Will CUNY voices against apartheid be heard?

May 21, 2018

Carlos Perez and Carah Naseem report on the latest chapter in the struggle to get CUNY to divest from companies profiting off of Israeli apartheid.

THE UNIVERSITY Student Senate (USS) of the City University of New York (CUNY) held a May 6 hearing on a resolution to divest from companies involved in Israeli apartheid -- but canceled its scheduled vote, citing "concerns" after receiving hundreds of anonymous e-mails from "constituents."

The resolution was the result of more than a year and a half of struggle by the CUNY Apartheid Divest Campaign, and the sense of urgency about the resolution has been heightened by the ongoing demonstrations in Gaza for the Great March of Return.

Every Friday since March 30, Palestinian demonstrators living in Gaza have been marching towards the Israeli border to protest the brutal occupation they are forced to endure and are demanding to be allowed to return to their homes on the other side of the border.

The Israeli state responded to protests with mass violence, killing 109 Palestinians and wounding more than 12,000 people since the march began.

The campaign at Hunter College is a student-led movement started by the Palestinian Solidarity Alliance (PSA), with support from other groups on campus such as the Young Democratic Socialists, the Arab Studies Club and the International Socialist Organization.

Students demand divestment from Israeli apartheid at the City University of New York
Students demand divestment from Israeli apartheid at the City University of New York (Jesse Rubin | Palestine Solidarity Alliance of Hunter College)

Groups outside of Hunter, such as Jewish Voice for Peace and the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, have also endorsed and supported the campaign.

The resolution calls for CUNY to pull its investments in companies that provide material support to the long-standing system of apartheid in Israel.

The list of companies includes Hewlett Packard, which provides the services for Israel's national identification system used to track and repress Palestinians; Boeing, Northrop-Grumman, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, which provide military hardware to the Israel Defense Forces; G4S, a company that is also heavily involved in the United States' private prison system; Caterpillar and Cemex, which provide construction equipment and materials for building walls and illegal settlements in Palestinian territories; as well as Motorola and the all-American weapons manufacturer General Electric.

APOLOGISTS FOR Israel, organized through clubs such as Hillel, have made a concerted effort to scuttle the resolution, including disrupting PSA meetings and intimidating supporters.

"Just last Thursday at our [April 26] meeting, which was organized by PSA dedicated to mobilize students in support of our resolution, we got disrupted by members -- including the president -- of Hunter Hillel, who came and harassed us and even called the cops on us," said Rani Al-Hindi of the PSA. "Unfortunately, we were not able to continue our meeting and discussion and mobilization."

The organized Zionist opposition has shown contempt for student democracy, often succeeding in shutting down hearings using questionable tactics. "The night before the April 15 meeting," Al-Hindi said, "each delegate can tell you that they got about 70 e-mails -- a lot of them from anonymous people -- calling us anti-Semitic. USS has been attacked, being described as non-transparent, and being biased."

Backlash from Zionists has been especially fierce given the recent successes of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement on college campuses across the country.

Condemnation of Israeli actions in the media and the turning of public opinion in support of Palestinians is evidence that the BDS movement is having success in exposing Israel's assertions about the justice of its cause. Its attempts to accuse others of terrorism as it carries out state terror -- with the backing of the U.S. -- have begun to show their contradictions.

One thing is certain: the initiatives by students like those of the CUNY Apartheid Divest Campaign are an important front in the struggle against the colonial designs of the Israeli state. The struggle for a free Palestine requires that the domestic backers of U.S. imperialism, as well as their foreign servants, are directly challenged for their continued support of apartheid.

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