Divestment from Israel Is Peace Move

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at osu.edu
Sat Nov 16 14:45:47 MST 2002

The Columbus Dispatch
Saturday, November 16, 2002
SECTION: Editorial & Comment, Pg. A14
HEADLINE: Divestment from Israel Is Peace Move
BYLINE: By Joseph Levine

A movement has been gaining momentum on college campuses throughout
the country to seek divestment -- withdrawal of universities' money
-- from companies that invest in Israel or that sell it military

Drawing upon the successful campaign to help dismantle apartheid in
South Africa, the movement seeks to employ divestment to help end the
Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.  Campaigns are under way at
15 universities, and a recent conference on divestment in Ann Arbor,
Mich., drew 500 participants from more than 70 universities.

As an advocate of divestment and active participant in the newly
launched campaign at Ohio State University, I want to explain why we
have issued this call.  In 1948, Israel expelled more than 750,000
Palestinians from their homes, and has refused ever since to abide by
U.N. Resolution 194, which demands the refugees' repatriation.  In
1967, Israel conquered the West Bank and Gaza Strip (in a war that
Israel started, contrary to popular myth), expelling another 250,000
Palestinians in the process.  Since 1967, Israel has violated scores
more U.N. resolutions, along with the Fourth Geneva Convention, which
prohibits an occupying power from deporting the native population and
moving its own population onto occupied territory.

There are now almost half a million Israeli citizens living on land
taken during the 1967 war, including East Jerusalem.  Israel's
occupation has been brutal: targeted assassinations, home
demolitions, torture, massive confiscation of land and suffocating
curfews have been standard policy.  Israel's overall aim has been to
thwart Palestinian political and economic development, thus
undermining any chance for genuine Palestinian sovereignty and
national identity.

A number of opponents of divestment have attacked the movement as
anti-Semitic.  Lawrence summers, president of Harvard University,
denounced the divestment effort there as "anti-Semitic, in effect if
not intent," while protesters at the Michigan conference brandished
signs reading, "Hate conference here."  As a Jew, I find this charge
offensive and dangerous.  Offensive because the vast majority of
participants in this national campaign, which includes many Jews, are
perfectly clear that abuses by the Israeli government do not license
attacks on Jews or Judaism, and dangerous because by lumping all
critics of Israeli actions into the category of anti-Semites, the
charge is undermined when aimed at those who genuinely deserve it.

Some people argue that it is unfair to target Israel when so many
other governments deny their citizens basic human rights, and others
are guilty of occupying foreign land as well.  In fact, there is no
inconsistency here.  It is absurd to argue that whenever you direct
your energy to fight abuse in one area, you must do so everywhere.
Following such a course would be a recipe for total paralysis and

I support any effort by others to work for human rights in China, or
to end the Syrian occupation of Lebanon, but that doesn't mean I have
to be working on those projects as well.  That aside, there are
particular reasons to focus on the Israeli occupation.  Israel is
singular in the degree of economic and political support it receives
from the United States.  That places a special moral burden on
American citizens to do something about Israel's brutal behavior,
because without U.S. support, it couldn't be sustained.

Also, divestment is not merely a matter of keeping one's hands clean;
it is a strategy to follow when there is reason to think it can
accomplish its goal, and there are two crucial features of the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict at present that make divestment an
appropriate strategy.

First, Israel is the vastly superior power in the conflict, so no
progress is possible until Israel decides to relinquish control over
the occupied territories (which, contrary to popular myth again, Ehud
Barak's "generous offer" did not do), and negotiate in good faith
toward a truly sovereign Palestinian state and a just solution of the
refugee problem.

Second, given the Israeli political dynamic, no genuine peace
movement is capable of achieving political power without significant
external pressure, just as we saw in South Africa.  To put it simply,
the Israeli middle class must be persuaded that there is no money in
holding on to the territories, and divestment is an important tool in
convincing them.

Finally, the situation in Israel-Palestine is horrendous, and
deteriorating rapidly.  The death toll rises daily on both sides.
Every day, the idea of wholesale expulsion of Palestinians,
reminiscent of 1948, becomes more popular in Israel.  Peace, justice
and stability will not come to the rest of the Middle East until the
Palestinian situation is resolved; it is a festering wound that
infects the entire region.

For all these reasons, divesting from Israel seems prudent, humane
and the right thing to do.

Joseph Levine is a professor of philosophy at Ohio State University
and is the faculty adviser to the OSU Committee for Justice in
levine.120 at osu.edu

* Calendar of Events in Columbus:
* Anti-War Activist Resources: <http://www.osu.edu/students/sif/activist.html>
* Student International Forum: <http://www.osu.edu/students/sif/>
* Committee for Justice in Palestine: <http://www.osu.edu/students/CJP/>

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