Posted by: University of Mississippi | March 19, 2009

Ole Miss to Grace the Pages of History Once Again

By Justin Head
Columnist for the Daily Mississippian
12 March 2009

A historic opportunity has presented itself on our university’s campus. We could, yet again, be a part of history. This time, however, we could lead the historical triumph over social injustice rather than resist it.

Resolution 09-05, authored by Graduate School Senator Dan Blazo, was brought to the ASB senate floor last Monday. The three-page bit of legislation includes a gigabyte of implications, nearly all of which could engrave the proudest story of our chapter in Ole Miss history. The proposal could bring more press to the school than September’s presidential debate. Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Jimmy Carter, the United Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church will all publicly endorse us upon passage, as they did Hampshire College for doing the same thing. More importantly, this statement would be our contribution to international human rights. Although 09-05 was rejected by the ASB senate Monday, Senator Blazo promises to continue the struggle and propose an amended version of his resolution in the near future.

Resolution 09-05 calls for the divestment of university funds from nine companies that supply arms to the Israeli military, a military which consistently violates international human rights laws.

As most of us are probably aware, the Israeli and Palestinian governments have never been on peaceful terms. Although their quarrels are not new, the continuance of needless bloodshed grows more atrocious with each passing day. The default American response is first to choose a “side,” and second to endorse Israel. A more thoughtful approach, it seems to me, would be to avoid choosing a “side” when the opposition includes nonviolent civilians. I for one support peaceful intentions over violent ones. Neither Hamas nor the Israeli government has earned my support.

Our university is currently invested in nine companies that provide arms to the government of Israel. The vast majority of UN member countries believe the Israeli government to be overly aggressive in their “self-defense” military tactics. Nearly all human rights organizations claim that Israel consistently violates human rights laws. The U.S. is often the only nation to back Israel in the UN Security Council, which is made up of representatives from 15 countries.

While groups like Hamas may be excessively brutal in their tactics, the other side of the story is often left out of the rhetoric of news networks. The Israeli government’s violent and imperialistic pursuits of Palestinian land have undoubtedly incited much bloodshed on both sides.

Palestinians are as human as Israelis, Americans, Canadians and all other peoples. Why should one population be allowed to suffer under violations of international laws when others are defended? A representative student body bears the responsibility of neutrality in this situation, given the strong campus-wide opposition to Israel’s violations of international laws.

Ole Miss implicitly supports Israeli military operations by investing in companies that profit from the occupation of Palestine. It is not our proper role to unconditionally support a “lesser evil” in a foreign conflict saturated with injustices. Instead, we should defend international human rights laws by refusing to assist any entity that violates them.

It is hypocritical for our university to fund corporations that profit from the violent oppression of innocent civilians. Resolution 09-05 was certainly not a scheme to support Hamas, but rather to instill a stance of noncompliance with Israel’s illegal use of force. This is a proposal for spreading peace. Ole Miss could be the first public university in the nation to champion the cause. Others will follow in our footsteps. Ole Miss can redeem itself in the pages of history by leading the way for our generation’s social movement for peace.

For all you pragmatists who find yourselves indifferent to the conflict, or for those unsold on the notion of Israeli aggression, you may at least find rationale to support the divestment campaign in the effects its passage will have on our campus. Imagine what endorsements from half a dozen Nobel Peace Prize Laureates will do for admissions. Imagine the headlines: “SEC School in Deep South Divests from Apartheid; First University in Nation.” Imagine the esteem it will bring our community overtime.

I hope you will join the fight, as I have, by signing the petition floating around campus in support of this ASB proposal. Tell your ASB senator you want Ole Miss to take this opportunity to serve our fellow men and women and in the process create a legacy of peace for our university.

The University of Mississippi is once again facing a historic opportunity. Ole Miss has defeated apartheid and is better off because of it. Let’s share the wisdom of our post-apartheid experience with those who need our help the most. Let’s show the world that Ole Miss’ victory over social injustice has vindicated the struggle of our forbearers.

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