On Monday March 7, Students Against Israeli Apartheid — heeding the call from Palestinian civil society for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions — launched a campaign demanding that the University of Toronto divest from companies violating international law and perpetuating an illegal apartheid regime. In particular, SAIA has serious concerns with the university’s holdings in the following four companies: BAE Systems, Northrop Grumman, Hewlett Packard, and Lockheed Martin. These companies are actively involved in significant violations of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and U of T’s holdings in these companies make it complicit in the commission of these crimes.

BAE Systems is a global defence, security, and aerospace company and currently the world’s third-largest weapons manufacturer. It produced weaponry, including F-16 combat aircrafts, cluster bombs, and weapon components, used in Israel’s 2008/09 assault on Gaza. The Goldstone Report of 2009 concluded that Israel committed actions amounting to war crimes, and possibly crimes against humanity in its assault on Gaza. BAE Systems — in which U of T holds $1,746,000 worth of shares — contributed to Israel’s weaponry used in these internationally condemned crimes against Palestinian civilians.

Northrop Grumman, another large weapons manufacturer, also contributed to the production of various components and weapons used in the killing of civilians by Israel in its 2008/09 attack on Gaza. Significantly, the company is the sole provider of radars for F-16 combat aircrafts – aircrafts which, according to Amnesty International, played a central role in the killing of Palestinian civilians and the wholesale destruction of Palestinian civilian and economic infrastructure. Shamefully, U of T currently holds $1,157,000 worth of shares in this company.
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Hewlett Packard, among the world’s largest information technology companies, is implicated in the ongoing collective punishment of Palestinians, through the production of checkpoint technologies used in the West Bank, and information technology infrastructure used to facilitate the ongoing naval blockade of Gaza. In particular, HP aids the Israeli Defense Forces in their occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip by supplying them with personal computers, servers, and virtualization systems. By aiding and abetting the IDF — an institution which has enforced the illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip since 1967 — HP is implicated in numerous violations of international law and human rights.

Finally, Lockheed Martin, an arms manufacturer based in the United States, is currently the largest overseas supplier for the Israeli armament industry. In particular, this company is involved in the manufacturing of F-16 combat aircrafts and Hellfire missiles, which have together contributed to hundreds of civilian deaths in both Gaza and Lebanon. Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has condemned the IDF’s use of such American-built military weapons, stating that hundreds of Palestinian civilians had been killed or injured in Israeli attacks, largely by tanks deployed in refugee camps and explosives dropped on heavily populated area.

In short, these companies reap profits from the ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and violations of Palestinian rights. By investing in these firms, U of T not only reveals the hypocrisy of its stated commitments to human rights and social justice, but also becomes complicit in their breaches of international law. Furthermore, according to Principle VII of the Nuremberg Principles, “complicity in the commission of a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity…is a crime under international law.” In other words, U of T is in breach of international law through its indirect participation in, and profiting from, war crimes.

It is therefore imperative for all students, faculty, staff, and alumni who are committed to principles of equity and social justice, and who do not want to be part of an institution that so egregiously violates these principles, to join SAIA in demanding that:

(1) The University of Toronto Governing Council immediately divest of its stock in BAE Systems, Northrop Grumman, Hewlett Packard, and Lockheed Martin.

(2) The University of Toronto refrain from investing in all companies involved in violations of international law.

(3) The University of Toronto work with students, faculty, and staff to undergo a democratic and transparent process to ensure accountability to principles of social and environmental justice.

As the BDS movement gains momentum around the world, more and more institutions are cutting ties with apartheid Israel. Notably, in 2009, Hampshire College in the US became the first university to divest from Israeli apartheid. Divestment campaigns have also begun at many universities including Carleton University, York University, and UC-Berkeley.

We must remember that it was only after years of concerted pressure from students, faculty and staff that the U of T administration decided to divest from South Africa in 1988.

Unfortunately, our university was the last in Canada to take a stand against South Africa’s apartheid regime. Join SAIA to ensure that this time, U of T is one of the first universities — and not the last — to cut ties with an apartheid state.

Editor’s note: Look for the University of Toronto’s response in the coming weeks at the www.thevarsity.ca.