Several US universities to consider divesting from Israel after sustained protests

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Students at several universities across the United States have convinced administrators to consider divesting their schools’ endowments from Israel following weeks of pro-Palestinian protests.

In what appears to be the protesters’ biggest win so far, Sacramento State pledged Tuesday to divest from all “corporations and funds that profit from genocide, ethnic cleansing, and activities that violate fundamental human rights.”

The school said it has no direct investments that cross this line, but will review its index and mutual funds and “pursue human rights-based approach to investments.”

Sacramento State’s agreement stands in stark contrast with other universities such as Columbia and George Washington, where administrators have called police to forcibly clear protesters and refused to bend to calls for divestment. Since April 18, police have arrested more than 2,800 people across 50 campuses.

Students have also notched incremental wins at schools including Northwestern, Brown, Rutgers, Johns Hopkins, the University of Minnesota and the University of California, Riverside — which have met some of their demands in exchange for the dismantling of encampments. Several universities have agreed to review their investments, and some have committed to being more transparent, though some activists are skeptical of those promises.

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Even small wins give protesters momentum

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Sources:  NPR, Rutgers University, Students for Justice in Palestine at Rutgers

“Of course vague promises to consider divestment are a long way from actually doing anything,” Bloomberg wrote, but many students are celebrating the agreements as incremental steps in a long-running fight. “When it comes to the actual momentum that this agreement gives us, I cannot emphasize enough how huge it is,” one Northwestern student told NPR.

Rutgers agreed to 8 of 10 of its protesters’ demands, agreeing to accept 10 displaced Palestinian students on scholarships and meet with students to discuss their divestment request, but declined to terminate its partnership with Tel Aviv University. Rutgers protesters said their decision to end the demonstration even though not all of their demands were met “reflects our strategic logic regarding building power on campus by laying structural groundwork.”

Donors and Jewish groups push back against universities’ ‘capitulation’

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Sources:  The New York Times, The American Jewish Committee

Universities that have vowed to consider divestment are facing sharp blowback from “the well-heeled donors whom few universities dare cross,” The New York Times reported, as well as some Jewish groups.

Several university donors told the NYT they would reduce or withdraw their donations if divestment becomes a reality, while many expressed skepticism that such a move is truly on the table. The American Jewish Committee and other advocacy groups have also condemned the divestment calls, with the Chicago chapter chastising Northwestern for succumbing to “the demands of a mob” and the New Jersey wing denouncing Rutgers’ “capitulation” to protesters.

Republicans leap to criticize universities’ ‘shocking concessions’

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Sources:  Semafor, Bloomberg, CNN

Republicans, who have sought to conflate all pro-Palestine protests with hate speech as incidents of antisemitism rise on college campuses, were quick to excoriate universities for negotiating with the protesters. Rep. Virginia Foxx, the Republican chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, said she would ask university presidents to attend an upcoming hearing about the deals they made with protesters, calling them “shocking concessions to the unlawful antisemitic encampments on their campuses.”

University of Florida president Ben Sasse, a former Republican Senator from Nebraska, admonished other campus administrations, saying that “instead of drawing the line at speech and action, a lot of universities bizarrely give the most attention and most voice to the smallest, angriest group.”

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