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Students demand that UNH divest from Israeli companies

Students of UNH campus in Durham gathered on the Thompson Lawn. They demanded the college divest from Israel and any companies that support Israeli efforts.
Dan Tuohy
/
NHPR
UNH students gathered on Thompson Hall Lawn Thursday to demand the college divest from Israel and any companies that support Israeli war efforts.

Students of the University of New Hampshire gathered on Thompson Hall Lawn in Durham Thursday to demand that the school divest from Israeli-based companies and any businesses that could be aiding the country in the war in Gaza. They also want the university to disclose its investments.

Adeena Ahsan, a member of the Palestinian Solidarity Coalition, organized the rally. She said the protest was also meant to be in solidarity with students on campuses around the country.

Pro-Palestine demonstrations and encampments have cropped up on dozens of campuses this past week, and several have been the site of mass arrests. At the University of Texas-Austin, at least 50 people were arrested.

“As students it makes me really uncomfortable that our education, our endowment depends on war,” Ahsan said.

Ahsan says she also wonders about recent budget cuts at UNH that have closed the campus’ art museum and school pharmacy.

“It also calls into question our local issues here as students at our university are facing this crisis and staff members are laid off, but they won’t reduce their own salaries and they won’t disclose their investments,” Ahsan said.

Tania deLuzuriaga, a university spokesperson, said about 0.5% of the college’s $475 million endowment is invested in Israeli companies and that divesting could impact research and student services.

“We do not believe that divestment from Israeli companies is consistent with our mission or the purpose of an endowment,” deLuzuriaga said.

The protest included professors and community members who shared their thoughts on the conflict.

Joshua Meyrowitz, a retired professor emeritus of communication at UNH, spoke at Thursday’s rally.

“As a veteran of the protest of the Vietnam War, I’m shocked by how the authorities and universities have seemed to learn nothing of what happens when you crack down on protests in that it spurs greater protest,” Meyrowitz said.

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He also signed a letter to the New Hampshire congressional delegation, along with more than 60 other Jewish residents condemning Hamas attacks on October 7th, but also stating that Israel’s actions “serve no long-term strategic purpose.” They wanted the congressional delegation to call for a ceasefire, seek full humanitarian aid and suspend military aid to Israel.

Meyrowitz said he believes Jewish people have a responsibility to speak out against the war. While the conflict is complicated, he and other attendees wanted people to know Israel’s actions are not done in their name.

Fatimah Alsharif is an area resident, and she joined the protest to call for a cease fire. She's Palestinian and says that there is a pain in her heart as she thinks about her dad, who moved to the United States but doesn’t know when he’ll be able to return to the region.

“The pain has been for decades and now it's just an added pain and killing and injustice,” Alsharif said. “It's devastating.”

Corrected: April 29, 2024 at 10:10 AM EDT
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Joshua Meyrowitz's position at UNH. He's a retired professor emeritus.
Olivia joins us from WLVR/Lehigh Valley Public Media, where she covered the Easton area in eastern Pennsylvania. She has also reported for WUWM in Milwaukee and WBEZ in Chicago.