USF students want university to divest from companies profiting from occupation

04/25/14 Seán Kinane
WMNF Drive-Time News Friday | Listen to this entire show:
Tags: USF, Palestine, BDS

photo by Janelle Irwin/WMNF News (Nov. 2012)

Student activists at the University of South Florida are asking the university to divest from companies doing business in occupied Palestine.

They’ve collected ten thousand signatures on what they’re calling a human rights petition.

WMNF News interviewed Ahmad Saadaldin, president of Students for Justice in Palestine at USF.

"Our petition is a human rights petition calling on the University of South Florida to stop investing their endowment money in companies affiliated with human rights violations in Palestine and all over the world. We currently have 10,251 signatures. It took about 2 months, we started back in February. Tons of students just roaming around campus, a grass roots movement talking to students one on one, telling them about the situation, telling them about how our endowment is invested, educating them about human rights violations in Palestine and elsewhere."

Give our listeners an idea about what kinds of human rights abuses you're talking about and how companies in the endowment, what effect they would have on human rights?

"Specifically in Palestine you have a long list of human rights violations. Just for example, since 1967 27,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished and replaced with illegal Israeli settlements. Caterpillar provides bulldozers that are used to demolish these homes. Families are evicted from their own home and this Caterpillar bulldozer will come in and tear down their entire house, destroy their entire home, everything they own and replace it with an illegal Israeli settlement. Caterpillar is profiting off of this human rights violation, they're profiting off this occupation. USF's endowment is investing in Caterpillar. USF is profiting off of these human rights violations. That's just one example. Another would be G4S security company. They manage security at prisons in Palestine where child prisoners. These children are arrested in midnight raids, they're snatched from their homes by Israeli soldiers and they're forced to sign confessions in Hebrew, a language they don't speak read or understand. These security companies like G4S are profiting off of this occupation. USF invests in G4S so USF is also profiting off of the occupation and () violations."

This petition, who are you going to bring it to and what's the process like? What would have to happen for the University to decide to divest?

"We're taking it to the USF Foundation. They're the organization that manages the endowment. They have their own board of trustees. We're going to present to them sometime within two weeks. We'll be explaining our movement and what it's all about, how we came to collect the signatures. So every Wednesday at USF at the Student Marshall Center we have something called the Bull market. It's different student organizations, companies. They have their own table and we have our own Bull market and students can come and be exposed to different ideas, different products, things like that. It was our last Bull market of the semester. So we built a mock apartheid wall. It was massive, about 9 feet high and 20 feet across. We gave students paint and we would let them write their own message on the wall. 'Stop the wall', 'end the occupation','love not hate', 'peace not war'. Things like that. We also had a plane fly a banner over USF saying 'USF for human rights' and we had a demonstration in front of all of the students at the Marshall Center letting them know that we did collect 10,000 signatures and that their voices have been heard and that we're going to make sure that we see this to the end and try to accomplish what we want to do."

Your wall is modeled off of the wall that was built by Israel?

"Right, the separation wall in Israel."

Finally, what do you hope will happen?

"At the end I hope that USF will recognize that they should establish some sort of investment screen. They should invest in an ethical manner with regard to human rights, environmental welfare and hopefully at the end we'll see the success of divestment here at USF."

This is a video SPJ @ USF made of their wall demonstration:

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