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Canadian Student Union Will Divest From Firms Aiding Israeli Abuses

Business  (tags: activism, Caterpillar, General Mills, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Toyota, Israeli occupation crimes against Palest, world, U.S.-Canada media-news, Canada, BDS international, investments, corporate, americans, usa )

- 880 days ago -
Four of the firms, Caterpillar, General Mills, Teva Pharmaceuticals and Toyota, were cited specifically for their involvement in IsraelâEUR(TM)s military occupation and other abuses of Palestinian rights


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fly bird (26)
Friday April 22, 2016, 5:05 pm
The student union at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, is to sell its investments in nine companies involved in human rights abuses.

Four of the firms – Caterpillar, General Mills, Teva Pharmaceuticals and Toyota – were cited specifically for their involvement in Israel’s military occupation and other abuses of Palestinian rights.

Other companies include arms-maker United Technologies, as well as sportswear manufacturer Adidas and German insurance giant Allianz, which were cited for abuses of labor rights and the environment around the world.

Yazan Khader, a member of Students Against Israeli Apartheid at Dalhousie University (SAIA) and a student councillor, told The Electronic Intifada that Wednesday night’s unanimous vote to proceed with divestment came after a year of research, debate and advocacy.

A representative of Divest Dal told the council before the vote that her group, which campaigns for the university to divest from fossil fuels, also backed the resolution.

“We worked long and hard and we were very happy when the vote resulted in divestment,” Khader said.

Khader added that campaign activities, under the banner “End the Complicity,” included detailed research into the companies, weekly tabling at busy campus locations, one-on-one education of student leaders and Israeli Apartheid Week events focusing on settler-colonialism.

Dalhousie, with 18,000 students, is one of Canada’s major public research universities.

“Money is going to be divested”

The Dalhousie Student Union’s investment portfolio stood at around $3 million in 2015.

Khader estimates that the shares of the nine companies made up about one percent of the portfolio as of last year – in the tens of thousands of dollars.

“Money is going to be divested,” Khader said. “This is actual institutional work happening. There will be money flowing out of Caterpillar, General Mills and Teva Pharmaceuticals as a result of this resolution.”

Khader noted that when he and his colleagues first proposed divestment a year ago, they focused only on companies involved in Israel’s abuses.

He says that supporters of Israel called for broadening the focus in an “attempt to dilute the message” and shift attention away from what is happening to Palestinians.

“But ultimately it meant that the usual criticism of ‘why do you single out Israel’ was not applicable in this case, so it kind of worked in our favor,” Khader said.

Now he is glad that “our pressure led to something that was comprehensive” and tackles complicity in human rights abuses around the world.

The resolution also calls for the student union to establish an ongoing mechanism to review investments for compliance with human rights.


As on many other campuses, pro-Israel groups tried to halt the campaign’s momentum with accusations of anti-Semitism and other smears.

One op-ed in the campus newspaper The Dalhousie Gazette, by a group calling itself “Dalhousie Students Against anti-Semitism on Campus,” accuses BDS movement cofounder Omar Barghouti of the worst forms of bigotry against Jews “short of calling for a new Holocaust.”

Palestinian human rights campaigner Barghouti, along with other prominent BDS activists, has recently been the subject of direct threats from Israeli leaders, prompting Amnesty International to express concern for his “safety and liberty.”

SAIA hit back at such smears, which targeted students as well, arguing that BDS offers a practical way for people in Canada to act in support of human rights for Palestinians.

“To our dismay, those articles written by a group that doesn’t have much traction on campus did get a lot of space and time,” Khader said.

But the opponents, who according to Khader even heckled at SAIA events, did not succeed in halting the momentum.

Khader also pointed out the wide range of people who spoke out against the smears and in favor of BDS, including a member of Independent Jewish Voices, a Canadian-Israeli writer and Halifax Queers Against Israeli Apartheid.

National attention

The divestment at Dalhousie also comes amid a stepped up campaign against BDS by Canada’s powerful Israel lobby.

In February, the Canadian parliament overwhelmingly passed a motion condemning the BDS movement.

Proposed by the Conservative opposition, the resolution was backed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s governing Liberal Party.

Trudeau, despite his progressive image, has long been an opponent of the Palestinian-led campaign to hold Israel accountable.

Khader says that opponents of divestment at Dalhousie played up these kinds of statements.

“It’s not helpful when you talk to the average student for them to hear that the government condemns us,” Khader said.

But ultimately, Khader thinks the parliamentary vote did more good than harm: “It created huge attention to BDS and that was great. People were searching to find out what BDS is.”

Khader noted that BDS even became a central issue in campus elections, with candidates being asked for their positions on it.

“We’re happy this is happening and we’re going to keep the pressure going until divestment is followed through completely and we have an ethical investment policy that does not give in to Israeli exceptionalism,” Khader added.

Judy C (91)
Friday April 22, 2016, 11:46 pm
This is good news. Thanks Jess.

