On Oct. 29, over 20 student clubs and organizations came together to honor the lives of those who perished in the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, the deadliest anti-Semitic shooting in American history. Many were deeply touched by the efforts of both student government and the sponsoring clubs to stand alongside one another in collective grief. The vigil was co-sponsored by a diverse interfaith coalition of student and university organizations, including the Islamic Center at New York University, Protestant Life at NYU, the Center for Multicultural Education and Programs and the LGBTQ Student Center.
This vigil can only be described as a testament to the university’s commitment to providing a safe and inclusive space for marginalized students. This praiseworthy outpouring of support for the Jewish community starkly contrasts with the introduction of a resolution that adopts the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions framework calling for NYU to divest from firms that do business with the Israeli government, like Lockheed Martin, General Electric and Caterpillar. Just as students were beginning to come to terms with the magnitude of the horrific attack in Pittsburgh, the Student Government Assembly is preparing a resolution that will do little to mitigate the plight of the Palestinian people, and will only further the growing sense of fear within the Jewish community.
NYU is a private university and is therefore not required to divulge the contents of its investment portfolio, so we do not know if the school is actually invested in these corporations. This means that the resolution is more of a statement of belief than anything else. It is important to note that NYU is connected to these corporations in some capacity. The Tandon School of Engineering has an official partnership with Lockheed Martin while Caterpillar and General Electric equipment is used in the construction and maintenance of NYU buildings. Nevertheless, the resolution would only hurt the students and faculty who benefit from these investments, without actually aiding in the cause of “Palestinian liberation.”
The resolution is not only unnecessary but it also needlessly singles out the only Jewish state for reproach by targeting companies who students claim profit from human rights violations in Palestine. But these corporations have made sizeable investments into the economies of other nations as well, including numerous countries with questionable human rights records. Take for example Lockheed Martin, the world’s biggest arms company that sells billions of dollars in weapons each year. It has engaged in arms-contractor agreements with both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, two of the primary belligerents in the ongoing Yemeni Civil War. In fact, the United Nations has concurred that “…individuals in the Government of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and in the de facto authorities [of the Government of Yemen] have committed acts that may, subject to determination by an independent and competent court, amount to international crimes.”
The BDS resolution seems to single out NYU’s future investments in Lockheed Martin for condemnation as a result of the company’s dealings with the Israeli government, and yet the bill does not address Lockheed’s continued dealings with the UAE, where NYU operates its Abu Dhabi campus. If the purpose of this resolution is to strengthen NYU’s commitment towards human rights abroad, why is there a deafening silence from the Student Government Assembly with regard to the activities of these multinational corporations in other states deserving of critique? It makes sense that the administration wouldn’t want to call out the UAE in order to preserve their working relationship but why won’t SGA? Furthermore, how will this resolution further the cause of peace in the region, when it has little to no effect on either the Palestinian’s economic development or towards their national aspirations?
If this resolution were to pass the Student Government Assembly and receive approval from Administration, it would only prevent future investments in NYU and hurt the student body as a result. The irony of the resolution is that It in no way mitigates the burden that decades of conflict have had on the Palestinian people and only engenders a sense of fear and uncertainty in an increasingly vulnerable Jewish community. We urge all student senators and presidents serving on the Student Government Assembly to vote no on the upcoming “corporate divestment” resolution.
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Email Matthew Weinstein and Bobby Miller at [email protected]