SJP Maastricht letter to Maastricht University about HP

To the Maastricht University Council,

We, the board of Students for Justice in Palestine – Maastricht, are writing this letter to express our concern about Maastricht University’s indirect complicity in human rights violations and decade-long breaches of international law by the State of Israel. As students of this renowned university, and as citizens of conscience with strong beliefs in human rights and equality for all, we request that on behalf of our organization and for the civilians in Palestine who lack many of the fundamental freedoms that we regard as unalienable, to please reconsider your indirect support of the system of apartheid in Israel and Palestine.

Maastricht University claims to support a set of values which we as students and members of SJP align with, namely the protection of human rights and non-discrimination. As students paying for and devoting most of our time to attendance and education in this university, we call on you to defend the values of this institution. Maastricht University does not align with or teach the values employed by the Israeli Apartheid State. Two weeks ago, November 25th-December 3rd was the international week of boycott actions against the American multi-national corporation Hewlett Packard (HP). Maastricht University currently uses HP computer technology; HP is an information technology company with clear ties to the illegal occupation of Palestinian territories and discriminative practices towards Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, in Gaza and in Israel itself. They are direct contributors to the system of Israeli Apartheid through the provision of products and services to the Israeli military, the Israeli Prison System, the Israeli navy, the illegal Israeli separation wall and the illegal Israeli settlements. By using HP products, our university is complicit in Israeli human rights violations, whether intentional or not through direct monetary support and normalization of a company which is gravely violating fundamental principles of international law. As citizens and institutions in our contemporary globalized society, we legitimize and whitewash the  ongoing occupation and disregard the fundamental rights of the Palestinians and their human dignity when we support and contribute to the success of a company that profits from occupation and denial of human rights.

For decades, Israel has denied Palestinians their fundamental rights of freedom, equality, and self-determination through ethnic cleansing, colonization, racial discrimination, and military occupation. Despite abundant condemnation of Israeli policies by the United Nations, other international bodies, and prominent human rights organizations, the international community has failed to hold Israel accountable and enforce compliance with basic principles of law. Israel’s crimes have continued with impunity. In view of this continued failure of State’s to abide by their obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention (relating to third-party responsibility), Palestinian civil society called for a global citizens’ response. On July 9th 2005, a year after the International Court of Justice’s historic Advisory Opinion on the illegality of Israel’s apartheid Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), Palestinian civil society called upon their counterparts and people of conscience all over the world to launch broad boycotts, implement divestment initiatives, and to demand sanctions against Israel, until Palestinian rights are recognized in full compliance with international law. The global movement for a campaign of Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions follows a rights-based approach from principles of international law and highlights the struggle among the three broad sections of the Palestinian people: the 6 million refugees, those under military occupation in the West Bank and those under blockade in the Gaza Strip, and Palestinians in Israel who face over 50 discriminatory laws. BDS is a strategy that allows people of conscience to play an effective role in the decade-long Palestinian struggle for justice.

Firstly, Boycott targets products and companies (Israeli and international) that profit from the violation of Palestinian rights, as well as Israeli sporting, cultural and academic institutions due to their overwhelming support for the illegal occupation and the Israeli military. Secondly, Divestment means targeting corporations complicit in the violation of Palestinian rights and ensuring that the likes of university investment portfolios and pension funds are not used to finance such companies. Thirdly, Sanctions are an essential part of demonstrating disapproval for a country’s sactions. By calling for sanctions against Israel, campaigners educate society about violations of international law and seek to end the complicity of other nations in these violations. It is the international obligation of our governments not to recognize the illegal situation and to impose such sanctions in order to ensure the enforcement of the Fourth Geneva Convention and international human rights treaties. Hence, they hold the duty to stop funding the violations of human rights that make them complicit in Israel’s abhorrent human rights record.

