Yesterday saw a coalition of student groups in Manchester coming together to protest on the National Day of Action, simultaneously with many other universities across a range of issues. The coalition of BDS UoM, Campaign Against the Arms Trade, and People and Planet UoM protested outside the board of governors meeting for the University of Manchester to divest completely from fossil fuels and from Caterpillar.
Over ⅓ of universities in the UK (59) have already divested from fossil fuels after student campaigning. However, after 3 years of dedicated activism, the University of Manchester still has not divested the 3.9% of its total endowment fund (£7.6M) from an industry which is a major cause of global climate change. Despite the university openly admitting that divesting from fossil fuels will not harm the institution financially, its failure to provide an adequate response as to why the university has not divested yet has angered students, such as members of Fossil Free, even further.
The university invests around £2,114,435.97 worth of shares in the company Caterpillar, who created and continue to supply armed bulldozers with the main purpose being to demolish Palestinian homes, land and public spaces, breaking international law. The same bulldozing company was responsible for killing American activist Rachel Corrie. Caterpillar is in the UN Human Rights Council Blacklist companies, which is due to be published in Early December. Campaign against the Arms Trade and BDS campaign, along with a growing number of people, demand that the university ends all institutional links and investment ties with these war crimes.
The event was a huge success, joining together students from an array of cultures and backgrounds from different campaigns, demanding the University of Manchester to divest now. The event proved that the institution can no longer act on its own accord, without regard for the tens of thousands of students who pay over £9,000 of tuition fees. Coalitions between groups will continue to grow and stand up until our collective voices are heard and action is taken.
UoM BDS Campaign
UoM People & Planet
Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) Manchester
Unis Resist Border Control
Fight Racism Fight Imperialism! Manchester
This briefing will detail how investments in Caterpillar contradict the ‘socially responsible’ investment policy of the University of Manchester (UoM), and require the immediate attention of the university in order to create an investment portfolio which is in accordance with their long standing policy.
The University of Manchester “socially responsible” investment policy states:
“Environment and Social Governance (ESG) Issues
The University is particularly concerned about the following key ESG issues and will adopt investment strategies that seek to minimise or, ideally, eliminate, irresponsible corporate behaviour leading to:
- Environmental degradation
- Armament sales to military regimes
- Human rights violations
- The institutionalisation of poverty through discriminatory market practices
- Racial or sexual discrimination
- Tobacco production, cultivation and manufacture
- The exploitation of workers
- Giving or Receiving of Bribes”
UoM invests approximately £2,113,435.79 in Caterpillar – according to the no. of shares (24900) invested and the share price ($107.49) at the end of Fiscal year 2016.
- Caterpillar actively supplies the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) with equipment used to commit violations of international law. For example, Caterpillar designs weaponised bulldozers for the IDF which are used for the specific purpose of demolishing Palestinian homes, factories, agricultural land and civilian infrastructure, including water pipes and networks on Palestinian territory assigned by the UN. Despite violating international law, these armoured bulldozers continue to be manufactured and supplied from 1967 to date.
- International organisations including the UN, Amnesty International and the International Red Cross have condemned the practice of housing demolitions in Palestine. They form part of a practice of collective punishment for Palestinians, as part of a process of “demographic engineering” to displace Palestinians from regions Israel deems of interest.
- The UN Human Rights Council list has included Caterpillar in their Blacklist of companies operating in occupied territories. This list is due to be published in whole in early December.
University of Manchester’s ESG
By knowingly and consistently providing equipment used to enact systematic human rights violations, Caterpillar is complicit in these violations, as a co-actor in Israel’s actions. In doing so, Caterpillar are a company that exhibit corporate behavior that amount to:
- Human rights violations
- Racial or sexual discrimination
- The institutionalisation of poverty through discriminatory market practices.
- Armament sales to military regimes
Constructive engagement (a tactic supposedly adopted by the university)
As illustrated, Caterpillar is a company that violates UoM investment policy – UoM should aim to practice the values it projects, and hold itself to that standard – divesting holdings in Caterpillar should be the natural course of action.
Despite being presented with clear evidence that their equipment is used for human rights violations, Caterpillar have been evasive and unwilling to act upon it, thereby making them even more complicit.
In response to a letter from Human Rights Watch demanding that Caterpillar suspend bulldozer sales to Israel, their CEO responded that they did “not have the practical ability or legal right to determine how our products are used after they are sold.”
Elsewhere, when challenged, they responded that “we expect our customers to use our products in environmentally responsible ways and consistent with human rights and the requirements of international humanitarian law.”
