Board of Trustees Condones Violence

Students for a Free Palestine and

To the Editors:

It has now been two and a half years since Student Senate, reflecting the will of the Oberlin student body, passed a resolution to divest from six companies that profit from and perpetuate Israel’s occupation of Palestine. For a year and a half, the response from the Board of Trustees to this divestment resolution was one of silence and inaction. In that time, Israeli forces killed over 2,100 Palestinians — including 1,500 civilians and 500 children — during Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014. During the 51-day assault, Israeli forces targeted Gaza’s schools, hospitals, factories, mosques and water and power plants. Whole neighborhoods, such as Shuja’iyya, were destroyed; generations of families murdered. The Board of Trustees remains silent on the issue.

In the fall of 2014, it adopted a formal process by which it would consider a divestment resolution. This decision came after calls by the student body for increased transparency of the College’s endowment portfolio, more dialogue between the student body and the Board of Trustees and a larger role for student voices in determining what our tuition was being used to fund. While we greeted the formalization of a divestment process with optimism, we have since been forced to question the true purpose of it.

After submitting a divestment proposal to the Board in February 2015 and a revised version with a list of organizations supporting it in April, the result has not varied: silence and inaction. We have been told that an answer will come by a certain deadline, and each time, the deadline is pushed back. We are forced to ask: Is this transparency? How can this silence be called “dialogue”?

While the Board continues to deliberate, Palestinians in Gaza face ongoing occupation and the aftermath of Operation Protective Edge. Israel’s blockade of Gaza restricts the import of food, medicine, electricity, fuel and, most recently, the cement and steel critical to the rebuilding process. As of May, 100,000 out of the 1.8 million inhabitants of Gaza remain homeless. As of July, none of the 19,075 homes and 20 schools destroyed had begun to be rebuilt. In the West Bank, Israel raises walls intended to protect illegal Israeli settlements, limits Palestinians’ freedom of movement and detains, tortures, even kills protesters on a regular basis. Homes are demolished and hundreds evicted without prior notice, as in the Negev, where Israel continues to raze the “unrecognized villages” of Bedouin Palestinians.

In the face of these developments, Oberlin College’s lack of response marks its complacency in the face of daily violence committed against Palestinians. We need to question the efficacy of a divestment application process as proposed by the Board of Trustees, a Board that does not seem to feel the urgency to act demanded by Israeli occupation. The responsibility falls on us, the student body, to pressure them into action. Join us on Wilder Bowl for the International Day of Solidarity with Palestine on Wednesday, Oct. 14, to push for divestment and concrete action.

In struggle,

Students for a Free Palestine

A. M.
College sophomore

Wyatt Kroopf
College senior

Jacob Firman
College senior

Alexandra Smith
Double-degree first-year