Letters to the Editor

Letter: No divestment at Hampshire, no divestment at Brown

By
Wednesday, April 15, 2009

To the Editor:

Tuesday’s column, (“Student power for Palestine,” Apr. 14) contains factually incorrect and vitriolic information. It claims, “Students at Hampshire College won a two-year campaign for their university to divest from Israel.” This lie is propagated by anti-Israel students on Hampshire’s campus. An open letter from Hampshire College President Ralph Hexter and their Board of Trustees Chair Sigmund Roos plainly refutes this untruth: “Hampshire College has made a strenuous, good-faith effort to explain its decision to exit a problematic mutual fund. We make this effort again, without equivocation: Israel was not the cause for divestment from the State Street fund.”

According to the letter, Hampshire’s decision was based on a variety of criteria, “none of them having to do with Israel. … No other college or university (should) use Hampshire as a precedent for divesting from Israel, since Hampshire has refused to divest from Israel. Anyone who claims otherwise is deliberately misrepresenting Hampshire’s decision and has no right to speak for the college.”

Divestment campaigns against Israel have been attempted at Brown. They have failed. Such campaigns prove fruitless because they disingenuously characterize Israel as the greatest perpetrator of human rights violations. Israel is not an apartheid state. Iran, Saudi Arabia, China, North Korea, Sudan and other brutal dictatorships around the world routinely murder civilians, torture dissenters, deny equal opportunities to women, imprison gays and repress free speech. Whatever one’s opinions of Israel’s actions, one must consider why, among all the nations of the world, only the Jewish state is consistently singled out.

Zionism is the belief in the right of national self-determination for the Jewish people and has no connection to any specific Israeli policy. If one challenges the notion of national self-determination itself, such challenge a priori must be extended to all peoples. If one does not, then one must question whether this judgment is being made along racial lines. Anti-Zionism is a manifestation of anti-Semitism when it denies only Jews the right to self-determination.

Israel has adopted official policy supporting a two-state solution based the right to self-determination for Palestinians and Jews in their own respective states. Those committed to peace in the Middle East should not associate themselves with BDS: boycott, divestment and sanctions, a movement that denies Israel’s right to exist. BDS writes in a declaration, “We regard any Arab or international participation, whether individual or institutional, in any activity that contributes, either directly or indirectly, to the ‘celebrations’ of Israel’s establishment, as collusion in the perpetuation of the dispossession and uprooting of refugees, the prolongation of the occupation and the deepening of Israeli apartheid.” This position is actively harmful to collective aspirations for peace.

Characterizing a similar campaign targeting Israel, President Ruth Simmons said, “Is not fear of this kind of prejudice the inspiration for the letter to George Washington seeking reassurance about his commitment to permit bigotry no quarter?” We concur with President Simmons’ principles and welcome dialogue exploring the Middle East’s complex political situation.

Cayla Saret ’12
Curtis Harris ’09
Christopher Unseth ’11

Liz Piper-Goldberg ’09,
President, Brown-RISD Hillel

Sarah Rapoport ’10,
Student Board Member, Hillel International

Harry Reis ’11
President, Brown Students for Israel

Drew Harris ’10
Political Affairs Coordinator,
Brown Students for Israel

Apr. 14
 

  • Jon Haber

    It’s interesting to note how divestment advocates have had to rely on pretend victories (such as Hampshire or Motorola) to make up for the lack of any real success in getting respected institutions (like Brown) to sign up for their agenda. This is no accident. As I have been chronicaling on the Divest This! blog (see http://www.divestthis.com), today is not like five years ago when several churches, schools, unions and municipalities were taking divestment calls seriously.

    Today, the number of colleges who have answered the divestor’s siren’s song stands at exactly zero (with Hampshire in the zero column – see http://www.divestthis.com/2009/03/hampshire.html). Churches got out of the divestment business four years ago and show no signs of returning, and divestment has either failed (Somerville, Seattle) or caused nothing but divisiveness and embarssment (the Green Party) to other groups who got suckered by divestment advocates.

    It’s good to know that Brown not only rejects divestment, but is willing to call out those who continue to peddle the falsehood of divestment’s “success” at Hampshire, hoping that a lie can inspire others to join the divestment “cause” before the truth gets out.

    Keep up the good work

  • Lola Flores

    “According to the letter, Hampshire’s decision was based on a variety of criteria, “none of them having to do with Israel.” But, at the end of the day, they all had to do with Israel. As always, it’s just a matter of which side of the fence – or should I say the Apartheid Wall – you’re standing on. A victory but any other name is still a victory.