These deflections of responsibility, even when confronted by reputed human rights organizations, demonstrate that Caterpillar is unwilling to take action to adhere to its stated values.
It is highly unlikely that attempts to ‘critically engage’ Caterpillar to change their ways will be any more successful than those of Human Rights Watch.
Divesting from Caterpillar sends a clearer signal that they must improve their conduct and adhere by social responsible values, before UoM is able to invest in them again.
– The General Synod of the Church of England divested £2.2million from Caterpillar in 2008, after voting in 2006 to divest from “companies profiting from the illegal occupation [of Palestine].”
– The Presbyterian Church in the USA voted in 2014 to divest from companies whose products Israel uses in the occupied territories to maintain its occupation – including Caterpillar.
- In early 2017, the city council of Portland, Oregon (USA) voted to divest from corporations, as part of a move to block investment in companies that violate the city’s adopted socially responsible investment policy.
Caterpillar was specifically cited as one such case as its “practice of selling custom weaponized military equipment and its involvement in human rights controversies, including direct maintenance and support of Israeli military bulldozers during attacks on Palestinian residences, orchards and other property.”
Stories of Palestinians who have had their homes demolished
The Al Sho’bi family: Mahmoud Omar Al Sho’bi is from Nablus in the West Bank. In April 2002, a D9 bulldozer destroyed Mr. Al Sho’bi’s family home without warning in an IDF attack in the middle of the night. His father Umar, his sisters Fatima and Abir, his brother Samir, pregnant sister-in-law Nabila and their three children, ages 4, 7, and 9, were all killed.
The Fayed family: Fathiya Muhammad Sulayman Fayed’s home was bulldozed during an IDF incursion into the Jenin Refugee Camp in 2002. Hundreds of buildings were destroyed allegedly to clear paths for IDF tanks. During the demolition, her son, Jamal, who was paralyzed, needed assistance to get out of the house. While the IDF briefly stopped bulldozing so Fathiya could help Jamal, they quickly resumed demolition. Fathiya escaped, but was unable to get Jamal out, and he was killed.
The Abu Hussein family: A D9 demolished the Abu Hussein family home in the al-Salam neighborhood of Rafah in 2002. Destruction began without warning at 5:00 a.m., injuring six family members inside. After being warned, IDF halted active demolition but fired on neighbors and relatives trying to evacuate those in the house.
The Khalafallah family: In a July 2004 incursion into Khan Yunis Refugee Camp, the IDF demolished over 70 homes. At midnight, a bulldozer approached the home of Ibrahim Khalafallah and his wife Eida, where they lived with their 5 children, 2 daughters-in-law and 4 grandchildren. Ibrahim, in his 70’s and sick, was unable to move. When the bulldozer hit the house, Eida tried to stop the driver, but he continued, destroying the home and killing Ibrahim.
The organisers have cancelled the Balfour “celebrations” event at the University of Manchester and relocated to another venue in Manchester. Although this is a great victory for our campaign, the university itself did not cancel it and was from the beginning happy to host this celebration having had communications with the Israeli embassy. There has been increasing conditions imposed on Palestinian student activists and the University’s connections and investments in the Israeli arms trade remain to this day. It was the targeted campaign and pressure from students and concerned individuals that managed to drive the Balfour celebrations off campus. Therefore we will begin the protest at the University of Manchester – Whitworth Hall at 5.30pm and proceed to march to the new location. We ask you to share this and most importantly bring as many people as you can Tuesday 31st October at 5:30pm, Whitworth Hall, Oxford Road, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, M13 9PL
UoM BDS Campaign
Manchester Palestine Action
Manchester Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Manchester Jewish Action for Palestine
Palestinian community in Manchester
Manchester Fight Racism Fight Imperialism!
Dear Dame Nancy Rothwell
I write as a graduate of Manchester University (1985-88) and as a British Jew to express my disappointment that the University is willing to hire out its facilities for a celebration to mark the Balfour anniversary this coming Tuesday (31st October) .
I fully appreciate the strong historical connections between Manchester University and the Balfour Declaration through the work of Chaim Weizmann who taught in the Chemistry department at Manchester in the years leading up to Balfour. I’m also aware that the city itself has a strong Zionist tradition typified at the time by support from the Manchester Guardian. So it does not surprise me that an approach was made to hold a significant celebration in the University buildings this week by the Israeli Embassy and the Zionist Federation.
