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Letter: Don't use American money to fund Israeli repression

To the Editor:

The recent letter from Brown Students for Israel and Hillel ("No divestment at Hampshire, no divestment at Brown," April 15) grossly misrepresents the Hampshire divestment, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and the nature of Zionism.

First, Hampshire President Hexter released the letter cited only after Zionist enforcer Alan Dershowitz threatened to call for a boycott campaign against Hampshire and to withhold a significant personal donation if the university did not renounce the BDS movement. That the administration partly acquiesced to overt intimidation cannot erase the fact that it was Hampshire Students for Justice in Palestine who campaigned for two years and presented their case to the Board, securing the decision to divest from the fund in question. Hexter may retrospectively whitewash, but the action and its context speak for themselves.
Second, the canard that Israel is uniquely singled out is absurd. Many regimes perpetrate human rights violations, and are justly censured. How many, however, carry out those violations with weapons and funding provided by the U.S. government? We don't pay for North Korean torture with our taxes, nor does the Iranian army use American-supplied white phosphorus or cluster bombs to target civilians.  Americans finance Israel's occupation and apartheid regime with funds that should go to healthcare for our neighbors, schools for our children.

Finally, to characterize Zionism as simply "the belief in the right of national self-determination for the Jewish people" is profoundly ahistorical and disingenuous. From its inception, Zionism has pursued ethnically exclusive Jewish nationalism, openly envisaging the ethnic cleansing of non-Jews. Theodor Herzl described in 1895 plans to "spirit the penniless population across the border … denying it any employment in our own country," whereupon "We shall then sell only to Jews, and all real estate will be traded only among Jews." David Ben-Gurion said, "We must expel Arabs and take their place," implementing policies that saw mass expulsion of conquered Arab populations throughout the region.  Since 1948 Israel has consistently dispossessed the Arab population into ever-shrinking enclaves of land, with ever-dwindling human rights, leading to the shattered open-air prison that is Gaza today and the checkpoint-riddled Bantustan landscape of the West Bank.

The Israeli government just elected not only refuses to support even a notional Palestinian state, but features as Foreign Minister the openly neo-fascist Avigdor Lieberman, who has variously advocated bombing the Aswan Dam, drowning thousands of Palestinian prisoners in the Dead Sea (even offering to provide buses for the trip — who exactly is driving whom into the sea?) and killing Knesset members who had contact with Hamas after it was elected. He openly advocates transfer of Israel's 1.2 million Palestinian citizens.

No person of conscience can support any people's project of self-determination if that project fundamentally requires the brutal abrogation of that right for another people. As anti-Zionists, we oppose not the Jewish right to self-determination, but the Israeli occupation. As BDS supporters, we call on Americans to resist the use of our name, our clout and our tax, tuition and investment dollars in the service of Israel's brutal campaign of repression, apartheid and ethnic cleansing.  

Jesse Soodalter '94, MD'09

William Keach, Professor of English
Francesca Contreras '11
Elaine Freedgood, Visiting Professor of English
Paige Sarlin GS
Sean Feiner '11
Lindsay Goss GS

Andrea Dillon '11
Caitlin Chazen GS
Alex Ortiz '09
Margaree Little '09
Will Lambek '09.5
Shaun Joseph '03
Rodrigo Lehtinen '09
Eric Larson GS
Senia Barragan '08
Dara Bayer '08
Matthew Hamilton '05

April 19, 2009


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