    “Divestment campaigns against Israel have been attempted at Brown. They have failed.” The same was said about South Africa.

    “Zionism is the belief in the right of national self-determination for the Jewish people and has no connection to any specific Israeli policy.” Quite the contrary, Israel itself is Zionism.

    “If one challenges the notion of national self-determination itself, such challenge a priori must be extended to all peoples.” I totally agree but, just for the sake of fairness, let’s extend that to the Palestinian people as well. They, too, have a right to the notion of a national self-determination.

    “Such campaigns prove fruitless because they disingenuously characterize Israel as the greatest perpetrator of human rights violations. ” I beg to differ. They worked for South Africa and it’s just a matter of time before they work for Israel too. Israel is, in fact, the greatest perpetrator of human rights violations. The problem is that anyone who dares to point that out is labeled ‘anti-Semitic’ and reminded of the Holocust which, apparently, is the Palestinians’ fault. The death of 1,450 innocent women and children in December 2008 are a testimony to Israel’s brutality and self-righteousness. Say what you will, scream ‘anti-Semitism’ and ‘Holocust’ but Israel sealed its fate with 1,450 body bags filled with innocent bodies. Murder by any other name is still murder.

    “Israel is not an apartheid state.” Isreal is not only an Apartheid state but also a genocidal one. The “Separation Wall” is the proof. Remember, the regime in South Africa said exactly the same thing.

    “Those committed to peace in the Middle East should not associate themselves with BDS: boycott, divestment and sanctions, a movement that denies Israel’s right to exist.” On the contrary, those of us committed to peace in deeds not words, should put more pressure by of boycott, divestment, sanctions and any and all other peaceful means available. Israel should be exposed for the liar and hypocrite that it is.

    ““We regard any Arab or international participation, whether individual or institutional, in any activity that contributes, either directly or indirectly, to the ‘celebrations’ of Israel’s establishment, as collusion in the perpetuation of the dispossession and uprooting of refugees, the prolongation of the occupation and the deepening of Israeli apartheid.” This position is actively harmful to collective aspirations for peace.” No, this position is actively harmful to Netanyahu and Lieberman’s lip service of peace while ordering indescriminate and brutal strikes and siege against 1.5 innocent people. If you don’t like it, it’s very simple to fix: don’t do it!

    “Characterizing a similar campaign targeting Israel, President Ruth Simmons said, “Is not fear of this kind of prejudice the inspiration for the letter to George Washington seeking reassurance about his commitment to permit bigotry no quarter?” ” Hmmm…no! This is not bigotry or racism, this is reality. Israel is a genocidal and Apartheid state, if anybody is a bigot and a racist, that would be Israel. Once upon a time, you wrote a book that said “do unto others as you will have others do unto you” too bad you can tell the world what to do and how to live but can’t follow or uphold your own words of wisdom.

  • Jon Haber

    I’m sorry Lola, but what part of the President of Hampshire College saying “none of [their recent investment/divestment choices have anything] to do with Israel. … No other college or university (should) use Hampshire as a precedent for divesting from Israel, since Hampshire has refused to divest from Israel. Anyone who claims otherwise is deliberately misrepresenting Hampshire’s decision and has no right to speak for the college.” don’t you understand?

    This is not a matter of interpretation. If an institution has divested in Israel, then there is one clear way of knowing this: it will say it did, not say the opposite (and chastise students for lying about the school’s official position). You can lard up you post with all of the pro-divestment boilerplace you like, but as of now the number of colleges and universities (and churches, unions and municipalities) that have bought into the BDS agenda stands at the same place it has for the last four years: zero.

    You can pretend this is not the case if it makes you feel better, but as I point out here (www.divestthis.com) at some point you will have to back up your huffling and puffing with an actual success, or risk being exposed as people who have to peddle fantasy victories to make up for your distinct lack of real ones.

  • Elizabeth Molchany

    This letter challenging divestment from Israeli investments which support Israel’s illegal occupation is true Hasbara propaganda, straight from Israel’s handbook for Jewish-American university students.

    First, of course, Americans should single out Israel. Our Congress has appropriated $3 billion a year for Israel’s armaments, for the white phosphorus used to incinerate Palestinians, the DIME used to eliminate their arms and legs, the Sonic booms which causes deafness for many, especially the children, and which Israel employs even when there are no military conflicts. In addition, we pay $81 million a year on interest to Israel on the $3 billion, there is loan forgiveness on military purchases for which Israel has not paid, there are emergency supplements so that Israel can kill more Lebanese, Palestinians, and Syrians.

