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Letter: No divestment at Hampshire, no divestment at Brown

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


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