However, the University authorities should also have been aware and mindful that the historical consequences of the Balfour Declaration were a catastrophe for the Palestinian people. In fact Balfour is still not ‘history’ it is very much current affairs. Go to Israel/Palestine today and it is clear to see that Balfour is very much “unfinished business” as an official from the UK’s Mission to the United Nations recently tweeted.
To accept the booking for the event has caused great anger and upset from Palestinian and other Arab students studying in Manchester today, and, as you will know, the news of this has been reported nationally and internationally.
It is too late for you to cancel this booking now and in some ways this has become a good thing. Your action has prompted a counter reaction organised by your own students and Tuesday night will see a demonstration against Balfour which will receive media attention around the world. It will highlight to the British public Britain’s complicity in an on-going tragedy and explain why celebrations of this kind are entirely inappropriate.
As for making some recompense for your original decision to let the event go ahead, I suggest the University organises a conference on Israel/Palestine next year to mark the 70th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba (‘catastrophe’).
Robert Cohen, BA Hons Politics & Philosophy 1988
Dear Professor Nancy Rothwell
It has come to our attention that the University of Manchester plans to host an event co-organised by the Israeli embassy and the Zionist Federation, to celebrate 100 years since the Balfour Declaration on Tuesday 31st October at 7.30pm. By agreeing to this, is the University oblivious that the event you will be hosting, will celebrate the Declaration that lead to the expulsion of 800,000 Palestinians from their homes and the destruction of over 400 villages during al-Nakba in 1948?
Is the University unaware that the Balfour Declaration ultimately led to massacres of innocent people, and the ongoing illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza for 50 years?
This perverse celebration compounds the University of Manchester’s existing institutional and investment links with Israeli institutions complicit in war crimes.
Only a few weeks ago, an investigation by the Guardian exposed how the University censored student-organised Palestinian solidarity events after meeting with the Israeli embassy. Now, news of this event makes clear that the University is more committed to continuing its relationship with the embassy of a repressive state than it is to accountability and duty of care to its own students, faculty and staff.
Britain’s colonial occupation of Palestine since the First World War was not a benign intervention. Not only was it violent and unwelcome, the British 1917 Balfour Declaration was the green light for those seeking an Israeli state to plan for the forced removal of the indigenous Palestinian population. During British rule, Ben Gurion, the future first Israeli Prime Minister, said in 1937 “We must expel the Arabs and take their place”. In 1947-48 this was carried out in a well-planned ethnic cleansing operation that involved mass expulsion, murder and imprisonment, and the destruction of hundreds of villages.
This is now well documented by Israeli historians and soldiers from the time, as well as the Palestinians, many of whom still have the keys to their homes but for decades since have been denied their right to return.
Celebrating the Balfour declaration is a mockery of the suffering of the Palestinian people, and is greatly disrespectful for Palestinian students at the university who have, alongside their families, been forced to live their entire lives under the boot of the Israeli army. Would you not consider for a second listening to Palestinian students’ experiences as they relay a life of having their university bombed by Israeli F16s, losing university class mates to Israeli snipers or having their whole house demolished to be expelled for not being the desired ethnic group by Israel leaders? This celebration of their loss illustrates the appalling double standards and disdain the University is showing towards Palestinian students and Israel’s abominable treatment of them.
Given that there will be so many at this event who have served in the Israeli army that violently dominates every living moment of Palestinian students’ lives, it is obvious the environment created by this event is unsafe for Palestinian students, many of whom have suffered directly at the hands of the Israeli security services. A large number of students have expressed fear for their safety with Israeli security personnel roaming our campus. By allowing this event to take place and hosting the Israeli embassy, the university is failing to uphold its basic duty of care to staff and students.
The implications are doubly grave both for Palestinians studying now at the University and to the idea that universities should not be a place for celebrating colonialism and racism.
We demand that the University of Manchester cancel the event at the earliest opportunity.
UoM Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign
UoM Action Palestine
UoM Arab Society
UoM Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!
UoM Sri Lankan Society
BME MCR (the campaign for Black and Minority Ethnic students at the University of Manchester)
UoM Marxist Society
UoM Tamil Society
UoM Islamic Society
The University of Manchester has been colluding with the Israeli embassy over events ran by the student BDS campaign. A British university should not be engaging in such discussions with any Foreign government, especially Israel.
Many students at the university of Manchester are of Palestinian origin, and such meetings with the Israeli embassy over a campaign in support of Palestinian human rights is a mockery of the suffering Palestinians have faced under Israel’s apartheid regime and violates all ‘social responsibility’ ethics preached by the University of Manchester.
