Hampshire College becomes first college in U.S. to divest from Israeli Occupation

The times they are a-changing. Students for Justice in Palestine have scored a major victory for their stated aim. Please distribute widely.

The excellent Afshin Rattansi of Press TV interviews Kanye D’Almedia of SFP on the divestment from Israel over the plight of the Palestinians…and could Harvard be next?

UPDATE: SJP reports that Hampshire College is being threatened by Alan Dershowitz with the familiar Zionist threat of withdrawal of funding.

Hampshire College in Amherst, MA, has become the first of any college or university in the U.S. to divest from companies on the grounds of their involvement in the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

This landmark move is a direct result of a two-year intensive campaign by the campus group, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). The group pressured Hampshire College’s Board of Trustees to divest from six specific companies due to human rights concerns in occupied Palestine. Over 800 students, professors, and alumni have signed SJP’s “institutional statement” calling for the divestment.

The proposal put forth by SJP was approved on Saturday, 7 Feb 2009 by the Board. By divesting from these companies, SJP believes that Hampshire has distanced itself from complicity in the illegal occupation and war crimes of Israel.

Meeting minutes from a committee of Hampshire’s Board of Trustees confirm that “President Hexter acknowledged that it was the good work of SJP that brought this issue to the attention of the committee.” This groundbreaking decision follows in Hampshire’s history of being the first college in the country to divest from apartheid South Africa thirty-two years ago, a decision based on similar human rights concerns. This divestment was also a direct result of student pressure.

The divestment has so far been endorsed by Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Rashid Khalidi, Vice President of the EU Parliament Luisa Morganitini, Cynthia McKinney, former member of the African National Congress Ronnie Kasrils, Mustafa Barghouti, Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, John Berger, Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire, and Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, among others.

The six corporations, all of which provide the Israeli military with equipment and services in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza are: Caterpillar, United Technologies, General Electric, ITT Corporation, Motorola, and Terex (see attached info sheet for more information on these corporations.) Furthermore, our policy prevents the reinvestment in any company involved in the illegal occupation.

SJP is responding to a call from Palestinian civil society for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) as a way of bringing non-violent pressure to bear on the state of Israel to end its violations of international law. SJP is following in the footsteps of many noted groups and institutions such as the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education in the UK, the Israeli group Gush Shalom, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, and the American Friends Service Committee.

As well as voicing our opposition to the illegal occupation and the consistent human rights violations of the Palestinian people, we as members of an institute of higher education see it as our moral responsibility to express our solidarity with Palestinian students whose access to education is severely inhibited by the Israeli occupation.

SJP has proven that student groups can organize, rally and pressure their schools to divest from the illegal occupation. The group hopes that this decision will pave the way for other institutions of higher learning in the U.S. to take similar stands.

Please email hampshiresjp@gmail.com to schedule a phone interview.

Author: Idrees Ahmad

I am a Lecturer in Digital Journalism at the University of Stirling and a former research fellow at the University of Denver’s Center for Middle East Studies. I am the author of The Road to Iraq: The Making of a Neoconservative War (Edinburgh University Press, 2014). I write for The Observer, The Nation, The Daily Beast, Los Angeles Review of Books, The Atlantic, The New Republic, Al Jazeera, Dissent, The National, VICE News, Huffington Post, In These Times, Le Monde Diplomatique, Die Tageszeitung (TAZ), Adbusters, Guernica, London Review of Books (Blog), The New Arab, Bella Caledonia, Asia Times, IPS News, Medium, Political Insight, The Drouth, Canadian Dimension, Tanqeed, Variant, etc. I have appeared as an on-air analyst on Al Jazeera, the BBC, TRT World, RAI TV, Radio Open Source with Christopher Lydon, Alternative Radio with David Barsamian and several Pacifica Radio channels.

19 thoughts on “Hampshire College becomes first college in U.S. to divest from Israeli Occupation”

  1. Hampshire College has not divested from Israel. The College, at the behest of SJP, re-examined their investments. They moved to a new index because of an independent consultant who made the recommendation based on over 100 companies that were deemed socially irresposible. This new investment has nothing to do with the conflict nor SJP’s politics.

