Breishna Hamed from Students for Justice in Palestine writes about why they joined our campaign to get the University, and wider society, to divest from arms companies.
The brutal consequences of investing in arms companies are often clouded by scrolls of complicated regulations and vacuous defensive rhetoric. By focusing on the actions of the State of Israel, we hope to highlight how crucial it is to pressure bodies into divesting from arms companies involved in a trade that devastates human lives.
A highly militarized state that profits from the systematic and institutionalized oppression of Palestinians, Israel sustains its lucrative arms trade through war and occupation.
In the last decade it has fought 3 military campaigns against Gaza; Operation Cast Lead leading to the deaths of 1,383 Palestinians, Operation Pillar of Defence leading to the deaths of 174 Palestinians, and Operation Protective Edge leading to the deaths of 2,205 Palestinians. Over the course of Israel’s most recent military campaign, “children in a UN refugee shelter were shelled while they slept, airstrikes hit schools, a hospital and a home for disabled people…family homes were destroyed with the inhabitants inside and whole civilian neighbourhoods were levelled”.
Using arms to further maintain its oppressive regime through military occupation, Israel subjects the Palestinian population to arbitrary arrests, expropriation of their property and severely curtails their freedom of movement. It entrenches practices that amount to segregation by preventing equal access to roads and infrastructure, basic services such as water supplies, and by applying a discriminatory legal system to Palestinians. It continues to construct a Separation Wall, and settlements within the West Bank despite the International Court of Justice ruling that both actions are illegal under International Law. In 2013, Amnesty International noted that Israel “routinely used excessive force against demonstrators in the West Bank.”
The State of Israel carries out these injustices with the most modern and effective weapons available on the market, exporting and importing them on a regular basis.
These lists of wrongdoings are sometimes overwhelming and do not do justice to the nuances of the lives that the figures represent.
Muhammad Abu al – Thahir was 16 when he was shot from long range and killed, while at a demonstration in the West Bank. He was a skilled football player and often trained his little brother, Omar, on the roof of their home. His dream was to go to university and be a journalist. He wanted to send a message to the world so that they could help end the injustices of the occupation.
Israeli military will attest to the success of their weapons because they are ‘field tested’ and ‘combat proven’. It is business as usual for arms companies, profiting from violence and war crimes.
Investing in arms companies provides them with a sense of legitimacy, and ignores the repression, aggravation of conflict, death, destruction, human rights and international law violations that are eventually caused. Investments in companies that provide arms to any such oppressive regimes cannot be ethically justified.
While it can be difficult to work through the intricacies of finding out whether bodies have invested in unethical companies, it is crucial to do so because companies that harm human welfare must be held accountable. Although divestment campaigns may not immediately impact arms companies economically speaking, the change in discourse inevitably affects their political clout. That change in discourse has the potential to help in the dismantling of apartheid regimes. By drawing the connection between companies that provide the tools for state oppression and the blatant destruction caused, we hope that divestment from these companies will be pursued as an effective means of pushing back against these oppressive regimes.