Our campaign demands the university end all ties to Israel’s apartheid regime, which includes their investments in companies such as Caterpillar. Caterpillar continues to supply armoured bulldozers specifically for the Israeli army, used to demolish Palestinian homes.
Israel has been systematically ethnically cleansing the Palestinians for almost seven decades, while imposing a regime of apartheid to separate and subjugate those Palestinians that remain. Anti-Apartheid hero and Nobel Peace prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu has been to Palestine and described it in parts as “worse” than Apartheid South Africa, calling for similar Boycott Divestment and Sanctions that helped end it. Palestinian citizens within Israel face more than 50 laws which discriminate against them. Israel has continued to hold Palestinian civilians in Gaza under a blockade for over a decade, restricting the population from basic goods, clean water and electricity. In their last attack on Gaza, which targeted civilian infrastructure, over 2000 Palestinians, including over 500 children were murdered. Israel continues to commit war crimes, which also include the constant demolition of Palestinian homes within Palestinian territory, to expand their illegal Israeli settlements.
Yet, our university remains deeply linked to Israel’s continuing crimes against humanity through their investment and institutional links.
Join us on October 4th, as the University of Manchester board of governors meets, to demand that the University end all links with Israel’s war crimes including divestment from companies that are complicit in human rights abuses!
Stand for justice and join us at the #ApartheidOffCampus protest.
FB EVENT: https://www.facebook.com/events/1755457381414735/
The internationally renowned artist Carlos Latuff drew a piece displaying the hypocrisy of a British ‘socially responsible’ university which invests money raised through tuition fees for the destruction of Palestinian homes. The University of Manchester is the only university in the UK to include ‘Social Responsibility’ among its top 3 priorities. Their ‘socially responsible investment policy’ is a key component of their self-proclaimed ‘social responsibility’. The policy details their intent to abstain from investments in companies which either contribute to human rights violations or/and armament sales to military regimes.
However, despite their self-proclaimed ‘social responsibility’ both “nationally and internationally”, the university continues to invest over £70 million in companies which are complicit in human rights violations both in Palestine and across the globe. For instance, one major contradiction of its investment policy is their investments in companies such as Caterpillar. Caterpillar supply the armored bulldozers for the Israeli Defense Forces which are used for the demolition of Palestinian homes to make way for the ever-expanding illegal Israeli settlements.
The funding of such investments arises from students tuition fees. Fees which are meant to contribute to further benefit the educational system, and increasing the university’s message of ‘social responsibility’. Yet, to the contrary, every student is contributing to the funding of ethnic cleansing and war crimes, as defined under the Geneva conventions. There are already over 5 million Palestinian refugees according to the UN. The demolition of Palestinian homes only contributes to the rise of the Palestinian refugee count. Investing in Caterpillar and similar companies contributes to both human rights violations and armament sales.
Latuff also expressed his support vocally for the BDS campaign: “I’m glad I made this cartoon for the BDS campaign at the University of Manchester because I support the efforts of its activists and I firmly believe on BDS as a way of pressure against the long-term Israeli apartheid on Palestinian territory”.
T-shirts and prints are available with the Carlos Latuff sketch.
We, the students of the University of Manchester, are going on hunger strike solely in solidarity with Palestinian political prisoners. 1,500 Palestinian prisoners have started a hunger strike on 17th April 2017. Many of them are underaged, and most of them have been in Israeli jails for years. They have started a hunger strike to demand basic human rights: the ability to contact their families via telephone, medical care and recover their confiscated belongings, the end of isolation in prisons and imprisonment without charge or trial.
Decades ago, university students were key in demanding the end of apartheid of South Africa. University students have paid a key role in many anti-racist struggles, including Black Lives Matter. The struggle for justice for the Palestinians is no different, they have 70 years of unremitting mistreatment, including thousands of deaths, systemic expulsions, institutional racism and apartheid. We stand in solidarity with them.
As students we feel a responsibility to support the Palestinian cause. Through our tuition fees we are funding the university’s activities, which support the Israeli apartheid regime. As most British universities, the University of Manchester invests millions of pounds in companies which are complicit with the suffering of the Palestinians. For instance, the university invests millions in Caterpillar, a company that supplies the bulldozers used by the Israeli Defence Forces to demolish Palestinian homes.
It is not only our right, but also our duty to end this injustice. Justice will win.
