BOSTON — Hampshire College is believed to be the first American college or university to divest from companies deemed to be supporting Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.
The board of trustees of the Amherst, Mass., liberal arts college approved a proposal on Feb. 7 that would divest school funds from six companies deemed to be complicit in the Israeli occupation – Caterpillar, United Technologies, General Electric, ITT Corp., Motorola and Terex.
The university, a private school with 1,350 students, said the move was part of a larger review that led to divestment from more than 200 companies that violated that college’s standards for social responsibility.
The college emphasized that the Feb. 7 decision made no reference to any particular country, but it acknowledged the review was initiated by a student group, Students for Justice in Palestine.
The divestment push at Hampshire drew support from noted Israel critics Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein, as well as rock musician Roger Waters of Pink Floyd.
Divestment efforts and academic boycotts of Israel have largely failed, both in the United States and abroad. A divestment push at Harvard University drew a rebuke from Lawrence Summers, then the university president and current Obama administration official.
Summers said efforts to single out Israel are anti-Semitic “in their effect, if not their intent.”
Last May, the United Methodist Church rejected five separate petitions calling for divestment from companies that support or profit from the Israeli occupation, a move that drew praise from Jewish organizations.