NUDivest holds workshop on BDS strategy


Sophie Mann/The Daily Northwestern

Weinberg juniors and NU Divest members Alexa Klein-Mayer and Hazim Abdullah-Smith lead the group’s workshop about BDS. Over 40 people attended the event in Fisk 311 on Thursday.

Shane McKeon, Assistant Campus Editor

A Northwestern Divest workshop on its boycott, divest and sanction strategy drew more than 40 students to Fisk Hall on Thursday.

NUDivest, a movement pushing for the University to divest from “corporations that are profiting off of the illegal occupation of Palestinian lands,” according to its website, held the event to clarify misconceptions about BDS and to explain the strategy to students.

The call for BDS includes calls for the boycott of and divestment from corporations and academic institutions directly involved in the occupation of Palestine, according to the website of the Palestinian BDS National Committee.

Weinberg junior Alexa Klein-Mayer, an NUDivest member, was one of the event’s hosts.

“BDS isn’t an end in itself, it’s a means to peace,” Klein-Mayer said in the workshop. “Often, BDS is portrayed as being in opposition to peace, but at the end of the day, BDS is about the recognition of rights that were supposed to be guaranteed to Palestinians, and how can peace be achieved without these rights being granted?”

NUDivest is targeting NU’s Investment Office, which manages about $7.9 billion.

The group advocates divesting from six corporations — Boeing Co., Elbit Systems, G4S, Caterpillar Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. — that it believes the University invests in. The Investment Office does not release information on its investments.

NU Divest believes that both the size of these corporations and NU’s capital make it likely that the University is invested, Klein-Mayer said.

“The fact that our tuition money is involved is even more reason for individual NU students to care,” she told The Daily. “We want our University to stand on the right side of history, and we want to make sure that it’s not complicit in violating human rights.”

Weinberg senior Moira Geary, an NUDivest member, said the group is acting on specific requests from Palestinian civil society.

“They called for BDS, and that’s a very important distinction,” she said. “We are responding specifically for something Palestinians asked us for, and that’s different from imposing our will or a solution upon people who are being oppressed.”

The group has drafted an ASG resolution formally asking the University to divest from those six corporations.

Geary said there are many ways to influence the University to change policy, but an ASG resolution was the primary means the group decided on.

“We know it takes a certain kind of leverage to force the University to change its actions,” she said. “The leverage we’re trying to get is through this resolution. We feel like it’s a really good show of student support, and that it would hold a lot of weight if passed.”

The resolution has not been introduced yet, and organizers ended the meeting by urging attendees to contact their ASG senators in support.

Klein-Mayer said she’s overheard some mischaracterizations about the group on campus, and she encouraged attendees to read the resolution on the group’s website.

“It’s important to know what’s in it, and what it says, and what it doesn’t say,” she said. “We aren’t divesting from Israel, we’re divesting from these six corporations.”

Klein-Mayer said the group does not have a stance on a one- or two-state solution, and that its focus is mainly on advocating for Palestinians’ rights.

The group will participate in an NU Political Union-moderated panel with members of Northwestern Coalition for Peace, a group opposed to divestment, in Harris Hall on Monday.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the goals of the BDS movement. BDS calls for the boycott of and divestment from corporations and academic institutions directly involved in the occupation of Palestine. In addition, an earlier version of this article misstated the money that makes up Northwestern’s endowment. Student tuition does not go into the endowment. The Daily regrets the errors.

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