    Read the statement from the Board of Trustees, President and Dean of Faculty Here:


  2. While I sincerely applaud your efforts, though I hope I am wrong, I believe such an action may be against the law. There are laws preventing US citizens from boycotting Israel or blacklisted companies, cf The Office of Anti-Boycott Compliance.


    Who Is Covered by the Laws?
    The antiboycott provisions of the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) apply to the activities of U.S. persons in the interstate or foreign commerce of the United States. The term “U.S. person” includes all individuals, corporations and unincorporated associations resident in the United States, including the permanent domestic affiliates of foreign concerns. U.S. persons also include U.S. citizens abroad (except when they reside abroad and are employed by non-U.S. persons) and the controlled in fact affiliates of domestic concerns. The test for “controlled in fact” is the ability to establish the general policies or to control the day to day operations of the foreign affiliate.

    The scope of the EAR, as defined by Section 8 of the EAA, is limited to actions taken with intent to comply with, further, or support an unsanctioned foreign boycott.

    What do the Laws Prohibit?
    Conduct that may be penalized under the TRA and/or prohibited under the EAR includes:

    Agreements to refuse or actual refusal to do business with or in Israel or with blacklisted companies.

    Agreements to discriminate or actual discrimination against other persons based on race, religion, sex, national origin or nationality.

    Agreements to furnish or actual furnishing of information about business relationships with or in Israel or with blacklisted companies.

    Agreements to furnish or actual furnishing of information about the race, religion, sex, or national origin of another person.
    Implementing letters of credit containing prohibited boycott terms or conditions.

    The TRA does not “prohibit” conduct, but denies tax benefits (“penalizes”) for certain types of boycott-related agreements.

  3. I went to Hampshire, and while I am glad the school listened to the group supporting justice for Palestine, I am equally disturbed by the mealy-mouthed way the College will not make a statement against Israel.

    Berman was on my Div. III committee, so I will follow up with him.

  4. Dominic, your post answers the objection raised by the two earlier anti-BDS commenters. It is obvious to both HC and SJP what the divestment is all about, but in order to stave off legal repercussions HC cannot specifically name a country. This is understandable. The important thing is the implications of this — divestment from Israel — are lost on no one. For this reason, Styve, it is also not necessary that HC make any explicit statements.

  5. When Hampshire College first divested from Apartheid South Africa years ago, the Administration did what it could to distance itself from the situation then, too, with then-President Adele Simmons calling it a “big non-issue.”

    The Administration may be making this PR move to salvage its own reputation, but the truth is that divestment from these corporations was the result of a 2-year campaign by Students for Justice in Palestine that centered around six corporations because of their involvement in the Israeli Occupation. This is not about divestment from Israel, but from the Israeli Occupation. And it is the result of a student movement that has been in the works for years, and an intensive, specific campaign that has been in the works for two.

  6. congratulations to hampshire college. the student campaign goes back much farther than two years. i remember attending student meetings there as far back as 2001 or 02 planning divestment actions. the student speaker at graduation in either 2003 or 2004 was louai abu-osba, who called for divestment in his speech, causing the president to practically choke.

  7. I only hope that other univerisities will be inspired by this brave move. To take a stand again Israel in the US is a difficult thing to do, but if others join, Israel will be brought to justice to face there severe and horrific crimes…

  8. It’s interesting to notice that no matter how many times it’s pointed out that the administration of Hampshire College has vigorously denied that this decision has anything to do with Israel, that divestment supporters continue to simply ignore this clearly verifiable truth and blithely congratulate the university for doing something it has stated in no uncertain terms that it did NOT do.

    This strange behavior is understandable if you realize that divestment supporters are interested only in tricking an institution – any institution – into taking an action that they can portray as being in lock step with their agenda: to tie the legacy of Hampshire College (in this case) to their narrow, partisan message. This mission alone is what is important to them, with truth and the reputation of places like Hampshire simply irrelevant to their single-minded agenda.

  9. It is also interesting that no matter how many times it’s pointed out that the university has to word its decision in that particular way to avoid legal percussions, apologists for Israel continue to delude themselves that SFP’s specific demands acceded to the university could be interpreted any other way.

  10. Your research can help more groups understand what the individual can do to protest militarization and oppression. Now can you help us follow the impact of your movement? It will give us hope.

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