Divestment from Israel on US College Campuses


Date published: Mon, 8 April 24

Students at the University of California, Davis have passed a bill that divests student government funds from the government of israel. This bill mandates that the expenditure of student funds  will be compliant with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. 

The BDS movement uses boycotts, divestments, and pressure to sanction as a tool to gain the recognition of the Palestinian peoples’ right to self determination, and to ensure Israel complies with international law. The BDS movement uses the example of South Africa, wherein forms of boycott, divestment and sanctions resulted in the end of the apartheid government of the nation. 

Divestment refers to the act of withdrawing investments. Students across the United States have been pressuring divestment targets, like Elbit Systems, Hyundai, CAT, Barclays, and Volvo, as well as universities. Universities are complicit in the overall occupation of Palestine as well as the recent genocide in Gaza. The Security Exchange Commission’s filings and portfolio reports highlight how a variety of American universities have financial ties to businesses profiting from Israeli expansion and the Israeli state. The Harvard Crimson, for example, published an analysis in 202 that showed that Harvard’s Investment Company had $194 million invested in one of 112 companies that have connections to Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory. 

The Young Democratic Socialists reports about the University of California, “has investments in businesses with ties to territory annexed by Israel. The university owns shares in General Electric, a multinational corporation with divisions in aerospace, energy, and manufacturing. GE is also spearheading the Genesis Wind project, Israel’s largest renewable energy venture, with 39 wind turbines in the Golan Heights.” 

George Mason University, a university in Northern Virginia, has holdings in McDonalds and Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin is the world’s largest weapons manufacturer. In 2023, Israel paid $3 billion to Lockheed Martin for F-35 jets. These jets are used in Israel’s sieges on Gaza. 

As a result, the action of students at the University of California is a great step for the BDS movement. The divestment bill will “institutionalize a boycott of funds in accordance with BDS guidelines.” 

This recent decision comes after the national divestment campaign launched by National Students for Justice in Palestine, the Palestine Youth Movement, and Dissenters. This campaign demands that universities across the US immediately divest from companies that are complicit in the occupation of Palestine, end institutional support for the occupation, and protect Palestinian  students and pro-Palestinian activism. The campaign calls for an immediate ceasefire to end the genocide in Palestine, and it also calls for the end of all US military aid. 

At Brown University, a group of 19 students went on hunger strike, calling on the university to divest from Israel. At the university, more than 60 students have been arrested during actions in the past three months. 

At Harvard Law School, the student government has labeled the Israeli “war” in Gaza as a genocide, in an open letter that demands the US divest from Israel. Middle East Eye reports, ““Harvard Law School Student Government formally calls upon HMC to divest completely from weapons manufacturers, firms, academic programs, corporations, and all other institutions that aid the ongoing illegal occupation of Palestine and the genocide of Palestinians,” the student body said in an open letter posted on the university website.” 

It is imperative for those who are complicit in genocide, who are benefiting  from it, and who are providing the tools for it, be reprimanded and held accountable. Divestment is a step towards the liberation of Palestine. If you are a student at a university, connect with your local chapters of Palestinian Youth Movement of Students for Justice in Palestine to see what action you can take to divest your university from Israel.