest from companies that do business with the Israeli military. They argued, for example, that Caterpillar makes bulldozers that are used to knock down houses of families of suspected Palestinian terrorists. And Lockheed Martin supplies the Israeli Air Force.

“As a mother, my heart goes out to the mothers of Palestine,” said Rae Vogeler, the Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate. She brought along her 8-year-old son. “Do we want to be investing in machines that kill?”

But local supporters of Israel said the effort had nothing to do with changing its military, and was instead part of a sustained campaign on American campuses to delegitimize the Jewish state.

The UW Board of Regents’ Business and Finance Committee held its annual forum on trust funds at Grainger Hall, with committee members, as usual, sitting quietly at a table in front while members of the public said their piece. The event, usually a tepid and sparsely attended affair, is designed to allow people to comment on the university’s investment choices. About 70 attended on Thursday.

Occasionally, the Board of Regents has taken action, such as two years ago, when it briefly divested in Tyson Foods bonds to show solidarity with striking workers at the plant in Jefferson.

Mohammed Abed of the University of Wisconsin Divest From Israel Campaign said Israel should be the board’s next target. He said the Jewish peoples’ history of suffering does not justify keeping the Palestinian people down.

“Is it not substantial personal injury when a person’s home is demolished, and they have nowhere else to live?” Abed said. “People come along and say, why Israel? That is not the real question. The real question is, why not Israel?”

Ken Goldstein, a UW-Madison political science professor, was one of the few pro-Israel speakers to attend the event. He said everyone knows that the best solution is Israeli and Palestinian states living side by side. The Palestinians have yet to control their radical elements and take risks for peace, he said.

Referring to Vogeler, he said: “When a Palestinian mother loves her child as much as that woman loves her child, and does not encourage 14-, 15-, 16-year-olds to strap bombs onto their body and blow up Israeli -3, 4-, 5-year-olds at a pizzeria, then we’ll have a two-state solution,” Goldstein said.

“This terrorism is not about a two-state solution,” Goldstein said. “This is about driving the Israelis into the sea.”

On another topic, freshman Molly Glasgow said the university should divest from Abercrombie & Fitch because, she said, it has factories in nations where labor is treated unfairly.

The UW’s current investment portfolio is at $350 million, up slightly from last year.