Talk of divestment from Israel has been abundant both in The Herald and around campus. A Herald article last month attempted to explain the role of the Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policies and its recommendation to President Christina Paxson to open dialogue regarding divestment from Israel (“Committee seeks campus discussion on divestment,” Nov. 19). But the article failed to portray the complexity the committee ignored when starting this “conversation.” Days later, The Herald’s editorial page board astutely pointed out that divestment from Israel is unwise, especially due to the lack of consensus among the student body (“Israel divestment is hypocritical,” Nov. 27). We would like to take this small amount of space to represent an often reticent voice on campus that disagrees with terms such as “apartheid” and “occupation,” and one that strongly opposes divestment from Israel.
First and foremost, the committee has stated their intention of fomenting dialogue on divestment, but they have only heard a dubious narrative from one side of the aisle. Brown Students for Justice in Palestine has been actively lobbying the committee for two years and has distorted how the committee views Israel. BSJP views the country only in terms of blockades and human rights violations. In fact, a former member of BSJP is currently a student representative on the committee. The committee was within its jurisdiction in issuing this recommendation, but let us not be misled into thinking that there was intellectually honest dialogue amongst the committee or adequate representation of the Brown student body as a whole leading to this recommendation.
The committee’s letter to President Paxson states that Israel is “indisputably engaged in ongoing systemic abuses of human rights and violations of international law.” By accepting the BSJP narrative as truthful, the committee is misleading Paxson into believing that Brown’s student body unanimously supports this narrative. We believe this is simply not true.
We strongly maintain that divestment from Israel is extremely problematic. Following through on the committee’s recommendation for campus debate would place Israel, the Middle East’s only liberal democracy, on the same level as apartheid-era South Africa and the genocidal government in Sudan. Israel, a country with a vibrant democratic process for all its citizens, should not be lumped together with these two oppressive regimes. While there is almost unanimous consensus regarding South African apartheid and Sudanese genocide, the same cannot be said about Israel’s actions.
It is also impossible to distinguish companies that function within Israel from those that allegedly benefit from occupation. We must not divest from companies that are crucial to Israel’s economy, an economy that works cooperatively with the United States in various technological, environmental, medical and security endeavors. Keeping the Israeli economy strong provides opportunity for economic cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians that in turn serves as a potential road to peace. Israel gives millions in humanitarian aid and support to the Palestinian Authority, which is crucial for Palestinian society and security.
We must also be sure not to link the call for divestment with the recent military conflict in Gaza. While certain groups will attempt to inextricably connect the two, it is important to remember that the call for divestment, as part of the larger Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, started in 2005. Attempts to evoke visceral reactions in light of the heartbreaking and unfortunate loss of life in the recent conflict are intellectually dishonest. The committee’s recommendation specifically relates to companies functioning in the West Bank, an area not directly involved in the recent violence.
Most importantly, though, we oppose the debate on divestment because it does absolutely nothing to advance peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Imposing one-sided burdens on Israel does not create the collaborative atmosphere needed for creating a lasting peace through direct negotiations. In fact, divestment breeds a culture of unilateral action that is counterproductive to the peace process. We acknowledge the human rights concerns affecting both the Israeli and Palestinian populations. However, divestment does nothing to directly address these needs or further the widely agreed upon two-state solution.
The United States and international community have accepted the idea of self-determination for both the Jewish people and the Palestinians, but the BDS movement explicitly calls for the eradication of the Jewish state – something President Obama strongly opposes. Brown students voted overwhelmingly for Obama both in 2008 and 2012, and presumably agree with his opposition to the eradication of Israel. Both the Israelis and Palestinians must make concessions to achieve peace and security, and the divestment movement propagates the idea that one side is the absolute obstacle to resolving this conflict.
Brown Students for Israel is a pro-Israel voice on campus that seeks honest campus dialogue that leads to informed students who desire a lasting peace.