Is Harvard University set to fully divest from Israel?

Tents and signs fill Harvard Yard by the John Harvard statue in the Pro-Palestinian encampment at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on May 5, 2024. [Getty]

A pro-Gaza encampment at Harvard University could soon come to an end after the university agreed to reconsider investments linked to Israel and look at suspensions placed on students who took part in the protests. 

Since the first mass arrests at Columbia University on April 18, at least 2,600 demonstrators have been detained at the 100 protests that broken out across the country, The Appeal, a nonprofit news organization. 

A spokesperson for Harvard said its president, Alan Garber, and the dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Hopi Hoekstra, will meet with the protesters to discuss the conflict in the Middle East. 

The university officials will discuss questions raised by the pro-Gaza activists and the students said on Tuesday they could end the encampment. 

However, does this constitute as a victory for the students leading protests to end the war on Gaza and for the wider Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement?  

‘Under no illusions’

The Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine (HOOP) coalition, which has called on the school to divest from companies with ties to Israel, announced in an Instagram post on Tuesday that it would dismantle the three-week-old encampment, but vowed to “re-group and carry out this protracted struggle through other means”.

“We are under no illusions. We do not believe these meetings are divestment wins. These side deals are intended to pacify us away from full disclosure and divestment. Rest assured, they will not,” the post said. 

Organisers have reiterated that while the latest developments are a small win for the protesters, they do not mark a complete satisfaction of their demands.

“We wanted to emphasise that none of these things are wins. We don’t see them as material victories on divestment,” a Harvard pro-Palestine campaigner told local news outlet GBH

“If anything, they’re a testament to our organising power and a shift that we’ve seen on campus over the past three weeks- and bringing people into this movement of Palestinian liberation and the divestment campaign on the Harvard campus.”

What are other universities saying about divestment? 

In the US, Brown University has agreed for student protesters to remove their encampment in exchange for the institution holding a vote on divesting from Israel. 

Meanwhile, student activists at Cornell University also announced they would voluntarily disband their encampment amid ongoing negotiations ahead of the university’s commencement on 25 May. 

Other US-based universities such as Northwestern, Portland State and UC Riverside have been more responsive in taking further steps towards divestment. 

Internationally, European universities such as Trinity College Dublin and Barcelona University have either partially or fully cut ties with Israel. 

The Conference of University Rectors in Spain (CRUE) additionally announced that it will also suspend any collaboration with Israeli universities and research centres, which was praised by The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI). 

Agencies contributed to this report.

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