Health workers and advocates support call for U of Arizona to divest

Press release, UA Health for Human Rights, 30 March 2010

The following press release was issued on 30 March 2010 by UA Health for Human Rights, an ad hoc group formed by the broader University Community for Human Rights, a student-led board leading divestment initiatives at the University of Arizona:

A joint group of more than 50 Jewish, Christian, Muslim and agnostic medical and health advocates of the Tucson and surrounding region, following student initiative, are calling on the University of Arizona to divest from corporations benefiting from the global health and humanitarian crisis in Palestine caused by Israel’s military occupation, supported by the United States.

In recent weeks the Arizona Daily Wildcat, the daily newspaper of the University of Arizona, exposed the business relationship between companies Motorola, Caterpillar and the University of Arizona, prompting the numerous health advocates to act. UA President Robert Shelton, for several months, refuses to seriously address the issue thereby dismissing students’ concerns and those of the broader Tucson human rights community. Since August of last year, students in University Community for Human Rights (UCHR), the group leading the campus call for divestment, have requested meetings with President Shelton; to date he has not granted their requests nor answered alternative requests for him to send representation on his behalf to meet with students about the issue.

Following through with an open letter released on Friday [26 March], 52 signers ranging from local physicians, medical professors, public health professionals, students and humanitarian aid workers have demanded an end to these contracts and relationships which violate University of Arizona’s own Policy on Corporate Relations and which contradict the UA’s overall mission, particularly that of its College of Medicine.

The signers endorsed the statement foremost as individuals of the University of Arizona/regional medical and health community, although many of them also represent participation in a diverse spectrum of prestigious medical and human rights activities. Some of the signers include Joyceen Boyle (PhD), former Associate Dean of the University of Arizona Nursing School and current Country Specialist on Amnesty International USA’s Central American Coordination Group; Barbara Warren (MD), National Board of Directors member of Physicians for Social Responsibility; Carolyn Trowbridge (RN), member of the University of Arizona’s University Committee for Monitoring Labor and Human Rights Issues; also numerous aid workers of local humanitarian organizations No More Deaths/No Mas Muertes and Tucson Samaritans: Hannah Hafter, Nancy Murphy, Sarah Roberts, Annie Swanson, Maryada Vallet, Jim Walsh; as well as student leaders Natasha Bhuyan and Allison Lowe (med students) of progressive University of Arizona group Medical Students for Choice; and Enas Tamimi, officer of University of Arizona Students for Justice in Palestine (undergraduate, Nutritional Sciences).

According to students Gabriel Matthew Schivone and Hali Nurnberg, co-directors of University of Arizona Community for Human Rights: “The actions of these courageous doctors and health advocates demonstrate the uncontroversial human rights consensus on the US/Israel-Palestine conflict; they suggest how to help attain a peaceful resolution, that is to say, implementing the sort of international nonviolent divestment activism that helped end apartheid South Africa’s acts of regional aggression and occupation throughout the latter half of the 20th century … When all the Israeli human rights groups, all the Palestinian human rights groups, all the international human rights groups are saying the same thing, namely, that Israel regularly violates the rights of Palestinians under occupation, suggesting that the occupation is detrimental to the health and safety of everyone it touches — both Palestinian and Israeli — the world is compelled to listen.”

This initiative follows the historic resolution recently passed on Thursday, 18 March by the Associated Students of the University of California, Berkeley, in support of financial divestment from two companies associated with their university for the companies’ connection to human rights abuses committed by Israel in its US-backed military occupation of Palestine. On 25 February 2010 a similar bill was passed by the student government of the University of Michigan’s Dearborn campus. Last year, Hampshire College became the first college or university to financially divest from the occupation. This past September, Norway became the first state to obey the July 2004 ruling by the United Nations International Court of Justice which proclaimed upon the entire international community “not to render aid or assistance in maintaining” the “illegal situation created” by Israel’s separation wall which cuts and divides Palestinian lands and communities. Divestment movements led by students, trade unions, private sector firms and other members of civil society are active in dozens of countries throughout the world.

All of the above actions occur following the 2005 call by a consensus of more than 170 Palestinian civil society organizations for initiatives of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law. On Tuesday, 30 March 2010, Palestinian civil society is calling on people of conscience throughout the world for a Global BDS Day of Action.

In Tucson, numerous groups, both on and off campus, have joined together to issue their calls on the University of Arizona to divest, including University of Arizona National Lawyers Guild, Social Justice League, Students for Justice in Palestine, Muslim Students Association, Tucson Women in Black, Jobs With Justice (Tucson chapter), Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (Tucson chapter), Tierra Y Libertad Organization, Casa Maria Catholic Worker House/Soup Kitchen, Coalicion de Derechos Humanos, International Solidarity Movement (Arizona Chapter) and many others.

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