Past Member (0)
Saturday April 23, 2016, 12:37 am
Pleasantly surprised! thx Jess

Eleonora Oldani (37)
Saturday April 23, 2016, 3:50 am

Seeing such illegal collective punishment done by Israel time and again with impunity I have to applaud to the Canadian Student Union for their courageous stand on all 7 companies but especially those 4 involved in Israel!!!

It has become like a mechanism that people demanding justice and peace for the Palestinians are smeared in the worst possible ways. How this could possibly be labeled anti-Semitic is beyond me.

Worse yet those pro-Zionists "accuse[s] BDS movement cofounder Omar Barghouti of the worst forms of bigotry against Jews “short of calling for a new Holocaust.”" Sorry ?!?!?!? Have they ever read a single word of what he's saying or ever said? How low are they willing to stoop?

Maybe those groups should read “Hakorbanot Haloyehudim shel Hamishtar Hanazi” (The Non-Jewish Victims of the Nazi Regime), edited by Yair Auron and Sarit Zaibert, self-published by the authors (in Hebrew); 207 pp., 60 shekels. (from a Haaretz article "The Holocaust: It Wasn't Just About Jews". Almost 50% of the victims of the Holocaust were non-Jewish - but it gets constantly brushed under the carpet!!

Sorry Jess for diverting a bit ...

fly bird (26)
Saturday April 23, 2016, 10:09 am
The Holocaust: It Wasn't Just About Jews - haaretz

"The tragedy of the millions of non-Jewish victims of the Nazis deserves to be remembered and recognized, as the authors of a new book point out. Yet while their initiative is praiseworthy, it falls short of the mark."

Ty, for the links, Eleonora.

fly bird (26)
Sunday April 24, 2016, 4:34 pm
sraeli forces have killed over 5,500 Palestinians in the last 15 years and not one soldier has been prosecuted for murder.

Israeli soldiers are almost never prosecuted for killings in the occupied Palestinian territory, the Israeli human rights group Yesh Din said yesterday after finding over the past 15 years, no officers were indicted for murder, and only one soldier was convicted of homicide in the case of the killing of a foreign national.

No soldiers were charged with homicide in the slaying of Palestinians during the period of September 2000 to November 2015. In this time frame Israeli forces killed more than 5,500 Palestinians and ten foreign nationals in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, according to the human rights group B’tselem (this figure excludes casualties from both the 2009 and 2014 wars in Gaza).

“The fact is that we see the cases and we see the statistics, and it just seems the army doesn’t know how to or doesn’t have the ability to investigate these cases property,” said Yesh Din spokesperson Gilad Grossman, “And I’m not sure they have the will to do it either.”

Yesh Din analyzed data released by Israeli’s military court and found investigations were opened into the killings of 262 cases since 2000, leading to the indictments of 22 soldiers, and the conviction of seven.

The Israeli military did not disclosed information on all of the incidents where soldiers were sentenced. Filling in the blanks on one of the two negligent homicide convictions, Yesh Din conducted an independent inquiry and found a staff sergeant identified as “M.M.” opened fire on Palestinian Udai Darwish, 21, as he attempted to cross into Israel near the Negev in 2013. Darwish did not pose any threat to M.M. at the time of his killing.

For Darwish’s death, the soldier served less than one year in prison.

Yesh Din said M.M. “was convicted on the basis of his own admission and sentenced to seven months’ imprisonment, a five-month suspended sentence, and demotion to the rank of sergeant.”

In a similar case where Yesh Din said two soldiers were indicted but not convicted of reckless behavior in 2013, Israeli forces killed Samir Awad, 16, from the West Bank town of Budrus. Awad was shot multiple times while caught between two army fences that comprise the wall separating the occupied Palestinian territory from Israel.

Awad’s killing was one of 22 cases profiled in Amnesty International’s 2013 report Trigger-happy: Israel’s use of excessive force in the West Bank. The year of his death marked an increase in the killings of Palestinian civilians, twice as many were slain that year than in the two years prior.

Amnesty International said in the report Awad’s shooting may have amounted to an “extrajudicial killing,” or a willful execution, which is considered a war crime under international law.

Amnesty International’s Philip Luther questioned the legality of the shooting.

“It’s hard to believe that an unarmed child could be perceived as posing imminent danger to a well-equipped soldier. Israeli forces appear in this and other cases to have recklessly fired bullets at the slightest appearance of a threat,” Luther said.

Witness Malik Murar, 16, and a friend of Awad told Amnesty International, “They shot him first in the leg, yet he managed to run away… how far can an injured child run? They could have easily arrested him… instead they shot him in the back with live ammunition.”

“The fact that they don’t indict on more severe charges—I’m not talking about murder, nobody has been charged with that,” Grossman said, “raises a lot of questions.”

The most serious conviction handed down was for the charge of homicide in the killing of a British citizen, Tom Hurndall, 22. Hurdnall was shot by an Israeli soldier in the head in 2003 while volunteering in Gaza.

Grossman’s view is light sentences reflect a culture within military tribunals that sees these incidents not as “an extreme criminal case, but as a a mistake that happens during soldiers’ work.”

In other types of criminal offenses such as sexual abuse, Israeli military courts near a 50 percent rate of conviction.
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