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Evergreen State College in Olympia becomes first US uni to completely divest from Israel

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Students with the Evergreen Gaza Solidarity Encampment and officials of the Evergreen State College in Olympia finally reached an agreement, and now the public college has decided to work toward divesting from “companies that profit from gross human rights violations and/or the occupation of Palestinian territories.” This makes the university the first in the US to completely divest from Israel.

A sign listing protesters’ demands is displayed at a protest encampment in support of Palestinians, during the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, U.S. April 28, 2024 (REUTERS/David Ryder)

The student-led group took over the school’s Red Square on April 26. Subsequently, the Memorandum of Understanding was struck.

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“At the end everybody was really proud of how the negotiations went,” Evergreen spokesperson Kelly Von Holtz said, according to The Olympian. The encampment has now been cleared.

What does the Memorandum of Understanding say?

As per the signed Memorandum of Understanding, the Investment Policy Disappearing Task Force will plan to divest from some companies. The Grant Acceptance Policy Disappearing Task Force will decide what criteria will be applied for accepting or refusing grants “based on the purposes of the grant.” This will be presented to the board of trustees by the task force in the fall.

The MOU says, “Criteria would include such considerations as whether grants facilitate illegal occupations abroad, limit free speech, or support oppression of minorities.”

A new structure for the Police Services Community Review Board will be proposed by a Civilian Oversight of the Police Department Disappearing Task Force. The Police Services Standard Operating Procedures will be updated too. Meanwhile, by 2025, an Alternative Models of Crisis Response Disappearing Task Force is set to propose an alternative “non-law enforcement model for 24-hour crisis response.”

Evergreen would need to make a statement defending the rights and free speech of students. This has to include a paragraph from the president, which would say, “Like many, I am horrified and grief-stricken by the violence and suffering being inflicted due to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I wish to see an end to the violence and restoration of international law, including respect for the March 25 United Nations resolution. Specifically, the resolution called for a lasting, sustainable ceasefire honored by all parties, immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, expanded humanitarian assistance, and the protection of civilians. Additionally, I mourn the destruction of universities and hospitals, the (killing) of journalists, and want to see the release of any prisoner being held without due process.”

Evergreen will now stop approving study abroad programs to Israel, and students will not be allowed to go to Gaza or the West Bank for study abroad programs. The MOU highlighted that the college is committed to diversity and the prohibition of “discrimination based on shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics, including Jews and Palestinians.”

Notably, Evergreen is where Rachel Corrie, an American non-violence activist and diarist, studied. She was a member of the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement (ISM). While in Rafah in 2003, Corrie was protesting the Israeli military demolishing Palestinian houses at the height of the Second Intifada. She was consequently crushed to death by an Israeli armoured bulldozer.

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