To the Editor:
Brown University should take a moral stand by continuing to keep its investments in Israeli companies. Alums should be proud that our university recognizes that the existence of Israel is necessary in the global fight against anti-Semitism. As a Jewish alumna who is well-versed in the history of Israel and current facts on the ground, I was appalled to see consideration given to proponents of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in an opinion published by The Herald and authored by the senior staff attorney at Palestine Legal.
The BDS movement is inherently hateful and discriminatory. It seeks to replace dialogue with demonization and to subvert understanding through delegitimization. BDS activists seek to chill free speech on campus while promoting anti-Semitic propaganda that dates back decades. The proponents of this movement explicitly seek to stop any pro-Israel voices from entering the conversation by shutting down debates. Their desire to silence anyone who offers a different position promotes anti-Semitic hatred against Israel and Israelis on college campuses.
Let’s get the facts straight: Israel is the manifestation of Zionism — the national liberation movement of the Jewish People that goes back centuries. To date, Israel remains the most successful solution for protecting Jews who face systemic discrimination. The country is home to Jewish refugees from across the globe — including Holocaust survivors and their descendants, as well as Jews who were persecuted by anti-Semitic movements in the former Soviet Union, Morocco, Iraq, Yemen, Algeria, Tunisia, Ethiopia and Turkey, among other countries.
Israel is absolutely central to Jewish identity, not just in our religious liturgy, but as the national nexus for Jews who trace their family histories across the Middle East, North Africa, Europe and Asia. Birthright Israel was founded to engage Jews with our multi-cultural and multi-faceted history and identity. The Birthright program brings young Jewish adults on a fully subsidized trip to Israel. It actively counters the work of white supremacists and white nationalists, whose racist agenda is anchored in ending the existence of Jews in the world.
The arguments for divestment from Israel stem from ahistorical, inaccurate and, yes, anti-Semitic sources. Dialogue about the Israel-Palestine conflict should be respectful, thoughtful and well-informed. For too many years, outside groups seeking to demonize Israel — like Palestine Legal — have focused on anti-Semitic denormalization of Israel, bringing divisions and bigotry to campus. Enough is enough. Alums should advocate for honest and respectful debate, not disengagement or divestment.
Naomi Reinharz ’03 leads the Brown Chapter of Alums for Campus Fairness, a non-profit organization that brings together alums to counteract anti-Semitism on college campuses and further fair Arab-Israeli conflict discussion.