At the 2012 Pacific Northwest Movimiento Estudiantil Chican@ de Aztlán (MEChA) Regional Conference, chapter leaders voted to endorse the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions aimed at forcing Israel to meet its obligations under international law. The Pacific Northwest MEChA Conference’s endorsement follows an endorsement made at the 2012 National MEChA Conference held in Phoenix, Arizona. That announcement came on a day that commemorated Cesar Chavez Day and Palestinian Land Day, linking the two liberation struggles against discrimination and oppression.
The Regional Conference was hosted by the Evergreen State College MEChA chapter. Evergreen State College has recently been an epicenter of Palestine solidarity. In 2010, students voted overwhelmingly for divestment from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation, such as Caterpillar, Inc. Caterpillar has been the focus of calls for boycott at Evergreen since the death of Evergreen student Rachel Corrie in Gaza. Corrie was crushed under a Caterpillar D9 weaponized bulldozer operated by the Israeli military as she attempted to non-violently prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home. More recently TESC Divest! launched the We Divest! campaign to pressure investment giant TIAA-CREF to divest from companies profiting from the Israeli occupation, including Caterpillar and Elbit Systems.
MEChA de Evergreen stated that “As a chapter, we endorse and support the global call for BDS... We recognize that our peoples’ historical and present struggles - against deportation, occupation, exploitation, and dehumanization - in Arizona, in the border, and in the United States - not only coincide, but are also connected to Palestinians’ struggle against Israeli military occupation and settlement of Palestine. Elbit, the company that provides surveillance equipment on Israel’s illegal apartheid wall in the West Bank, was also contracted by the U.S. government to perform the same services for the 700-mile militarized Mexico-U.S. border. This is why we believe it is important to build cross-movements between all indigenous peoples’ historical and continuing struggles against colonization, dehumanization, and cultural imperialism.”
TESC Divest! member Austin Nolen also drew a parallel between the Palestinian struggle and indigenous struggles in the Americas, noting that “Companies that TIAA-CREF invests in, like Elbit Systems, profit from the annexation of indigenous lands not only in Palestine, but here as well. TIAA-CREF, which handles the retirement funds of Evergreen faculty, should not force educators to build their futures upon these oppressive structures.”
MEChA de Evergreen members expressed hope that their chapter and Palestine solidarity groups could work closely on future campaigns. MEChA chapter members were present at the national conference’s BDS endorsement, which led them to engage in actions at a local level as well. MEChA de Evergreen invited TESC Divest! members to take part in a teach-in connecting the BDS movement to the struggle against the ethnic studies ban in Tucson, AZ and to the labor struggles of Darigold workers at Ruby Ridge farm in Eastern Washington. MEChA de Evergreen took the initiative as a chapter to support BDS as a region and urge their fellow MEChistas across the nation to do the same.