O’Shea: USG needs to allow a conversation on the occupation of Palestine

Our campus has recently seen the discussion of Undergraduate Student Government (USG) Resolution 27-04, a call on the University to fully divest its assets from companies that directly or indirectly fund the Israeli occupation of Palestine, which is viewed as illegal by many countries. Currently, however, the USG Executive Committee, of which I sit on in the position of Treasurer, is refusing to allow this resolution to be put on the agenda for the next General Assembly (GA) on April 10. As one of two primary authors of R27-04, I call on the USG Executive Committee to allow discussion on this incredibly important issue.

On the “Mission, Vision and Core Values” page of its website, Case Western Reserve University claims that “the free exchange of ideas” is a key component of Inclusiveness and Diversity. If this is the case, then our elected USG representatives are violating this principle. It’s hypocritical of our representatives to preach a desire for increased dialogue immediately before blocking any discussion from occurring on the April 10 GA agenda. This is an illiberal act and directly contradicts with the value of academic freedom.

It’s true that the science, technology, engineering and math fields have a greater presence on our campus than the social sciences and humanities, but this doesn’t mean that we should not or cannot have conversations on political issues like a larger or more balanced school does. The university endowment currently sits at $1.8 billion, making our institution one of the most powerful and influential in Cleveland and in the state of Ohio. As students whose tuition directly feeds into this fund, we have not just a right, but a responsibility, to ask that the endowment be invested in a way that reflects our morals.

Students across the country, from the University of Michigan to Stanford University and many more, have held a substantive conversation on how their institutions contribute to the occupation of Palestine, and we need to do the same. Beyond addressing the moral questions posed by the occupation, being a part of this institution actually gives us the ability to enact real change. By joining with the dozens of other student governments across the United States to call on our respective administrations to divest from the occupation, we can begin to put pressure on Israel to change its policy and end an oppressive military occupation that has gone on for far too long.

The occupation is one of the most chronically undercovered military operations in US news media. On the occasion that violence spikes, like it did this past weekend when Israeli security forces killed 18 Palestinian protesters or when an Israeli Defense Force attack on the Gaza Strip killed 2,000 civilians in 2014, our news sources from the left, right and center have expressed a strong Israeli bias and rarely offer a Palestinian perspective.

But the coercive occupation isn’t something that only occurs when we hear about it. It is a constant of life for Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. From the military courts that Palestinians are tried in and face a 99 percent conviction rate, to the schools in which the Palestinian identity is actively suppressed, Palestine has lived under occupation for 61 years without pause.

It’s time that as an undergraduate student body, we have a real conversation about the occupation and how we directly contribute to its continuation with investments in multinational companies that profit off of Palestinian oppression. The USG Executive Committee should not be able to pick and choose which student interests they represent; they need to fulfill the roles they were elected to and allow discussion on this imperative issue, regardless of their personal positions.

Tim O’Shea is a second-year political science major and currently serves as a USG Treasurer.