TEL AVIV – The University of Michigan’s student government on Wednesday voted in favor of a resolution that would see the university investigate divestment from companies that do business in Israel.
The vote came after an intense eight hour debate – the longest on record – and is the 12th time since 2002 that a BDS resolution has been presented to the Central Student Government (CSG). The student body at the university comprises large Jewish and Arab-American populations.
This time the vote was cast by secret ballot ending with a 23-17 vote and five abstentions. This year, history professor Victor Lieberman, who during previous hearings had spoken out against divestment, was barred from speaking, prompting cheers from BDS students, the Michigan Daily reported.
The resolution was authored by Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE), which describes itself as an advocacy group for Palestinians’ “right to self-determination and freedom from the human rights abuses that they currently endure under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza.”
It calls on the University of Michigan to form a committee to investigate divestment, and to specifically divest from Boeing, Hewlett-Packard and United Technologies since those companies have business ties with the IDF and therefore promote Israel’s “apartheid system.”
The Michigan Daily quoted a senior at the college decrying the move out of fear that it may damage the university’s relationship with those companies’ internship programs.
“I have never spoken out about any of my beliefs before,” she said. “This resolution is a direct attack to Israel… to me, Israel’s strengths outweigh their weaknesses, and I cannot be quiet any longer.”
However, at this time the vote holds little water since the university’s board will not take it up.
“The students have the right to express themselves, and obviously a right to free speech,” UM Regent Andrea Fischer Newman said on Wednesday. “We’re not going to disinvest in Israel. Our investment strategies are based on what’s best for the endowment, what’s best for the university. We’re not in agreement with using politics to make decisions.”
BDS student activists took to the streets to dance after the vote passed.