Palestine, Israel, and UofC Divest

Palestinians today live under an apartheid system that denies them basic human rights on the basis of their ethnicity.

  • Land: Only about 18% of the West Bank is available to Palestinians. Illegal, Jewish-only Israeli settlements continue to grow, with 420,000 Israelis now living on Palestinian land in the West Bank. [1] [2]
  • Resources: Israel does not allow Palestinians access to water reserves; they are forced to buy their own water back from the Israeli water authority. The average West Bank Palestinian consumes 70 liters per capita per day (l/c/d) of water, while the World Health Organization recommends a minimum of 100. [3]
  • Safety: In Gaza, Palestinians live with the threat of regular Israeli bombing and ground invasions, which often have civilian casualty rates as high as 70% according to the UN. In the West Bank, Palestinians are constantly harassed and attacked at checkpoints by the Israeli military, who face practical immunity for killing innocent Palestinians. [4] [5]
  • Prosperity: The Israeli blockade of Gaza prevents even the most basic materials to reach the impoverished area, creating an economic and humanitarian crisis. In the West Bank, Palestinian importers and exporters face extreme and arbitrary restrictions. [6]

The origins of the conflict go back to the ethnic cleansing of historic Palestine leading up to the 1948 Al-Nakba, a process which continues today.

  • Zionism evolved as a settler colonial movement to displace the natives in Palestine and make way for an ethnically Jewish state. As early as the 1880s, waves of mostly Eastern European settlers moved to Palestine and developed a nationalist rhetoric rooted in the methodical “transfer” of the Palestinian people. [7]
  • 700,000 to a million Palestinians, or at least 80% of the indigenous population of the region, were forced from their homes in 1948 by Zionist militias in order to found the State of Israel. [8]
  • The new state labeled refugees attempting to return to their homes as “infiltrators” who were killed at the border. They have never been allowed to return to their homeland. [9] [10]
  • Palestinian refugees and their descendants still live in refugee camps across the Middle East, and the global diaspora makes up the oldest protracted refugee population in the world. [11]
  • Although the right of return is affirmed in UN Resolution 194, little discussion of Palestinian refugees exists in mainstream discourse on the “two-state solution.” Rather, they are ignored or treated as a “demographic threat” to the Israeli state. [12]
  • As part of this “War on Return,” Palestinians who remained in Israel were placed in a secondary category of citizens through laws such as the Law of Return (1950) and the Israeli Nationality Law (1952). The Israeli public, and therefore access to various rights, was constructed to systematically exclude the native peoples of Palestine. [13]

In 2005, Palestinian civil society called upon the international community to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel until they respect human rights for all.

  • The BDS movement draws on a history of Palestinian economic activism and the anti-Apartheid boycott movement led by Black South Africans.
  • BDS targets the companies and institutions most complicit in Israeli violence and the occupation of Palestinian land. [14]


UofC Divest honors the BDS call by demanding the university divest all funds from 10 companies complicit in the occupation of Palestinian land.
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[7] Gershon Shafir, Land, labor and the origins of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, 1882-1914 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996).

[8] Ilan Pappé, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (Oxford: Oneworld, 2006).

[9] Shira Robinson, Citizen Strangers: Palestinians and the birth of Israel’s liberal settler state (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2013).

[10] Avi Shlaim, The Iron Wall (New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, 2001).

[11] Pappé (2006).


[13] Robinson (2013).