ISRAELI SETTLEMENT EXPANDS TO OLYMPIA — STUDENTS AND ALUMNI PROTEST INVESTMENT POLICY AT THE EVERGREEN STATE COLLEGE
On March 28th, 2011, students and alumni at The Evergreen State College began a 62 hour Vigil for Human Rights by erecting an Israeli settlement. This is meant to demonstrate support for divestment from companies profiting off of the illegal occupation of Palestine, such as Caterpillar Inc. Former Evergreen student Rachel Corrie was run over and killed by an Israeli Army Caterpillar bulldozer while protecting a Palestinian home in Rafah, Palestine in 2003. The Corrie family is suing the Israeli government for damages in a civil trial commencing on April 3rd in Haifa District Court.
The Vigil for Human Rights follows a landslide electoral victory, in which divestment passed with 79% of the vote and a resolution to ban the use of Caterpillar Inc. equipment on campus passed with 71%. Both resolutions received unanimous support from the student union. The 62 hour vigil will continue through Wednesday, March 30th to commemorate Palestinian Land Day. Each hour represents a year since Palestinians first lost their rights to their ancestral homeland. Land Day recognizes Israel’s continued theft of indigenous Palestinian land. In the past 20 years settlements have doubled in size, while the US has blocked actions meant to cease this expansion. On February 18, 2011, the US vetoed a UN Security Council resolution, supported unanimously by the council’s 14 other members, calling Israeli settlements illegal.
“When I traveled to the West Bank I saw settlements built on top of Palestinian villages, US-made equipment ripping out olive orchards and US military equipment suppressing democracy in Palestine,” stated Evergreen Alumni Lucas Claussen, Class of 2005. “In good conscience I cannot donate to a fund that profits off of Israeli human rights violations.” Evergreen depends heavily on alumni donations to its endowment, which does not have a social responsible investment policy.
Despite the overwhelming support for Palestinian human rights and divestment on Evergreen’s campus, the Board of Trustees refuses to put divestment on the meeting agenda. Evergreen’s unique community learning environment encourages democratic principles, yet College President Les Purce has dismissed the issue as “political” and refuses to be transparent about how the funds are invested. Jo Lillian, a senior at Evergreen, states: “It’s really important to bring human rights abuses like Israel’s occupation of Palestine and Evergreen’s complicity in the occupation out into the open. The strong divestment movement at Evergreen makes me proud to be a student here and proud to be a Jew.”
Land Day symbolizes Palestinian resistance to Israel’s ongoing land expropriation and occupation. It is an international call to action for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions of Israel until it ceases its violation of Palestinian human rights. Divestment actions are happening at campuses regionally at University of Washington and Seattle University. Similar actions are being organized internationally.
The Vigil for Human Rights will be followed with a teach-in on Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions at 5pm on Thursday, March 31st in the Lecture Hall. For more information visit www.tescdivest.org. Photographs available upon request.