BDS also calls for an academic boycott, recognizing the crucial role of some Israel’s institutions in the illegal military occupation as well as with the apartheid that affects Palestinians in Israel itself. But what brings us here today is the role played by HP in those human right violations, although we would appreciate future productive talks about academic boycott in general. HP is commonly regarded as a computer company, but its business goes much further. HP has multiple interests and profits from the occupation in Palestine as it provides the technological mechanisms that enable daily practices of surveillance and oppression.

Some of the activities made possible by HP’s products and collaboration include:

Checkpoints: the subsidiary of HP (EDS, Electronic Data Systems) is in charge of the control and maintenance of the Basel system, and automated biometric access control system used in Israel’s checkpoints and apartheid wall that segregates Palestinians and separates them from their jobs, schools, hospitals and family members. This consists of over more than 500 Israeli military checkpoints along the 700km long wall that fragments the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
ID cards: HP was contracted by the Israeli government to produce and manufacture the biometric ID cards for their citizens, including the Palestinian residents of Israel and occupied East J erusalem. This ID system forms part of the Israeli apartheid regime that gives different rights to different people depending on race and religion. This discrimination affects a wide variety of policies such as housing, marriage, healthcare, education and employment.
Services to the settlements: provide multiple services and technologies to the illegal settlements in the occupied territories that violate international law. Those services include two of the biggest Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank such as Modi’in Ilit and Ariel.
Services and technologies to the Israeli Military (siege on Gaza): HP has multiple milliondollar contracts with the Israeli military in which they offer different services such as the supply of all computer equipment. Also HP provides broad IT infrastructure and support services to the Israeli Navy that has maintained the siege on Gaza since 2007, denying basic rights to the Palestinians (including food, water, energy etc.) and contributing to their further segregation.
Israel’s prisons system: HP has been, and still is, contracted to provide different services to the Israeli prison authorities such as providing printers or maintaining and developing thecentral servers system. Israel’s prison system is used to suppress Palestinian political activity, which is made possible by the help that HP provides. Maas incarceration and the use of Israeli prisons as a tool to undermine Palestinian opposition to apartheid has been
denounced by Human Rights Watch and UNICEF (among others), who estimate that each year between 500 and 700 Palestinian children are arrested, detained and prosecuted by Israel.

The evidence points to the important role that HP plays in the illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories and in the discriminatory policies of the Israeli State. Given HP’s huge involvement in Israeli policies and the million-dollar contracts that it has with the Israeli military-industrial and prison-industrial complexes, an international boycott of HP would make it necessary for the company to rethink their participation in and profit from such violations of human rights. As a result, they will potentially divest from Israel, pushing the government of Israel to act and move towards ending the system of Apartheid and occupation, and finally work towards peace.

We respectfully ask you, the faculty and administration of Maastricht University, as an institution that stands for human rights, to stop contracting with a company that reflects and defends exactly the opposite values of this University. By divesting of HP, we can make an impact on this seemingly never-ending conflict. As we can see from movements similar to BDS in the past, for example the South African Apartheid where boycott and divestment played a huge role, such apparently small efforts as one University divesting from one company can actually lead to big changes for the best.

It is extremely important for us to emphasize the nature of our organization, given the political nature of the conflict and the state of global affairs today. Students for Justice in Palestine – Maastricht supports and actively promotes equality for all groups, discouraging and working against all forms of racism and discrimination – be it anti-Semitism or Islamophobia, or based on class, skin color, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation. Our efforts concerning the situation in Israel and Palestine are based solely on human rights and international law. The actions of a state against a people do not justify racism or bigotry towards another group of people who are associated with that state. We fight for all human rights without any distinction by race, religion, class, or culture. We are committed to ending any kind of injustice and to defending international law and human rights values. As we know that Maastricht University holds the same values and objectives as we do, we hope that you will take this letter into consideration, and we look forward to engaging in more constructive relations and common grounds to improve our society in the best possible way for all.

In the hope of receiving a positive answer from your council, we thank you for your consideration.

Please note that the board of SJP is open to any questions, and remains available to meet you at any convenient time.

Best regards,
Students for Justice in Palestine – Maastricht

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