Macalester Committee Recommends Divesting Endowment From Israel

A Macalester College committee recommended earlier this month that the board of trustees consider divesting the college’s endowment from companies doing business with Israel, and will soon issue a report on whether the University of Haifa and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem should be taken off the pre-approved list of study abroad options.

“Grave social injury to Palestinians has occurred in Gaza, the West Bank, and elsewhere over several decades, and especially since October 2023,” said the report from the Social Responsibility Committee. “Companies named in the Mac for Palestine proposal are partly responsible for that grave social injury.”

The SRC is an ad hoc committee appointed by the president under a specific board policy meant to evaluate divestment. Macalester President Suzanne Rivera, who appointed the SRC in April, has been under student pressure from the Mac for Palestine Coalition to take action against Israel.

“The SRC believes that the College should not be associated with the conduct of the Israeli government and its private partners and funders in its current military campaign in Gaza,” the report said.

The Mac for Palestine Coalition has been pushing for months for the college to end study abroad programs in Israel, which is the subject of one of the two formal proposals the SRC is evaluating. In December, student newspaper The Mac Weekly reported that Rivera was against such a move.

“This is an institution that is really committed to global citizenship,” Rivera said. “That is about engagement, friendship and peacemaking. It is not about embargoes, boycotts and shutting people out. When the decisions of another country are disagreeable to us, that doesn’t mean that the citizens of that country support those decisions.”

The other proposal aims to end Macalester investments in 11 Israeli companies, and companies doing business with Israel, including security firm Elbit Systems and microchip company Intel.

“Mac for Palestine has received questions about why we are calling for divestment from Israel when there are many other human rights violations around the world, like the genocide in the Democratic Republic of Congo, study away programs to countries who discriminate against queer people, and issues within the U.S.,” the proposal said.

“We care about many other social justice movements too. Palestine is the one we’re focusing on here. Divestment from Israel is our focus right now because there is a specifically outlined BDS campaign.”

The proposal also calls for more transparency into Macalester’s investments, as Mac for Palestine was only able to identify some of the college’s investments, including three funds recommended for divestment.

The SRC report said that Macalester has $1.66 million – 0.19% of the total endowment – invested in the 11 companies singled out by Mac for Palestine’s proposal, mostly in two equity funds with Intel, Caterpillar, and Chevron stocks.

The SRC report also noted other aspects of the proposal that the board of trustees would need to consider: For one, Minnesota’s’ anti-BDS law, which prevents the state from having contracts with entities that are part of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

“It was not clear to the SRC whether Macalester has contracts with the State of Minnesota,” the committee noted. “It seems unlikely that Minnesota State Grant funds would be considered a contractual agreement. The SRC recommends that the Board of Trustees and College confirm this law would have no impact on the college were it to pursue divestment.”

The SRC also recommended the board of trustees think about the purchasing side of divestment, not just the investment side. For example, if the college divests from Intel, it would make sense not to purchase any computers or other equipment from Intel, either.

TC Jewfolk reached out to Macalester and to the college’s associate chaplain for Jewish life, Rabbi Emma Kippley-Ogman, but did not receive a response. The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, a prominent voice against BDS action, declined to comment.