Young person wearing a keffiyeh and bullhorn.

University of Houston students protesting proposed raise of mandatory student fees their Board of Regents meeting February 2024.

University of Houston: Boycott, Divest, and Sanction Israel

Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of Houston is reviving our campaign to boycott, divest, and sanction Israel. Here’s why. 

The University of Houston, praised as “the second most ethnically diverse major research university in the United States,” has invested over $7.6 million in weapons and arms manufacturing companies since 2016, making the school complicit in the deaths in Gaza and the destruction of Gazan students’ homes. More than 30,000 people have been killed in the Gaza strip since October 7, and almost 70,000 people have been injured and face permanent disability. Israel has displaced almost the entire population. 

Despite the UH Divest student coalition passing a divestment resolution through the Student Government in March 2022, and a petition with over 1,000 signatories advocating for a Socially Responsible Investment Screening for future university investments, the University of Houston has not taken any steps to address those demands.

As professors at UH teach their classes and students invest in their education and careers, students and professors in Gaza have seen their universities bombed and destroyed by Israeli airstrikes. The people of Gaza have endured the elimination of their educational systems and historic universities shut down with no foreseeable return. As university students ourselves, we can only imagine the feeling of our years of effort, dedication, and focus on education being destroyed in mere moments.

We demand a complete divestment from death and the reallocation of university investments away from weapons and arms manufacturers, and the replacement of McDonalds, Starbucks, and Sabra with ethical alternatives on our campus.

We call our community, on campus and beyond, to take matters into their own hands and to respond to our call to action: boycott companies complicit in the ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people in Gaza.

What is BDS?

The Boycott Divest Sanction campaign is a global campaign modeled after the anti-apartheid movement that called for the boycott of apartheid South Africa. The movement points to global boycott targets and encourages economic disruption as a means to protest oppressive state actors – in this case, the state of Israel. 

We call on individuals to boycott companies that directly benefit from or are complicit in the Israeli occupation and genocide in Palestine.  We call on students to refuse to intern or work for companies supplying the Israeli military with weapons, such as Lockheed Martin, General Electric, Boeing, or Raytheon.

We call on the University of Houston to immediately withdraw investments from companies that benefit from Israeli occupation and genocide of Palestine, including the aforementioned weapons manufacturers.

Why Starbucks?

Starbucks has historically deterred pro-Palestinian individuals since 1998, when CEO Howard Schultz was awarded the “The Israel 50th Anniversary Tribute Award” from the Jerusalem Fund of Aish Ha-Torah for “playing a key role in promoting a close alliance between the United States and Israel.” For years, a debate on whether Starbucks’ CEO materially supported Israel’s settler colonial project through his company’s success left Palestinians and allies avoiding the brand. Most recently, the company sued the Starbucks Workers United union for posting a tweet regarding “Solidarity with Palestine.” Beyond Palestine, Starbucks was and is undergoing lawsuits for their use of slave labor in Brazil.

Why McDonalds?

While Palestinians in Gaza have endured a 17 year-long siege with consistent bombings and raids, McDonalds has supplied the Israeli Occupation Forces with free meals during the escalation following October 7, as food sources got cut off from Gaza and people continue to suffer from state-induced famine.

Why Sabra?

Co-owned by Strauss Group, Sabra is an Israeli company that has provided financial support for the Golani brigade of the Israeli army, thus foundationally backing the violent genocidal Zionist aggression.

Our educational institutions must stop supporting continued death and destruction. As an educational institution, the University of Houston has a responsibility to defend the right to education for all people everywhere and to stand against Israel’s scholasticide.  UH also has an ethical responsibility to divest from weapons manufacturers and Israeli companies as they actively commit these heinous crimes of genocide and apartheid.

The responsibility also extends to the companies that the University of Houston platforms on campus including McDonalds, Starbucks, and Sabra who have supported, silenced opposition to, or directly funded violent brigades of the Israeli army.

Alongside the ongoing genocide in Gaza, Israel has committed escalating atrocities in the West Bank including but not limited to the murder of 100 Palestinian children, arrest without trial of workers, artists, and children. Since October 7th 2023, the global BDS movement has focused on boycotting multiple companies, including McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Disney. Online tools like bdnaash and Buycott can help individuals spend responsibly. This mobilization is having an impact on their bottom lines. McDonalds recently admitted that it failed to reach its yearly sales target for the first time in four years. 

As students at UH, we aspire to build up this conscience in our own community, and therefore call for the removal of Starbucks, McDonalds, and Sabra off our campus to be replaced with financially feasible options that fulfill our community’s needs. We refuse to be complicit in the genocide of the Palestinian people.

Section: Schooling
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