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University of Birmingham Petition

Submitted by: UofB SJP

We are a coalition of Students, Alumni, Staff and Student Societies at the University of Birmingham, who stand in solidarity with Palestinians suffering settler-colonialism and occupation under the Israeli Apartheid State. We unequivocally condemn Israel’s violent oppression of Palestinians, and are gravely concerned at the fact that our University is actively complicit in this process.

We demand the following:

Demand 1:
As fee-paying students at the University of Birmingham, we demand that the University divests immediately from all companies complicit in Israel’s brutality and violence against Palestinians and violations of International Law.

Demand 2:
We demand that the University revises the UoB Responsible Investment Policy, and signs an Apartheid Free Pledge.

Please read below for full letter and sign our petition.

Dear Professor Sir David Eastwood,

We are writing to you as a coalition of students, alumni, staff and student societies, at the University of Birmingham, who stand in solidarity with the Palestinians suffering settler-colonialism and occupation under the Israeli Apartheid State. We unequivocally condemn Israel’s violent oppression of Palestinians, and are gravely concerned at the fact that our University is actively complicit in this process. 

Since 1948, Palestinians have been subject to ethnic cleansing, apartheid and settler-colonialism by the Israeli state through violent displacement, the construction of illegal settlements and military occupation. Recently, the forced expulsion of residents from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, the attacks on the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the bombardment and killing of hundreds of innocent civilians in Gaza have left us feeling distressed, in despair and deeply concerned about the complicity of the University in these crimes against humanity.

Under the United Nations (UN) resolutions 446, 452, 465, 471 and 476, the actions of Israeli forces on Palestinian occupied territories are unambiguously illegal. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

UN Security Council resolution 2334 (2016) reaffirmed that Israel’s settlements are indeed in “flagrant violation of international law”.[6]  Furthermore, Israeli settlements are illegal under Israel’s own laws, as made evident on the 9th of June 2020 in the case of Silwad.[7] In this case, the Supreme Court of Israel voted 8-to-1 against an attempt to legalise occupation settlements, built on unauthorised and privately-owned land in the West Bank (case HCJ 1308/17 Silwad vs the Knesset). 

In 2009, the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) of South Africa, reported that Israeli practices in the occupied Palestinian territories correlate almost entirely with the definition of Apartheid, as mentioned in Article 2 of the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid.[8] Earlier this year, Human Rights Watch also found Israel guilty of ‘Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution’. [9]

In 2020, it was found by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, using the Freedom of Information Act, that over 100 UK universities invest in companies which facilitate the continued Israeli occupation and are therefore complicit in its crimes. [10] It is to our great dismay that the University of Birmingham has an estimated £4,585,000 worth of unethical investments in Israel – using our tuition fees among other income streams.

The University has a duty and obligation to safeguard the interests of all individuals that invest in and study at the University. Moreover, universities should seek to uphold a standard of integrity within and outside of their institution, at a local, national and global scale. This is particularly crucial for an institution such as the University of Birmingham, which consistently ranks in the top 100 universities globally.[11]

According to the ‘Responsible Investment Policy’ set out by the University itself in September of 2020, investments must be made with consideration to social, environmental and governance factors.[12] It specifically highlights the considerations made in promoting “human rights”, “good business ethics” and an “end to international conflict including prohibition of companies which produce armaments”. 

The University invests a total of £331 million into a number of index funds, many of which have holdings in companies which perpetuate Israel’s illegal settler-colonialism. For example, the University has invested £19 million into the Legal & General Global Equity Index Fund with its endowment fund and another £8 million via its investment funds and cash holdings. [13] This index fund has holdings in a multitude of companies which are directly complicit in Israel’s violation of international law, including Israel Chemicals LTD and Elbit. [14] This violates the ethical commitments set out in the University’s policies and makes the University complicit in Israeli human rights abuses and violations of international law. It is stated that the University considers environmental, social, and corporate governance factors within each investment made. Factors such as “human rights”, “activities in conflict zones” and “consumer protection and controversial weapons” have been outlined as considerations for investment processes by the UN Principles for Responsible Investment Reporting Framework. [15] 

Furthermore, the policy includes investment exclusion criteria which all investment managers are required to consider. This includes, but is not limited to, investments in armaments, including production and retail of civilian firearms, companies with revenues connected to weapon systems and manufacturing of weapons, and human rights and labour standards which fall below recognised standards.[16] Therefore, by the University’s own policy, these indirect investments in Israeli companies and manufacturers upholding Israel’s Apartheid regime should have been rejected. We vehemently condemn the University’s unethical investments.

Our Demands

We demand that the University: 

  1. Divests immediately from all companies complicit in the occupation of Palestine and Israeli war crimes and cut all institutional links with Israel (detailed below).[17]
  2. Revises their Responsible Investment Policy with the participation of nominated student representatives, signs the Palestine Solidarity Campaign Apartheid-Free Pledge, and engages with students to ensure accountability on these commitments.

