The Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Practices voted to recommend that the University divest from “companies identified as facilitating human rights abuses in Palestine” Monday afternoon.
Six of the nine committee members present at the meeting voted in favor of the motion, which also recommends that the University’s Investment Office communicates the University’s desire to divest to all of its investment managers. Two alumni members of the committee voted against the motion, while another committee member abstained.
The vote came at the end of ACCRIP’s final meeting of the semester, during which the members heard from several professors who presented arguments both in favor of and against the divestment proposal.
Once ACCRIP makes their recommendation to the University, a Proxy Committee of the Corporation will review it and decide whether to take action, according to ACCRIP’s official charter. ACCRIP has not yet presented its report to President Christina Paxson P’19. “It would be premature to speak about a report we have not received,” Assistant Vice President for News and Editorial Development Brian Clark wrote in an email to The Herald. “ACCRIP intends some process of further review with its members before submitting to the president a report in support of a recommendation for consideration,” he added.
After minimal deliberation, seven members of ACCRIP voted to acknowledge that social harm was occurring in Palestine, while two abstained. The committee’s final agenda item was to decide whether they were ready to vote on recommending divestment. ACCRIP Chair and Professor of Medical Science Chi-Ming Hai said that the committee should “take action” to make a recommendation as soon as possible so that the student organizers could be recognized for their activism.
Pro-divestment attendees of the meeting broke out in applause and cheers once the motion was passed. “I am really excited that ACCRIP took this step towards divestment,” said Tal Frieden ’19.5, a member of student group Jewish Voice for Peace, in an interview with The Herald. “We know that this is the first Ivy League university to recommend divestment from companies committing human rights violations in Palestine, and we’re really excited for other universities to join this movement.” Frieden added that Jewish Voice for Peace would “hold the University accountable to fulfilling this recommendation” in a follow-up message to The Herald.
Student group Brown Students for Israel voiced concern over the outcome of the vote in a Facebook post. “We strongly condemn this motion,” the group wrote. “Moreover, we are appalled by the disregard and disrespect to which anti-Divest students, faculty, alumni and even ACCRIP members, were subjected in the course of today’s meeting.”
At the meeting, Professor of History and Judaic Studies Adam Teller argued against divestment on the grounds that student group Brown Divest’s proposal was too vague to address the Israel-Palestine conflict.
“Behind this proposal is a black-and-white schematic view of what’s going on in the Middle East, when in fact there are many more complexities,” Teller said.
Instead of divesting, which he argued would make the University “partly responsible for outbursts of violence” in the Middle East, Teller said that an effective solution to the conflict could only come from negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
Teller said that he finds the claim that divestment “will reduce the social harm felt by Palestinians to be ridiculous and to have no value.”
Professor of History and Classics Kenneth Sacks also argued against divestment. Though he acknowledged that the Israeli occupation of Palestine caused social harm to Palestinians, he could not support the proposal because “it is absolutely contributing to antisemitism.” He said that pro-Israel students and faculty “feel marginalized by the fact that they are Jewish, not the fact that they are Zionists.”
As one of the faculty members who signed an open letter in support of Brown Divest’s referendum in April, Professor of History and Modern Middle Eastern History Beshara Doumani P’22 presented an argument for divestment. Doumani disagreed with Teller, saying that the proposal “does not need to be disguised as just a complex issue.”
“This is a clear case of systematic discrimination and violence by one powerful party against another that has been going on for decades,” he said. “When students and faculty say we would like to … right a wrong we see, that is not complicated.”
Professor of Comparative Literature and Modern Culture and Media Ariella Azoulay called upon other Jewish people as well as ACCRIP to support the divestment proposal, even if it cannot fully put a stop to human rights violations in Palestine.
“I insist on our right as Jews to support and to take responsibility towards the catastrophe that is happening on a daily basis in Palestine,” she said. “It’s true that it will not solve the Palestinian catastrophe, but it will be what students can do today. Even if it is small, it is significant.”
Alumni ACCRIP member David Mueller ’81 P’17, said that to move to a vote on divestment during yesterday’s meeting “without the committee having any chance to … deliberate this question is really irresponsible.”
ACCRIP staff representative Christina Fournier responded that it was “kind of insulting” to assume that committee members were unprepared to take a vote.
“The onus is on us to do our own research, and it sounds like we’ve done that,” she said. “All of us independently are saying we feel comfortable pursuing a vote, it’s alright if you don’t.”
At the end of the meeting, Hai put the motion to a vote because there were“significant numbers of ACCRIP members” who were comfortable with the motion.