    Israel has illegally attacked every country in the Middle East which surrounds it and is now threatening Iran, a country which has not attacked another country in 200 years.

    Israel has violated more UN resolutions (72) than any other country, refuses to abide by international laws, refuses to cooperate in the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, and, among many of its daily atrocities against the Palestinians, continues to blockade Gaza’s land, air, and sea accesses. It just turned back 250 tons of food, and has allowed many more tons of food to rot.

    This is a barbaric country pretending to be a democracy and the light of the world, and we taxpayers and investors are footing the entire bill.

  • Jon Haber

    Lisa – You seem to be a little confused. This letter to the editor does not “challenge divestment” but simply points out that Simon Leibling’s original letter claiming that Hampshire College divested from Israel and urging Brown to do the same is based on a blatant falsehood since Hampshire – unquestionably and unequivocally – DID NOT divest in Israel and seems to have no intention to do so. No doubt Mr. Leibling is quite embarrassed to have been taken in by the falsehood being peddled by Hampshire’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) organization and is now, as we speak, penning a new letter to apologize for inadvertently spreading the hoax of Hampshire divestment to the Brown campus.

    With regard to the rest of your note, I don’t know what word is used for the anti-Israel version of Hasbara, but if I could find it in the dictionary, no doubt your comment would be used to illustrate the term. Do you honestly believe that if you just hurl enough accusations into the air and ignore all of the substantive points made by Israel supporters you making progress for your cause? This might work well at meetings where the same 30 people gather week after week to condemn the Jewish state and hail their own moral superiority, but most other people are interested in facts, not simple, unsubstantiated accusations and invective, to help make up their minds.

    I could, of course, point out some of these facts (such as the FACT that more Palestinians have been killed by other Palestinians, more Lebanese by Lebanese and more Syrians by Syrians than any of these three peoples have ever lost at the hands of Israel – by huge margins, as it happenes). But to get you to respond to this simple truth would require you to actually care about Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians, rather than just love their corpses since you can then use them to flog over the head of Israel and it’s supporters.

    So by all means, if you want to continue demonstrating that those who hail their “peace and justice” credentials the loudest are the least interested in either, please keep up your trash talk on this and other forums. Comments like yours, and lies like Hampshire’s SJP’s are the clearest demonstration why there continues to be no peace for Jews and Arabs in the region.

  • Lola Flores

    Nobody is more sorry than I am, Jon, to know that there are people like you in the world who, not only believe but also condone what Israel is doing to the Palestinians. I suppose that, much like you, I see what I want to see and choose to see what I don’t want to. Therefore, I interpret the President of Hampshire College saying “none of [their recent investment/divestment choices have anything] to do with Israel. … No other college or university (should) use Hampshire as a precedent for divesting from Israel, since Hampshire has refused to divest from Israel. Anyone who claims otherwise is deliberately misrepresenting Hampshire’s decision and has no right to speak for the college.” don’t you understand? as I know better than to commit suicde. Sorry if it is you who can’t see it for what it is. Again, what counts is that divestitures are in place – a rose by any other name is still a rose. It’s the the end that counts not the means in this case.

    “This is not a matter of interpretation. If an institution has divested in Israel, then there is one clear way of knowing this: it will say it did, not say the opposite (and chastise students for lying about the school’s official position). ” Ha ha! I so beg to differ! Any individual who has only a half a brain (and I’m assuming that the President of that college has much more than that) would know better than to cross the Israeli lobby and lose everything he has to that invencible monster. And you know that as well as I do. If he makes that announcement, how long do you think it will be before he “voluntarily” resigns for being anti-Semitic and forgetting the Holocust? Listen, these are your rules – not ours – you make them, the rest of the world has to abide by them. The end!

    “You can lard up you post with all of the pro-divestment boilerplace you like, but as of now the number of colleges and universities (and churches, unions and municipalities) that have bought into the BDS agenda stands at the same place it has for the last four years: zero.” Oh, wow! Ain’t that Zionist and self-righteous of you! Yep. You crossed the line in Gaza in December 2008 and you know it. You showed your true face and you know it. The world knows and is not going to take it anymore and you know it. You’re scared and you know it!

    “You can pretend this is not the case if it makes you feel better, but as I point out here (www.divestthis.com) at some point you will have to back ” Au contraire, mon amie, au contraire! I see yours as the reaction of someone who knows it’s just a matter of time and is desperate to hold on. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if one Jon Haber has been assigned to this paper by AIPAC.

    Long live Zion and the Supreme Race!