Dear Dame Nancy and Dr Redmond,
Two of our students from the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) Movement are facing disciplinary hearings this week (29th March) due to carrying out a banner drop on the Samuel Alexander building which read ‘Stop Arming Israel’.
This action occurred on March 2nd as part of the activities of Israeli Apartheid Week. The students drew attention to the University of Manchester’s contravention of its own Policy for Socially Responsible Investment in investing in companies such as Caterpillar, who supply armoured bulldozers for the Israel Defence Forces, vehicles used to raze Palestinian homes in the occupied territories, and in collaborating with Technion Institute of Technology, leaders in the research and development of hi-tech weaponry for the IDF.
Such investments and collaborations by the University lend credibility and infrastructural support to Israel’s occupation, a regime ‘sustained by the same three pillars of apartheid that were once maintained in South Africa: the designation of a racialized identity with preferential legal status (whites in South Africa, Jews in Israel and the occupied territories); the fragmentation of territory for the purposes of segregation and domination; and the maintenance of “security” laws directed against one population (blacks, Palestinians) for the protection of the racially privileged group’ (Saree Makdisi, ‘Architectures of Erasure’, Critical Inquiry, 2010). Indeed, as Makdisi continues, the structure of apartheid is even more complete in the occupied territories, for its function here is not to control, circulate, and exploit black labour within society, but to separate, contain, and remove Palestinians in the onward expansion of Israel’s land-grab.
The University should applaud these two students for drawing attention to the hypocrisy of abetting Israel’s apartheid regime while professing a socially responsible investment policy. Instead, we see with dismay that they are to be subject to disciplinary hearings.
We the undersigned members of the academic community at the University of Manchester appeal to you in the strongest terms: 1) to withdraw completely the threat to discipline these students; 2) to make swift moves to divest the University from firms that abet the apartheid regime of Israel; and 3) to meet the University’s obligation to respond to the two Freedom of Information requests by the BDS Movement (due on 3rd and 7th April) to present publicly the full extent of the University’s financial involvement with companies who invest in Israel.
Manchester UCU Executive Committee
UNISON, University of Manchester
Professor Claire Alexander
Dr David Alderson
Professor Mona Baker (Emerita)
Dr Naomi Baker
Dr Lauren Banko
Dr Anke Bernau
Dr Howard Booth
Professor Erica Burman
Dr Bridget Byrne
Dr Niall Carson
Dr Tanzil Chowdhury
Dr Michelle Coghlan
Dr Steven Courtney
Dr Jerome de Groot
Professor Laura Doan
Professor Mike Donmall
Professor Jeanette Edwards
Professor Aneez Esmail
Dr Douglas Field
Dr Molly Geidel
Dr Kevin Gillan
Professor Hal Gladfelder
Dr Ingrid Hanson
Dr Ben Harker
Dr Bethan Harries
Professor Penelope Harvey
Dr Malcolm Hicks (retired)
Dr Jenny Hughes
Dr Andrew Irving
Professor Tim Jacoby
Dr Stef Jansen
Dr Andrew Jones
Dr Steven Jones
Paul Kelemen, Honorary Research Fellow
Dr Camilla Lewis
Dr Peter McMylor
Professor Roseanne McNamee (retired)
Professor Miguel Martinez Lucio
Dr Stefania Marino
Dr Orieb Masadeh-Tate
Professor David Matthews
Dr Vanessa May
Dr Robert Meckin
Dr Dalia Mostafa
Professor Khalid Nadvi
Dr Adel Nasser
Dr Richie Nimmo
Dr Michelle Obeid
Dr Adam Ozanne
Professor Ian Parker, Honorary Professorial Research Fellow
Dr Monica Pearl
Professor Luis Perez-Gonzalez
Dr Floriane Place-Verghnes
Dr Eithne Quinn
Dr Madeleine Reeves
Professor Dee Reynolds
Professor Chris Roberts (Emeritus)
Dr John Roache
Dr Emily Rohrbach
Dr Michael Sanders
Dr Fred Schurink
Dr Tony Simpson
Dr Graham Smith
Dr Robert Spencer
Professor Jackie Stacey
Dr Ingrid Storm
Dr Nicholas Thoburn
Dr Petra Tjitske Kalshoven
Dr Angela Torresan
Dr William Turner
Dr Anastasia Valassopoulos
Dr Sivamohan Valluvan
Dr Bram Vanhoutte
Professor Peter Wade
Dr Chika Watanabe
Dr Dan Welch
Professor Janet Wolff (Emerita)
Dr Luke Yates