There is a difference between “feeling targeted” on campus and being targeted in a militarily occupied territory under attack. This summer, Israel launched a series of airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, killing more than 2,100 people, including more than 500 children. Tens of thousands of Palestinians were left homeless because of damage caused by the airstrikes.
Despite petitions and efforts by members of the Loyola student body and student organizations urging the university to divest, Loyola remains invested in corporations profiting from human rights violations in Palestine.
The lives lost this summer are not just statistics. They are human beings with names. They were painted by the Israeli government and many mainstream media outlets as “collateral damage,” but we must not forget their humanity.
However, the Palestinian people do not need our sympathy — they need our support and action. It is not our responsibility, as university students, to play the role as the “negotiators.” As people of conscience, it is our responsibility to answer the call by Palestinian civil society to boycott, divest from and sanction the Israeli government, until it complies with international law. It is our duty to hold our university accountable for its complicity in the war crimes taking place, in honor of the lives lost.
Last year, we at Students for Justice for Palestine (SJP) launched #LoyolaDivest, a campaign that asked the university to divest from the corporations that are complicit in human rights violations in Israel. These corporations also play a role in the development and maintenance of the prison-industrial complex in Israel.
We petitioned for weeks in the Damen Student Center, and gathered more than 1,000 signatures from undergraduate students on a letter stating that they wanted Loyola to divest from corporations complicit in human rights violations in Israel/Palestine. A resolution calling for divestment passed twice through the USGA senate body, before being vetoed by then USGA president Pedro Guerrero.
Before the resolution was vetoed, pro-Israel students at Loyola expressed their concerns, stating they “felt targeted” on campus. Thus, the senators who introduced the resolution were villainized and painted as aggressors. But while the pro-Israel students felt “unsafe” and “targeted” on campus, senators who supported divestment were also subject to constant anti-Palestinian and Islamophobic threats.
Due to Guerrero’s succumbing to lobbyist pressure and vetoing the resolution last semester, Loyola remains complicit with the harmful corporations.
Raytheon, one of the companies Loyola is directly invested in, produces guided missiles and supplies the Israeli air force with guided air-to-surface missiles for F-16s, cluster bombs and bunker busters. United Technologies, another company Loyola invests in, provides assistance in the manufacturing of engines of the F-15s, F-16s and Blackhawk helicopters that were used in the latest transgressions on the Gazan civilian population.
Many of the students who support divestment are Palestinian refugees themselves, some of whom have lost family members in Gaza this summer. One SJP member lost six family members in Gaza in just a single night.
The difference between “feeling targeted” on campus and being targeted is that Loyola students do not have to worry about being targeted by hellfire missiles and DIME bombs. The difference is that 469 Palestinian children in Gaza did not return to school this year because they were killed. Half a million students are unable to start the school year because their schools were damaged by the bombs. But we did.
The opposition to this resolution was expected because of apparent parallels between the apartheid South Africa and the current Palestinian struggle. Similar arguments to those against divestment from Israeli occupation were made during the apartheid of South Africa, in an attempt to justify white supremacy over blacks, citing the “singling out” of South Africa and the unsafeness of whites.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a prominent anti-apartheid leader, stated his support for divestment at UC Berkeley: “I am writing to tell you that, despite what detractors may allege, you are doing the right thing. You are doing the moral thing. I have been to the occupied Palestinian territory, and I have witnessed the racially segregated roads and housing that reminded me so much of the conditions we experienced in South Africa under the racist system of apartheid.”
We must remember that at the time, apartheid in South Africa was supported by the masses. The U.S. government even aided the white supremacist Afrikaner government. We should be inspired by the brave anti-apartheid activists who tenaciously resisted. Nelson Mandela, who himself was labeled as a terrorist until the 90s, said, “It only seems impossible until it’s done.”
We have the power to do something, and we should do so in hope that one day we can say we stood on the right side of history.
Nashiha Alam is a contributing columnist. You can contact her at email@example.com.