By the students, for the students of Central Washington University

The Observer

By the students, for the students of Central Washington University

The Observer

By the students, for the students of Central Washington University

The Observer

What are your student dollars funding? CWU’s financial ties with Israel

UW encampment. (Photo courtesy of Common Dreams)

As the war between Israel and Palestine rages on with more than 30,000 Palestinians killed and over 100 Israeli hostages still being held in Gaza according to Al Jazeera, college campuses, including CWU, seem to be locations of growing tension. After Vanderbilt University students created a pro-Palestinian solidarity encampment on campus grounds at the end of March, calling for disclosure and divestment from Israeli entities, universities across the globe have followed in their footsteps, sparking the largest student protests since the Vietnam War according to NPR. Hitting close to home, the University of Washington (UW) began an encampment at the end of April seeking disclosure and divestment from UW administration, amid calls to divest from UW’s long-time partner, Boeing.

With all this upheaval in the backdrop, curiosity has risen amongst the CWU body concerning CWU’s ties with Israel. The Observer investigated this claim, and the findings suggest that CWU does have ties to Israel. These findings include CWU receiving grant money from Boeing through CWU’s foundation, the fact that Ray Conner, a member of CWU’s Board of Trustees (BOT) has current and former ties to companies with explicit connections to Israel and the fact that CWU’s pension fund is managed through Fidelity, a company that also has ties to Israel and the ongoing war.

Joel Klucking, the treasurer of the BOT acknowledged CWU’s ties to Boeing through CWU’s Foundation, an independent but University-affiliated nonprofit corporation aimed at supporting CWU. “[CWU does] solicit lots of corporations for our foundation… and Boeing is one of them,” Klucking said.

Boeing is one of the major companies activists are currently calling to divest from. According to the Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement Boeing is “a company that has actively manufactured and sold weapons, which have been used in direct attacks on Palestinian civilians, a violation of international humanitarian law and human rights.”

While Boeing is a large corporation that is made up of many divisions, the specific division that is responsible for weapons manufacturing is Boeing, Defense and Security.

NPR news reported that “from 2021 to the end of 2023, the U.S. delivered an estimated 5,214 missiles to Israel—nearly 3,000 of which were Boeing’s GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs.”

Photo of Ray Conner.
(Photo courtesy of the CWU directory)

In addition to Boeing’s support to CWU’s Foundation, CWU’s connections to Israel can be found in CWU’s BOT. As one of eight of CWU’s trustees, Ray Conner is a part of “the governing body of the university and works closely with President Wohlpart,” according to CWU’s website. Conner served as the vice chairman of The Boeing Company from 2013 to 2017. From 2012 to 2016, Conner was the CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes and from 2008 to 2011 he was the vice president and general manager of Supply Chain Management and Operations for The Boeing Company. 

According to CWU’s website, Conner “worked for Boeing for more than 40 years, starting out as a mechanic and steadily climbing through the ranks of company leadership.”

Currently, Conner serves as an Operation Advisor for Clayton, Dubilier and Rice, a private equity firm that manages the assets of a wide range of businesses, which also have been under scrutiny for their ties to Israel, the occupation and the war.

Clayton, Dubilier and Rice is a company that in 2022 “brought more than 300 Israeli and global senior industry professionals, including leading Israeli limited partners, global fund managers and advisors to discuss a range of critical topics and trends influencing private market investment activity,” according to the Clayton, Dubilier and Rice website. “The backdrop of the conference, which was held in Tel Aviv, is the record level of private capital allocations by institutional investors in Israel.” 

When reached out to for comment, Conner’s team told The Observer that he would not be able to participate for comment.

In addition to these ties, as stated by CWU’s website, “With the CWU Retirement Plan (CWURP) [pension fund], each dollar contributed is fully matched by Central, and funds may be selected with the help of Fidelity Investments, the nation’s largest investment management firm and provider of workplace retirement plans.” 

But, how exactly does Fidelity have ties to Israel and the ongoing war? According to feminist anti-war grassroots organization, Code Pink, “as one of Airbnb’s main investors, Fidelity has an opportunity to use its unique position of influence to ensure that the company abides by its human rights obligations under international law.”

According to Code Pink, as Airbnb allows “users to list and rent properties in illegal Israeli settlements and by taking a 9-15% fee from hosts and guests, Airbnb is not [only] profiting off of Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian land, but also helping facilitate settlement activity.” 

Fidelity Charitable, a public charity that has helped donors support non-profit organizations,  has also been met with backlash from pro-Palestinian movements and organizations both for its investment in Israel and for removing funding to the United Nations and Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).

UNRWA’s website indicated that the agency was created in 1949 and that ”in the absence of a solution to the Palestine refugee problem, the General Assembly has repeatedly renewed UNRWA’s mandate.” “[The agency] has contributed to the welfare and human development of four generations of Palestine refugees … Today, some 5.9 million Palestine refugees are eligible for UNRWA services.”

According to Rolling Stone, “Fidelity Charitable removal of UNRWA’s U.S. arm from its platform follows the suspension of approximately $450 million in funding to the relief organization from 16 countries following Israel’s allegations that a handful of its workers were involved in the events of Oct. 7.”

CWU’s pension fund being through Fidelity doesn’t sit right with Gilberto Garcia, a professor in the Political Science department. “I think anything to do with Israel’s economy and if they’re [CWU] invested in it, then yeah, I’d say that they’re being complicit to genocide.”

Bernadette Jungblut, a professor in the political science department at CWU, commented on the university’s ties to Israel. “I think a lot of folks… focus on the stuff that’s right in front of us,” Jungblut said. “We teach our classes, we go to class, we go to our jobs, we just work and I’m not sure how many people are really aware of the environmental, social and governance concerns in terms of where we get our money from, and how our money is invested … You can’t bring about change if you’re unaware of things that you might want to see changed … [if people] are unaware of these issues, you’re not gonna see them protesting.”

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