Palestine Labor Abolition Affinity groups Commentary

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February 29, 2024

5C students delegate to Alexander Hall after passing BDS referendum

“You cannot scare us into complicity and silence. Pomona College students have spoken.”

Undercurrents staff

On Feb. 29, around 24 Claremont College students delegated to Pomona College Chief Operation Officer Jeff Roth to demand that the college to divest from the ongoing genocide in occupied Palestine. The delegation was on the heels of an ASPC referendum that showed overwhelming student support for divestment and disclosure from weapons manufactures and Israeli-affiliated companies.

The referendum, which students had voted on the week prior, had the highest margin of victory for a student-body wide BDS referendum at any college in the United States. Out of 1035 students, 90.79% voted in favor of disclosing investments in weapons manufacturers.

The students entered Alexander Hall, hoping to speak to Pomona President G. Gabrielle Starr. Because Starr was not on campus, Roth appeared before the delegation. 

“Dear Pomona College administration,” said a student, “Despite your fear-mongering, disciplinary hearings, and the public doxxing of a Black Latine student on the school listserv, students have remained firm in their position.” 

Pomona College has continually suppressed and undermined student calls for divestment from Israel, including Gabi Starr’s claim that the Boycott, Divest, Sanction (BDS) movement resembles antisemitism. Such charges of antisemitism, said the Los Angeles chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace, “undermine support for the Palestinian struggle for freedom.” 

According to the Gaza Health Ministry, Israel has killed more than 30,000 Palestinians since Oct. 7. Palestinians face starvation as they are forced from their homeland by Israeli forces. On Feb. 29, Israeli troops killed at least 112 people trying to recover flour and canned goods from aid trucks in Southern Gaza.

The delegator summarized the historic referendum posed by the Associated Students of Pomona College (ASPC), in which 85% of students demanded disclosure of Pomona College’s investments that aid the Israeli apartheid system and 78% voted to cease all academic support for Israel. 

The student went on to cite the ongoing genocide of Palestinians and the recent Israeli invasion of Rafah, saying, “These horrors are made possible by weapons and funded by companies that we know this institution profits from. It is precisely because we know this that the student body so overwhelmingly demands you disclose your investments in weapons manufacturers and in all companies aiding the ongoing apartheid system within the state of Israel.” 

Another student criticized the Pomona College administration’s attempts to conceal investment in Israeli violence. “You are invested in a genocide in which 30,000 Palestinians have been murdered,” said the delegator, yet “you attempt to mask it underneath the cloak of racing with other colleges to balloon your endowment. Pomona College, this corporation, is placing profit above human life.” 

The delegator recalled Pomona’s history of refusing calls for divestment. In 1985, 70% of students demanded that Pomona cease financial support of South African apartheid, but then-President John David Alexander claimed that divestment was not a solution.

Pomona College had $13.5 million invested in South African apartheid. Institutional divestment, including by universities, was a major contributor to the fall of the South African apartheid state. 

The delegator also recalled how Pomona refused to divest from fossil fuels despite student protest. “Not only are you complicit,” said the student, “you have been and continue to line your pockets from destroying our planet and destroying Palestinian life.”

A final delegator called out Gabi Starr’s suppression of student voices, including her 2021 denouncement of an ASPC resolution that would cease investment of student funds in Israeli occupation. The delegator emphasized the importance of an academic boycott of Israel, as Israeli universities are complicit in the genocide of Palestinians.

“This academic boycott must remain until Israeli universities end their complicity in Israeli apartheid, settler colonialism, and ethnic cleansing.” the delegator said. “We demand that Pomona College sever its ties with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in occupied Palestine until all human rights are upheld for both students at the university and all Palestinians.”

The delegator closed by ensuring Roth that the demonstrations and disruptions would not cease until the college divested from Israel.

“We are not here to have a dialogue. We are here representing the students of Pomona College,” said the delegator. “We promise you that Pomona will not continue on with business as usual until this genocidal institution heeds our demands.”

Read more

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Pitzer discloses $1.6M in defense and aerospace investments, a month after telling SJP it will not divest

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Incoming ASPC President: Pomona Board of Trustees want to “buy our silence and complicity in genocide through donations”

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Pomona admin met with Claremont Police Chief days before Alexander Hall sit-in to plan intervention, emails show

Thanks for reading Undercurrents

Undercurrents reports on labor, Palestine liberation, prison abolition and other community organizing at and around the Claremont Colleges.

Issue 1 / Spring 2023

Setting the Standard

How Pomona workers won a historic $25 minimum wage; a new union in Claremont; Tony Hoang on organizing

Read issue 1