Back in 2016, the Associated Students of Portland State (ASPSU) passed a resolution calling on PSU to divest from any institutions that profit from human rights violations against Palestinians. In 2021, ASPSU passed a new resolution calling on the PSU Administration to cut ties with Boeing specifically.
Boeing manufactures much more than the commercial jets we’ve all come to know them for. According to a 2019 report by USA Today, Boeing made a whopping $26.9 billion in arms sales in 2017—making it the second largest defense contractor in the world.
The company’s combat planes, helicopters, bombs, missiles and drones are utilized by the U.S., Israel, Saudi Arabia and a whole host of other countries that then use them to commit human rights violations.
Through this extremely lucrative branch of its business dealings, Boeing is a leading participant in what has been termed the military-fossil fuel-industrial complex. Anti-war, environmental and human rights activists have decried this systematic relationship between the military establishments of various governments, the weapons manufacturing industry and the dire consequences these industries have on the world’s ecosystems. These productions are financially and logistically interdependent with the fossil fuel industry to ensure ongoing global dependence on oil—and the political dominance of fellow monopolistic corporations.
Science Daily published research from Durham University and Lancaster University that showed the U.S. military as the largest climate polluter in history, consuming more hydrocarbons and thus emitting more CO2e (carbon-dioxide equivalent) than most countries combined.
As if that were not enough, the raw materials required for Boeing’s products—such as aluminum, titanium, silicon, copper and cobalt—all often come from conflict zones, or regions of the world like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where warring factions use the sale of these precious resources to fund genocide, slavery and other human rights abuses. That is not to mention how resource extraction leads to extreme environmental degradation in many of the regions where these materials originate.
Boeing directly profits from and benefits from global conflict. It is a simple capitalist equation of supply and demand. The people running the company lobby within the U.S. government in the interests of its business and in conjunction with an ever-expanding Pentagon budget. In fact, according to The New York Times, a $768 billion defense spending budget was recently approved by Congress and the Biden administration. War is a big business and that is one thing which our highly dysfunctional government can reach bipartisan consensus on.
That Boeing’s products are sold to authoritarian regimes which murder and maim civilians in the Philippines, Yemen, Somalia, Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and beyond is not in dispute. One only has to look at the international arms deals it conducts. For one example, the Boeing subsidiary-made ScanEagle drone, has been sold to the authoritarian governments of the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia who have in turn used them to surveil and quell the dissent of activists and revolutionaries.
This brings us to Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS), a Palestinian-led movement for freedom, justice and equality in the face of apartheid and colonial violence from the state of Israel. According to its own public relations, Boeing has supported Israeli military aggression against Palestinians since 1948. It is not an overreach to say that Boeing directly profits from the murder and violence visited upon the Palestinian people.
Al-Jazeera reported that, in the May 2021 assault on Gaza, 260 Palestinians were killed with tens of thousands more displaced from their homes. Boeing had sold $735 million in weaponry to Israel earlier that year.
According to the Portland State University mission statement, our university’s values are to “promote access, inclusion and equity as pillars of excellence. We commit to curiosity, collaboration, stewardship and sustainability. We strive for excellence and innovation that solves problems. We believe everyone should be treated with integrity and respect.”
In that case, Portland State University has a social responsibility to immediately end its relationship with a company explicitly profiting from war, genocide, ethnic cleansing, ecological devastation and the all-around defiling of human rights.
As of now, PSU has a Supply and Logistics Management program with a “special recruiting and hiring relationship with Boeing.” Boeing is also a major contributor to the PSU Foundation.
Does Portland State University really believe and embody its own stated values of inclusion, stewardship, sustainability and treating everyone with integrity and respect? If so, then what is Boeing still doing at PSU?
Illustration by Leo Clark