Columns

Brown Students for Israel: Divestment from Israel is counterproductive

By
Guest Columnists

 

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.

  • Anonymous

    “Seeks honest campust dialogue that leads to informed students who desire a lasting peace” Good luck with that. You’re dealing with people who think the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” are real.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with this article in its pointing out the unequal representation of the Brown community on the issue, however I find it difficult to concede that the United States treats the Israeli and Palestinian plights with the same respect. Israel is supported by America for several legitimate reasons, but mainly because it is a strategic ally and collaborator of ours in the region. Though I personally believe in the importance of Israel and our continued relationship, it feels dishonest to say that a balancing of the playing field would ultimately detract from the peace process. As it stands now, Israel is far more economically and militarily equipped to fight a war– and peace is only possible if Palestinians do not perceive themselves as occupied and repressed.

    However, I do not believe it is in the interest of the Brown community to take a singular-narrative approach to the issue. Divesting from Israel has immense symbolic repercussions. This move would transcend the widely agreed upon sentiment of peace in the Middle east, and verges on lending support to those who want to demonize, and often eradicate, Israel.

    As Brown students, we must be careful not to take the labels of “occupier” and “victim”as the whole truth. Whatever part of the spectrum you fall on, the situation must be understood in the context and history of the region. The Jewish people have long struggled for security and a nation of their own, and the Palestinians are entitled to their human rights as well as economic and political opportunities. All this said, divesting in Israel sends a message that is offensive to me personally. I’d like to believe it doesn’t represent the Brown community either, who is full of respectful and critical thinkers who would understand the implications of this move.

  • Anonymous

    When are you all going to rewrite your playbook? The same old tired arguments rehashed over and over again–the times have changed, but the lies from the Israeli propaganda machine stay the same. One lie (of many): “BDS movement explicitly calls for the eradication of the Jewish state” That is an unabashed straight-up lie. The BDS movement aims to put pressure on companies that profit from and support human rights violations committed against the Palestinian people living under Israeli occupation. The aim is to hold these corporations accountable and making it bad business practice to continue to be complicit in the systematic oppression of the Palestinians. That is all. Seriously, you all are desperate because the tides are changing and the wall of Zionist b.s. crumbling. No more lies. No more lies. No more lies. We will not stay silent while you spew whatever random ‘fact’ you made up from a random assortment of words in your overdue library book of a playbook.

  • Gaze

    BDS (Boycott Derangement Syndrome): the acute onset of delusional or paranoid psychosis in otherwise sensible progressives in reaction to the history, policies, (nay) the very mention of Israel.

    For a more scholarly discussion of the phenomenon, try “Liberal fascism : the secret history of the American left, from Mussolini to the politics of meaning”
    [ROCK Stacks JC481 .G55 2007]

  • S.

    The thesis of your argument seems to revolve around Israel’s elimination and/or dilapidation. However, by suggesting that the removal of corporate financial aid would cause Israel’s downfall is an overreaction – the United States government can and will continue to fund Israel. That is certain and it is enough to keep Israel from “extinction”.

    Regarding Israel as an apartheid state: Israel’s image in the world eye has been and is already tarnished, especially with their recent “kerfuffle” with Hamas, and this is even being challenged even more with their proposed settlement plans in East Jerusalem. Say what you will about what you believe about the term “apartheid”, but the fact of the matter is that Israel is ruining its own representation in the global view, and divestment will not worsen that whatsoever.

    “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.” Yet you cannot justify the aggression shown on Israel’s part with an argument revolving around democracy. You cannot justify aggression from even the most utopian state.

    “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.” The Israeli economy is being kept strong currently by the United States and by corporations, and there is no semblance whatsoever of a proximity to peace. Divestment would send a message that requires action and a road towards this peace that you seem to value.

    “Israel gives millions in humanitarian aid and support to the Palestinian Authority, which is crucial for Palestinian society and security.” This may be true, but you know what also could provide Palestinian society and security? Palestinian sovereignty and independence, which, as a two-state solution, COULD (this is my belief that it is a possibility) provide peace and the preservation of the Israeli state. Seeing as this is a conditional statement, it is not guaranteed of course – however, I believe that it is a possibility that would provide a better likelihood of positive ramifications than the current state the issue is in.

    “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.” Where is the collaborative atmosphere now? There is not an attitude on either side that would lead to peace talks, and your suggestion that peace is possible through the constancy of the past and current situation has not proven that it would lead to peace. It is not a matter of “unilateral action” as you have suggested – it is a matter of provocation and motivation towards a peace process that is not working under the current condition of the situation. It is a matter of making it a “bilateral action” towards a solution that is currently nowhere in sight.

    While I agree that it is unfair to provoke action on the university’s part based on one side, you are formulating a counterargument using the same logic of promoting your already-enforced opinion upon the Brown populous. You are suggesting to do nothing, which is what has been done and probably will continue to be done on the national level.

  • For the BDH Editor

    BDH – can you please remove the hate-speech that is the Anonymous posting from December 7th at 6:37. There is no place in this world for such anti-Jewish commentary, and definitely not in your newspaper website. Shameful and disturbing.