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Student organizations call on ASU to boycott and divest from companies supporting Israel

With continued conflict in Israel-Palestine, students petitioned for University action that supports Palestine


Members of the "All out for Palestine" rally walk across the Palm Walk Overpass with signs in support of Palestine on the Tempe Campus on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023.

A petition calling on ASU to boycott Israel and divest from companies supporting the country will be delivered to the Dean of Students office and presented to the Undergraduate Student Government in the coming weeks.

The petition, organized by ASU’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), demands the University to remove products manufactured in Israel from campus stores, withhold investments from companies "complicit in the Israeli occupation of Palestine" and end all study abroad programs in Israel until the conflict is resolved.

Finn Howe, a junior studying computer science and the president of SJP at ASU, said that over 300 students have signed the petition and it will be presented to USG on Nov. 14 at a press conference on Wednesday.

"We are going to ASU, full-throated with our chests out, and are going to say that you must boycott and divest from the companies that support the occupation," Howe said. "We're here today to make history."

Students for Justice in Palestine has over 200 chapters nationwide advocating for "Palestinian liberation." The organization has ties to the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement that works to "end international support of Israel." 

A statement on Oct. 23 from BDS said it is calling on students to pressure their institutions into demanding a ceasefire in the region and to exclude weapons companies that invest in and sell to the Israeli government.

"We know that this is not going to be an easy fight. We know our voices are loudest when we're all together," Howe said. "We're no longer scared of those who try to silence us and intimidate us."

Two members of Hillel at ASU were at the event expressing concerns about antisemitism on campus. In response, Howe reinforced SJP's commitment to supporting marginalized communities. 

"We see the rise of anti-Semitism on campus and we're the first ones to come out against it," Howe said at the press conference.

In an Instagram post after College Republicans United at ASU offered to join their cause in October, Students for Justice in Palestine said it stands "completely against anti-Semitism, white supremacy, xenophobia, homophobia, and all other bigoted principles." 

This petition comes after ASU joined other academic institutions in support of Israel more than a week ago. 

READ MORE: ASU joins 14 academic institutions in collective support of Israel

Leaders of ASU’s Jewish communities said they appreciate the University’s stance on the matter.

"In the aftermath of the deadliest attack on the Jewish community since the Holocaust, I appreciate ASU’s strong condemnation of Hamas’s actions," Debbie Yunker Kail, the executive director for Hillel at ASU, said in an email to The State Press. "This is a strong show of support and solidarity for Jewish students during such a difficult, frightening, and isolating time."

"Chabad at ASU was incredibly grateful to see the University Administration's moral response to the horrific antisemitic massacre in Israel with their strong statement of support for Israel against Hamas," Director of Chabad at ASU Rabbi Shmuel Tiechtel said in an email. "As antisemitism skyrockets across the nation, we are relieved to see the university stands with Israel and its supporters and against hate and evil."

Rallies organized by ASU SJP and other local groups supporting Palestine have ensued following ASU's statement as the conflict in the Middle East continues.

READ MORE: ASU community rally at Old Main to show support for Palestine

Walkout in support of Palestine

Howe said hundreds of students have come out and shown through protest they do not support the University’s stance.

"(Protestors) are coming out and saying that, ‘We do not stand for this genocide, we do not stand for Israel’s brutal occupation,’” Howe said. “I don't think ASU speaks for its students when it says it stands with Israel."

Students and faculty gathered outside the Memorial Union on the Tempe campus to participate in a national walkout on the morning of Oct. 25 to demand "an immediate end to Israel's siege on Gaza."

The protest consisted of chants led by Howe and a series of speakers sharing their experiences and anger towards the University. Students like Salam, a sophomore political science student, said she wants more from the University in support of Palestinians.

"They should post a statement saying they’re for Palestine and they’re for Palestinian safety on campus," Salam said. 

Sujey Vega, an associate professor of American and Women and Gender Studies, said that while she appreciates the University’s commitment to free speech, she does not think ASU is willing to take the necessary steps to protect Palestinian students and promote discourse around the subject.

"It's a geography issue, it's an economy issue, it's a political issue, it's an engineering issue … I don’t see a place on ASU's courses where this shouldn’t be talked about," Vega said at the walkout. "I know a lot of faculty either don’t feel comfortable talking about it, or don't have enough information to talk about it."

On Oct. 12, ASU made a statement re-enforcing its commitment to free speech and fortifying students’ rights to protest on campus. 

"The University wholeheartedly respects and protects the right to free speech – and free speech means everyone on all sides of an issue," a University spokesperson said in an email to The State Press. "People on our campuses have the right to peacefully express their opinions, even if those expressions become uncomfortable or offend others." 

President of Alpha Epsilon Pi, ASU’s Jewish fraternity, Nate Eisenberg said he and his peers acknowledge all students’ rights to protest, but they still worry for their safety around the demonstrations. 

"I'm just on edge. That’s the general feel for most of the people that are around me right now," Eisenberg said. "I respect them rallying, but for my own safety I know to stay away from it."

READ MORE: Jewish students congregated to show support for Israel, honor the fallen

March on the Capitol

Hundreds gathered and marched from the Arizona State Capitol to Phoenix City Hall in a rally organized by the Palestinian American Community Center in the state of Arizona to show support for Palestine on Oct. 27. 

"We called on people to stand here and condemn the violence, and stand for a just and peaceful resolution for the conflict," said Mohammed Riyad, a spokesperson for the organization, as he stood behind a memorial honoring lost Palestinian children.

Members of ASU's SJP and the Socialist Revolution Club at ASU were present at the protest to stand with Palestinian people and amplify their anger at the University.

"It’s our job, not just as students, but as … human beings, to say we won’t stand for tuition dollars going towards these projects and initiatives that benefit from the violence,” ASU SJP member Samuel said at the protest. "We, as a student body, do not agree with or support continued investment and puppeteering in the West Bank."

The event ended with a vigil including photos of some of the thousands of innocent victims in Gaza. 

Edited by Alysa Horton, Shane Brennan and Angelina Steel.

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