SJP divestment campaign begins

The Students for Justice in Palestine have launched a campaign to encourage the administration of the University of  Indianapolis to divest from companies that support the Israeli occupation of  Palestine. Senior sociology and philosophy major Zak Mitiche is program coordinator for the group. He said that role has led to his spearheading the campaign.

“Our divestment campaign is a part of the broader BDS movement,” Mitiche said, “which stands for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. Obviously, this is a campaign that relates to the Palestinian–Israeli conflict.”

According to Mitiche, the larger BDS campaign asks citizens who support its cause to call on their institutions to divest money from corporations it says support the Israeli government.

For UIndy, that would include an end to working with companies that use Caterpillar construction equipment and to UIndy Dining Services carrying Sabra Hummus, among divestments from other corporations, Mitiche said.

“We’re counting on the university—specifically we’re calling on the financial committee of the board of trustees—to divest from six corporations,” Mitiche said. “The goal here is not to attack these corporations, nor to bring them down. The goal is to put economic pressure on these corporations.”

As a part of that process, the group says it will need to pass a non-binding resolution in the Student Senate that will show support for the divestment movement. The Student Senate will vote at its session this Saturday.

To draft the resolution, Mitiche said the SJP worked with several other student organizations. Among them were Janus Club, Pre-Physical Therapy Student Association, Kinesiology Club and Black Student Association.

If the non-binding measure passes, Mitiche said the resolution will go before the Faculty Senate. Senior political science major Rae Junard serves as the president of the Indianapolis Student Government.

“SJP’s been working at this for about a year now, and I’m really proud of their grassroot movement,” she said. “I still think there’s a long way for them to go in terms of the board of trustees, to get them to take action. I think it’s good that they’re going through the route of Student Senate and trying to get student support for it.”

Junard said the movement also is a good example of citizens advocating for change.

“That’s like true democracy—working from the bottom up and getting everyone to know the facts, really,” she said. “I think if it actually passes [the Student Senate], it will send a message—to the board of trustees, President Rob, everyone up there—that the students are invested in social welfare.”

Leading up to the senate vote will be a week of activities hosted by SJP.

Beginning Monday, Feb. 22 and lasting all week, will be an art exhibit in the main atrium of Schwitzer Student Center.  According to the group’s Facebook page, “Boycott! The Art of Economic Activism” will feature posters from historical and contemporary boycott movements.

On Tuesday, Feb. 23, the group hosted a viewing of the documentary “Detaining Dreams.” A moderated discussion with the co-producer and two professors of American Studies from Indiana University and Purdue University followed.

Today, the group will teach a traditional dance in UIndy Hall B. “Teach Me How to Debka: Dancing for Social Justice” is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.

Tomorrow, the group will have an interactive maze. The group said it hopes the course will give participants an idea of what passing through military checkpoints in Palestine is like.