  • Jon Haber

    Where to begin? So according to your analysis, colleges like Hampshire are perfectly willing to ACTUALLY divest in Israel (and incur the wrath of the supposedly all-powerful “Israeli Lobby” – booga, booga, booga), but that they balk at actually SAYING they divested out of fear of that same lobby. I suppose the administration has secretly told SJP that the school’s decision to sell mutual funds was based entirely on the Arab-Israeli conflict, but has publically chosen to lie about this decision. More likely, however, is that the school made its decisions for reasons other than Israel (as they have stated again and again since the beginning), and that it is SJP (and you) who prefer to pretend that night is day for your own political reasons.

    After all, if reality is only a matter of political perception, isn’t it just as likely that Hampshire made its “divestment” decision as a feminist protest against Shaira Law (which permits the beating of women and is in place in many countries where Hampshire was invested)? Or maybe they have just decided to stop investing in companies whose names begin with the letter K? There is as much evidence of this as there is for your Israel divestment thesis (less, in fact, since the school has made a clear, unequivocal statement that the very companies you insisted they’ve divested in are either still owned by the school or will be happily purchased in the future).

    Nope, I think you’re still stuck with the sad fact that Hampshire has become the umpteenth school to REJECT divestment (along with every other college and university in the country). Pretending this is not the case will no more alter reality than your celebratory bombast regarding the inevitability of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) “movement,” given that BDS has less to show for itself than it did five years ago (when you at least had the Protestant Churches, who have since rejected divestment by margins of 95% or greater).

    In truth, I was worried about divestment five years ago when I first started writing about the issue. But having watched it flop time and time again over the last half decade, I find it (and you) more amusing than threatening these days. Once you’ve actually gotten some real victories under your belt (as opposed to pretend victories like Hampshire), then perhaps your bombast about the historic inevitability of your project will seem less ridiculous. For now, however, BDS is a project that seems to be only succeeding in helping a small subset of very loud students fantasize about their own political relevance.

  • Lola Flores

    The murder of six million Jews (and an even greater number of other peoples that Hitler hated) during the Holocaust was inexcusable. Still, that doesn’t mean that Arabs, or anyone else living today, “owes” the Israelis anything. Two wrongs don’t make a right – just because the Europeans treated the Jews badly doesn’t mean that the Arabs must give up their land, freedom, and families in reparations.

    Those of us in support of Palestine don’t have the luxury of 3+ billion US taxpayer dollars worth of weapons at our disposal to make a point. We’re also pacificist and people who only want is right, we don’t indescriminately bomb innocent women and children to prove a point and to show our superiority. Israel will be stopped! What goes around, comes around. Karma is a b*tch!

  • Jon Haber

    Lola – I must say that as an alleged “pacifist,” you seen to take inordinate glee in celebrating cosmic “Karma” coming around (which I can only presume means the choice of Gaza’s leadership to “indiscriminately bomb innocent women and children” – in this case, Israeli women and children – for months and years). Apparently, your pacifism is that of the getaway driver who supports the gunmen that just killed ten people while robbing a bank, but chooses to characterize her not pulling the trigger herself as a form of innocent non-violence.

    Anyway, as much as you want to continue to talk about anything but the original subject of this letter (Hampshire’s alleged divestment from Israel), the thesis of this letter (that Hampshire didn’t divest and neither should Brown) still remains unchallenged. Given that (1) divestment only makes sense as a public political statement, (2) divestment can only be said to have taken place when the institution divesting says it has done so, and (3) that the only public statement Hampshire College has made explicitly says it has NOT divested, then we can safely say that holding Hampshire as an example of “the first college to have divested in Israel” is false. Whether you or others promulgate this falsehood out of an intention to deceive or the childlike desire to only believe what you want to believe, makes no difference. Unless you can provide the students of Brown with clear evidence that Hampshire has done something that is the opposite of what it actually did and says it did (i.e., make investment decisions based on political issues that had nothing to do with Israel), I think we can safely say that the original letter writer got it exactly right (again: No Hampshire divestment, no Brown divestment).

    Once we can wrap up this little matter, then your desire to talk about anything but the original topic can be put onto the table without sounding so much like someone desperate to change the subject.

  • lauren prada

    Haters, including those who support divestment in this form, rely on an agenda grounded in fiction
    to perpetuate propoganda they know lacks any semblence of truth. Their problem is simple: internally they have discovered how inane their thinking has become but they are too immature to renounce their devotion to it. Thus, to cleanse their conscience, they adopt the fiction and support it by lying to others in an effort to prove to themselves that, “See, I am not the only idiot who fell for this.” Obviouslyt good a SAT score is not the antidote for stupidity.