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Letter to Dr. Benoit-Antoine Bacon

Published:  at 11:33 PM
Dr. Benoit-Antoine Bacon
7th Floor, Walter Koerner Library
1958 Main Mall
Unceded xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) territory
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z2
Thursday, February 15, 2024

Dear President and Vice Chancellor Bacon,

We the students, staff, and faculty of UBC are extremely disappointed in your vague and misinformed public statements, overwhelming silence, and inaction regarding Israel’s ongoing occupation, ethnic cleansing, and genocide of Palestine and Palestinian people. Since October 7th 2023, Israel has escalated its attacks on Occupied Palestine with horrific, indiscriminate bombing, killing at least 28,000 Palestinian civilians, including more than 11,000 children. On January 26, the UN International Court of Justice announced their decision to investigate Israel for the crime against humanity of genocide, given ‘plausible’ violations of the Genocide Convention. For many years, UBC students, faculty, and staff have continued to call on UBC administrators to condemn Israel’s apartheid and persecution of Palestinians. However, UBC decision-makers, including you, have dismissed your own community members’ efforts and communications to support indigenous Palestiians and end the genocide.

Today, we stand united in a cross-campus Day of Action to call on UBC to divest from all companies complicit in Israeli apartheid, occupation, and ethnic cleansing of Palestine and Palestinian people including but not limited to the list below. This list was created through cross-referencing (1) companies identified in a 2023 report from the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner as complicit in Israel’s numerous violations of Palestinian human rights; (2) companies listed in motions passed by UBC Vancouver’s Alma Mater Society (AMS), and UBC Okanagan’s Student Union Okanagan (SUO), on March 23 2022, and November 24 2023, respectively; and (3) the UBC Investment Management (UBCIM) 2022 Holdings Disclosure Endowment Report. We would like to note that UBCIM has yet to release a report of their 2023 holdings, which may alter the contents of this list.

In violation of the United Principles for Responsible Investment to which UBCIM is self-purportedly accountable, and against the will of majority of UBC students, staff, and faculty (to whom the UBC Board of Governors holds fiduciary duty), the UBC Endowment remains invested in these complicit companies:

  1. Lockheed Martin - 0.043% / $1.2 million of the UBC endowment
    World’s largest military company and weapons manufacturer; provides fighter jets to the State of Israel which are used to hurt, displace, and destroy Palestinian people and land.

  2. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Co - 0.028% / $784 000 of the UBC endowment
    Tech company that has enabled Israel to control the rights and mobility of Palestinian people; also used in Israeli prisons (Israel is currently holding 7200+ Palestinian people hostage in prisons, many without charge, including 250+ children).

  3. General Mills Inc - Pillsbury - 0.013% / $364 000
    Pillsbury, owned by General Mills, previously ran a factory in an illegal Israeli settlement. General Mills was formerly described by the UN as a company that exploits land and resources in violation of international law. Though General Mills recently sold its stake from the aforementioned factory, it continues to benefit from the profits it accumulated over its time of ownership.

  4. Caterpillar Inc - 0.010% / $280 000
    Makes bulldozers which are used by the State of Israel to demolish homes and construct illegal settlements in Palestine. There is ample and recent evidence of the Israeli soldiers using bulldozers to crush and bury Palestinian civilians alive (including pregnant women in labour, carrying white flags).

  5. First International Bank of Israel LTD - 0.003% / $84 000
    One of Israel’s largest banks; finances construction projects in illegal settlements on Palestinian land.

  6. Bezeq the Israeli Telecommunication Corp LTD - 0.002% / $56 000
    Provides telecommunication services to illegal Israeli settlements, military bases, and checkpoints.

  7. Motorola Solutions Inc. - 0.001% / $28 000
    Sells surveillance equipment to Israel; holds contracts with IDF, the Israeli Prison Service, and Population and Immigration Authority.

  8. Bank Hapoalim BM - 0.001% / $28 000
    Large bank in Israel; finances construction projects and homes built as part of illegal settlements on Palestinian land.

Investing millions in the Israeli occupation is not a neutral stance. Staying silent on Israel’s ongoing genocide of Palestinian people is not a neutral stance either. As UBC President and Vice Chancellor, it is your job to implement strategic plans for the university. We’ve carefully reviewed multiple UBC strategic plans (including the UBC Strategic Plan, the UBC Indigenous Strategic Plan, the President’s Task Force on Anti-Racism, the Global Engagement Strategy, and more) and can highlight countless ways in which UBC’s investments in the aforementioned companies violate these plans and the policies and objectives contained within them. It is also your job to report to and serve as a member of the Board of Governors, the UBC body that oversees investment of UBC’s endowment.

Ignoring the injustices of the world, dismissing emails and letters from devastated staff, students, and faculty, keeping your office door closed to Palestinians on campus, and staying silent on UBC media channels all suggest that you do not take seriously the role of President and your responsibilities to the UBC community. Changing one’s words and actions in response to evidence and shifting international legal perspectives is foundational to academia. With this action and call for divestment, we are also calling on you to break your silence on the Israeli genocide of Palestinians.

Our demands for you are as follows:

  1. Release a public statement to UBC (1) acknowledging Israel’s ongoing occupation, ethnic cleansing, and genocide of Palestine and Palestinians; (2) apologizing for your silence and inaction which are continue to harm UBC many Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim students; (3) acknowledging the complicity of UBC in Israel’s crimes against humanity of apartheid and the persecution of Palestinians, as illustrated by the aforementioned corporations in which the UBC endowment holds shares; and (4) detailing a list of steps you will take to work with the UBC Board of Governors to divest from corporations complicit in Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine.

  2. Email the Interim Chair of the Board of Governors Bill Sundhu (cc’ing and requesting that this urgent issue of divestment be added to the Agenda of the next Board Meeting; and

  3. Respond to all communications from members of the UBC community regarding Israel’s ongoing genocide in Palestine in a timely manner (3-5 business days), from this time forward. Meet with Palestinian members of the UBC community whose requests for a meeting you have rejected since November 2023.

As the solidarity between our campuses grows, we expect you to take responsibility for your position and influence as a prominent UBC decision-maker.


Students, staff, and faculty of UBC Vancouver