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Divestment resolution looks to shine light on Palestine-related transactions

Resolution 12S was created in an effort to bring to light “the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine (that) infringes upon Palestinian human rights,” and companies such as Hewlett-Packard’s and Caterpillar’s involvement.

It calls for UNM to divest, which, according to the resolution, “is a nonviolent strategy employed by universities, religious organizations and civil society organizations around the world to pressure corporations to withdraw from business actions that result in severe violations of international law and human rights.”

Elisabeth Perkal, a member of Students for Justice in Palestine, the group that authored the resolution, said at the meeting that the goal of the resolution is for UNM and its students to stop being indirectly complicit in human rights violations that have come as an effect of the occupation.

“The people in our group can appreciate that we’re paying taxes to the U.S. government ... (which gives) more money to Israel, more aid to Israel than any other country. While we don’t have a lot of say with the U.S. government, we do have a lot of say with this University,” she said.

But Sen. Kyle Stepp, who sits on the Steering and Rules committee, through which all resolutions must pass before being presented to the Senate, said that another group, Lobos for Israel, is upset about Israel being the focus in the resolution.

“The dividing factor is that they’re singled out and because of them being mentioned specifically, they feel like they’re being marginalized,” Stepp said.

The two groups met with Stepp for about an hour before Wednesday’s meeting to try and amend the resolution in a way that would be acceptable to both parties, but they were unable to reach a definitive agreement.

Some clauses were added to make the issue more global, such as citing corporations profiting from “the violent policing of immigrant families on the U.S.-Mexico border, and the violation of human rights around the world,” but Lobos for Israel member Andrew Balis stressed his group’s opposition to what the legislation calls for.

“Divestment is not the way forward,” Balis said. “I ask you to please reject this resolution as it currently stands and if we could come together to form a joint resolution better than this one, that would be the way forward.”

Perkal countered during discussion of the resolution, stressing that it was targeting corporations that profit off the occupation, not individuals.

“We tried to make it very specifically...talking about these corporations and trying to get our University to be not complicit in these human rights violations,” she said.

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Twelve colleges across the country have passed similar legislation standing in solidarity with Palestine, including Arizona State University and Stanford, the resolution states. It’s one of the longest that will have been presented to ASUNM this school year, at almost seven pages in its current state.

Although SJP is focusing on divestment, for Stepp the primary intent of the resolution is something else entirely.

“I met with both sides and I said ...the one issue at hand right now is not the investing, it’s (getting) open transparency,” he said. “I think that’s what we need to be focusing on, not divestment, that’s the next step. Our number one issue is that our University is not transparent with their investments.”

The resolution makes clear UNM may not even be investing in these corporations, and there aren’t clear means of accessing that information in place.

Stepp said that he hopes the resolution will encourage the University to take part in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which according to him is essentially placing economic pressure on companies like Hewlett-Packard and Caterpillar to stop providing for the occupation while also profiting off it.

But he said when it comes to UNM completely separating itself from companies like Hewlett-Packard and Caterpillar, that it simply isn’t feasible.

“I don’t think our school is going to physically remove money, but I hope our University as an institution becomes a voice for the students,” Stepp said. “We have a relationship with them, and we should be voicing their concerns.”

When asked if he thought the current state of the resolution is its strongest possible version, Stepp said no.

“This resolution, the idea of divesting, can and will be more powerful if we knew our investments. It needs to be a joint effort between a lot of more organizations, not just by SPJ and focusing on Palestinian students, because I feel like there’s a much bigger picture, not just that group,” he said.

Stepp said he feels that the Senate will be divided on the legislation come tomorrow’s meeting.

He said that although he supports University transparency on an administrative level, he has been conflicted about whether or not ASUNM should ask for such a thing.

“I’ve been stuck on this our goal as ASUNM? Is that our specific place? That’s where I’m torn. At the end of the day, if a student asks for a resolution, it’s my due diligence as a senator (to present it). If they want their voice heard, that’s my job.”

Director of University Communication Dianne Anderson said that the UNM Foundation, which handles investment portfolios, has set up a committee to investigate divestments pertaining to social issues. She said it is likely the committee will have a report this summer.

David Lynch is a staff reporter at The Daily Lobo. He can be reached at or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.


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