Editor’s note: this letter is in response to the Letter to the Editor published on March 5.
Earlier this month, student Zach Ramsfelder wrote a letter addressing the divestment resolution being considered by the NEU Student Government Association. While we welcome his concerns, we believe it is necessary to clarify the legislation given some of his published opinions.
The resolution asks that Northeastern University divest from four companies that profit from human rights violations in Palestine: Caterpillar, Raytheon, Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Motorola Solutions.
Caterpillar bulldozers are used to demolish Palestinian homes to make way for segregated Israeli-only settlements. These settlements are illegal under international law and exacerbate any hopes for a just and permanent peace.
Raytheon is one of the largest military contractors in the world and enjoys a close relationship with our university. Raytheon manufactures weapons sold and used across the globe. Some are designed to carry cluster bombs, the use of which is condemned under international law.
HP-designed biometric identification systems are used to distinguish Arab faces from white Israeli faces at checkpoints. Use of this technology reinforces segregation and apartheid. HP’s products are a primary tool in supporting the disparity and inequality in rights afforded to Israelis and Palestinians.
Motorola Solutions proﬁts from Israel’s control of the Palestinian population by providing surveillance systems around Israeli settlements, checkpoints and military camps in the West Bank.
In short, each of these four companies profit from the suppression of human rights in Palestine. Therefore, Northeastern University profits from the same when our dollars are invested in them. Is that who we want to be?
The referendum is inspired by past campaigns such as those calling for divestment to combat apartheid South Africa or environmentally harmful fossil fuels. Palestinians suffering from injustice have asked that our community join in this non-violent campaign. Those who call for this initiative believe that these peaceful methods of resistance will lead to equality, self-determination and a meaningful, just peace. Divestment resolutions have been passed at many schools across the world, such as Stanford University; University of California, Berkeley; Northwestern University; and SOAS, University of London. If we, the Northeastern University community, seek to present ourselves as a “global” university, we cannot walk away from global conversation.
Mr. Ramsfelder is correct in stating that there are human rights violations throughout the world. If he, or any student, seeks assistance in researching violations and our university’s involvement, Students for Justice in Palestine will assist in any way we can. We welcomed Mr. Ramsfelder at a meeting earlier this semester, and we hope that he will choose to return for a meaningful human rights discussion. His letter, and this response, is an important step in that direction.
Further, we cannot see the logic in reducing human rights violations to “simple math.” One family witnessing the bulldozing of its home and the loss of its property is one too many. One “Israeli-only” bus in the West Bank is one too many. As we have sadly seen all too many times, one missile cripples hope for a just peace.
We thank Mr. Ramsfelder for his well-thought-out letter. It is a fine example of how this referendum will afford the Northeastern community a full educational experience. While many campus events are offered on this and other issues, a referendum offers the unique opportunity to engage the entire student community in a discussion of personal views. By putting forward this referendum, we are seeking another level of meaning and action. This conversation is exactly what we hoped our initiative would foster.
– Sean Hansen is a junior anthropology major and SJP president.