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Campus protesters want colleges to divest from Israel. Here's one expert's explanation

Why students are asking colleges to divest from Israeli military
Why students are asking colleges to divest from Israeli military 02:05

BOSTON - College protests about Israel's war against Hamas in Gaza have spread rapidly across the county and to campuses in the Boston area. So what exactly are the pro-Palestinian protests about and why do students care?

What are college protests about?

Students, in general, have several demands - they want their schools to call for a cease fire in the war, for Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian territory and they want colleges and universities to reveal more about their ties with Israel.

They're also demanding that academic institutions divest, or exit, from investments connected with the Israeli military.

"Divestment works as a political instrument," Harvard Medical School lecturer Dr. Jim Recht told WBZ-TV. He supports the student protests.

Some schools, like Tufts University, have made it clear they don't support the movement calling for divestment. At Emerson College, Northeastern University, Harvard University and MIT, students have set up tents as a symbol of their demand for divestment.

"I look at it as students that are attempting to express themselves," said MIT professor Erica James.

college protests
Students protesting at Northeastern, April 25, 2024. Vincent Ricci/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Follow the money

So how are college endowments linked to the war? Dr. Recht used Harvard as an example.

"Undisclosed portions of Harvard's endowment generates profit for Harvard by investing in the manufacture and sales of arms, military equipment," he told WBZ-TV. "The students recognize that there's a clear link here between the tuition that they pay and the perpetuation of violence and oppression."

Financial endowments are in the billions at many colleges and universities. However, Dr. Recht said the underlying message is just as important as the money.

"Even if they're not able to withdraw every last dollar, they could - today or tomorrow - say, 'We abhor this behavior, we abhor the behavior and policies of the Israeli government," he said.

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