We are especially concerned about these investments as they appear to be funded by our tuition fees. It is abhorrent and we are appalled that our tuition fees are being utilised by the University to facilitate clear violations of international law and human rights abuses on innocent civilians in Palestine.

As demonstrated by the University of Leeds, Bradford and Manchester, divestment from companies complicit in Israeli Apartheid is possible and completely within reach for an institution such as the Univeristy of Birmingham[18]. We reject an education and an institution invested in the occupation of Palestine and the ongoing suffering of the Palestinian people. What we are demanding is simply for the University to respect Palestinian human rights and fulfil its moral duty as an educational institution. 

We look forward to engaging with you to ensure accountability on these matters. 

——————————————————–

References

[1] 

Security Council Resolution 446, Security Council resolution 446 (1979) [on establishment of a commission to examine the situation relating to settlements in the Arab territories occupied by Israel], S/RES/446 (22 March 1979), available from <https://digitallibrary.un.org/record/1696/?ln=en>.

[2]

Security Council Resolution 452, Security Council resolution 452 (1979) [on Israeli settlement policies in the occupied territories], S/RES/452 (20 July 1979), available from <https://digitallibrary.un.org/record/3657?ln=en&gt;.

[3]

Security Council Resolution 465, Security Council resolution 465 (1980) [on Israeli settlement policies in the occupied territories], S/RES/465 (1 March 1980), available from <https://digitallibrary.un.org/record/11767?ln=en&gt;.

[4]

Security Council Resolution 471, Security Council resolution 471 (1980) [on assassination attempts against the Mayors of Nablus, Ramallah and Al Bireh], S/RES/471 (5 June 1980), available from <https://digitallibrary.un.org/record/13947?ln=en&gt;.

[5]

Security Council Resolution 476, Security Council resolution 476 (1980) [on the status of Jerusalem], S/RES/476 (30 June 1980), available from <https://digitallibrary.un.org/record/25616?ln=en&gt;.

[6]

Security Resolution 2334, Security Council resolution 2334 (2016) [on cessation of Israeli settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem], S/RES/2334 (23 December 2016), available from <https://digitallibrary.un.org/record/853446?ln=en&gt;.

[7] 

HCJ 1308/17, Silwad Municipality, et al. v. The Knesset, et. al (petition accepted 9 June 2020) (joined by the court with HCJ 2055/17, The Head of Ein Yabrud Village v. The Knesset). Available in Hebrew from:

<https://supremedecisions.court.gov.il/Home/Download?path=HebrewVerdicts\17\080\013\v48&fileName=17013080.V48&type=4>.

[8] 

HSRC, Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid?: A re-assessment of Israel’s practices in the occupied Palestinian territories under international law (2009), available from  <http://www.hsrc.ac.za/en/research-data/view/4634>.

[9]

Humans Rights Watch, A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution (27 April 2021), availabel from <https://www.hrw.org/report/2021/04/27/threshold-crossed/israeli-authorities-and-crimes-apartheid-and-persecution>.

[10]

Palestine Solidarity Campaign, University Complicity Database (2019) <https://www.palestinecampaign.org/university-complicity-database/&gt;.

[11]

QS Top Universities, QS World University Rankings 2021 (2021), available from <https://www.topuniversities.com/university-rankings>.

[12]

University of Birmingham, Responsible Investment Policy (September 2020), available from < https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/documents/environment/uob-responsible-investment-policy.pdf>.

[13]

University of Birmingham, UoB Investment Portfolios (September 2020), available from <https://intranet.birmingham.ac.uk/finance/investments/index.aspx&gt;.

[14]

Legal & General, Legal & General Global Equity Index Fund – Annual Manager’s Report for the year ended 15 January 2021 (2021), available from <https://fundcentres.lgim.com/srp/lit/71rryA/Long-report-annual_Legal-General-Global-Equity-Index-Fund_15-01-2021_UK-INST_UK-ADV_UK-PRIV.pdf&gt;.

[15]

See Reference [12]

[16]

See Reference [12]

[17]

All complicit companies and institutions are listed here in the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, University Complicity Database (2019) <https://www.palestinecampaign.org/university-complicity-database/>.

[18]

Asa Winstanley, ‘Manchester university divests from firms complicit in Israeli occupation’, Electronic Intifada (3 August 2020), available from <https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/asa-winstanley/manchester-university-divests-firms-complicit-israeli-occupation&gt;.

If you are a UoB society who want to support us, email us at uobsjp21@gmail.com or dm us on Facebook or Instagram @uobsjp. Thank you for your support.

 

The following societies have signed the petition as of 07/06/2021.

 

Students for Justice in Palestine Society (SJPUoB)

Islamic Society

Ahlulbayt Society

IMED

Arab Society

Caribbean Union

Pakistan Society

Kashmiri Society

Somali Society

Omani Society

Bengali Society

Punjabi Society

Yemen Society

Intersectional Feminist Association 

Marxist Society

POLSIS in Colour

UoB Friends of MSF

SfGH Birmingham

DAMSA

Islamic Arts and Heritage Society

Calligraphy Society

93% Club Birmingham 

Women in Law

 

 

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