March 17, 2016

GUEST ROOM | On Divestment and Hypocrisy

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Recently, the Board of Trustees released a statement claiming that Cornell will only “divest from companies if their actions are ‘morally reprehensible,’” citing examples of apartheid, genocide and so on. We welcome this development. In its clear-cut identification of what constitutes an inappropriate financial investment, the University appears outwardly responsive to a longstanding concern in Cornell’s body politic — ethically responsible allocation of the University’s endowment funds.

In light of this newly calibrated position on divestment, however, we find it fitting to remind the Board that Cornell’s endowment remains invested in several corporations which directly and indirectly profit from Israel’s 48-year occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Consistently condemned by the international community as the single most enduring obstacle to the attainment of peace in the region, Israel’s illicit occupation of the Palestinian territories involves routine violations of the Palestinian people’s fundamental human rights. To cite three examples, Caterpillar Inc. sells bulldozers and industrial crawlers to the Israeli military deployed for the express purpose of demolishing existing Palestinian homes and villages in order to make way for Israeli settlements — which continue to openly contravene principles of international law enshrined in the Geneva conventions. Raytheon, a self-proclaimed global leader in “weapons research” and the manufacture of guided missiles, also plays an instrumental role in financing and maintaining the Israeli military’s subjugation of the Palestinian people. Hewlett-Packard provides the biometric I.D. system behind the nearly one hundred checkpoints which dot the occupied West Bank, an area roughly equal to the size of the state of Delaware. These checkpoints allow the Israeli military to indiscriminately control all forms of civilian movement in occupied Palestine.

And yet, when student activists sent a resolution calling for Cornell to divest from such “morally reprehensible” corporations to the Student Assembly in the spring of 2014, the Assembly immediately tabled the resolution without holding a vote. In addition, the Assembly declined to even present the resolution on the floor for discussion. While the Assembly’s actions constitute but one example of a well-established praxis of silencing open debate regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on campuses across the U.S., the sheer speed with which Cornell quashed our dissent sets it apart.

Sadly, however, the administration’s transparent hypocrisy in its blithe reference to “moral reprehensibility” falls within a long tradition of refusal to divest from ethically deficient institutions. Despite decades of protest (beginning with the iconic student takeover of Willard Straight Hall during the zenith of the white backlash to the American civil rights movement in 1969), the University consistently rejected student and faculty resolutions calling for total divestment from apartheid-era South Africa in the 1980s — a government with the unique distinction of receiving universal condemnation as one of the most grotesquely racist, “morally reprehensible” régimes to ever exist. In fact, the University retained $42.1 million of stock in South African corporations in 1989, the year which saw Nelson Mandela’s release from prison and the commencement of apartheid’s demise.

This damning context renders the Board’s citation of “apartheid” as something worthy of divestment either historically ignorant or deliberately dishonest. Cornell boasts the unenviable distinction of remaining one of the valiant few collegiate institutions in the U.S. never to have divested from apartheid-era South Africa. Given this track record, which seems blatantly inexcusable by the administration’s own standards, we fail to see how the Board expects its issuance of last week’s statement to appear sincere. Indeed, the heavy weight of these historical transgressions — in tandem with that of our own experiences on this campus — leaves us convinced that the Board’s declaration amounts to nothing more than a feeble sham, concocted in a desperate attempt to assuage the increasingly vociferous calls for conscientious stewardship of Cornell’s finances.

In closing, what constitutes an apartheid state? The African National Congress, the torchbearer of the South African anti-apartheid struggle, has consistently expressed its solidarity with the Palestinian people. South African trade unions, activists and political leaders have repeatedly pointed out that the Palestinians’ quotidian reality remains strongly reminiscent of that of blacks in apartheid-era South Africa. Apartheid means an Israeli prime minister willing to make flagrantly racist remarks about Palestinian Arab minorities and duplicitously repudiate any prospect of Palestinian statehood. Apartheid means explicitly segregated roads and transportation routes in the occupied Palestinian territories. Apartheid means over half of the land in the occupied West Bank entirely cut off to Palestinians, at an estimated cost to the Palestinian economy of $3.4 billion per annum. Apartheid means Palestinian workers and farmers subjected to inhumane conditions — often earning less than the Israeli minimum wage — silenced by the fear of losing their work permits. And most importantly, apartheid means thousands of Palestinian men, women and children killed without cause in periodic outbreaks of staggering violence such as the world witnessed in 2008, 2012 and 2014 in Gaza.

We harbor no doubt that these actions — and, by extension, the efforts of corporations which contribute to and profit from sustaining such actions — qualify as “morally reprehensible.” Yet the last time students attempted to raise the issue of divestment from these corporations, the administration tacitly backed a complete shutdown of the debate. If the Board wishes to retain any iota of credibility in its casual invocation of “apartheid” and “moral reprehensibility,” we can only hope that it adheres to its stated position — and publicly divests from corporations which profit from Israel’s unrelenting occupation of the Palestinian territories.

Ambarneil Saha, Emad Masroor and Hadiyah Chowdhury are students at Cornell. Responses may be sent to Guest Room appears periodically this semester.

  • J R

    Maybe they could go back to sharing the same roads with the Israelis if they would stop loading vehicles with thousands of pounds of explosives to later detonate in populated civilian areas. Maybe those checkpoints could disappear if they would stop paying the families of terrorists monthly stipends after they kill scores of civilians in terrorist attacks.

    I have only one question for the authors: Do you condemn Hamas?

    • Arafat

      Are people who support Hamas akin to people who supported the Nazis?

      Seems to me they are.

      Nazis destroyed all the Jews of Europe. Hamas never stops talking about destroying Jews.

      Nazis depicted Jews as beneath contempt just as Hamas does. Nazis blamed Jews for all their problems and so does Hamas.

      Seems to me the only difference is Hamas does not have the military required to really kill off all the Jews of Israel. If they did have these weapons everyone knows they would use them as indiscriminately as the Nazis did.

      I wonder what sort of person supports an organization that is today’s Nazis. What moral and intellectual blindness do these Nazi worshippers suffer from?

    • Ben Gurion

      Maybe they wouldn’t have to share the same roads if the Palestinians had their own state (oh wait…). Maybe the checkpoints wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for a half century of illegal, brutal military occupation…you know, exactly what the authors are calling for Cornell to divest from. Do you really think Hamas suddenly appeared out of nowhere? Here’s an idea: maybe Hamas is angry because the Palestinian people have been systematically denied self-determination and basic human rights for decades. Maybe Hamas wouldn’t exist if Israel had complied with international law and withdrawn from the occupied territories. Instead Israel built and continues to build hundreds of illegal settlements to perpetuate the occupation (as the authors point out and you don’t answer), deliberately destroying any chance of a two state solution. Your comment openly accepts Israeli apartheid and actually tries to justify it. In light of everything the authors wrote about South Africa (which of course you don’t even try and deny), you should take a step back and reconsider your support for apartheid.

  • Arafat

    Before you repeat allegations made against Israel you should make some effort to check their veracity. The Palestinian Arabs are a fountain of lies against the Jews, lies that are repeated around the world by Arabs and by dupes like yourself. You should read an article by Isaac called Truth or Propaganda… . In it he quotes a reporter who actually went to check Palestinian atrocity claims only to find they were total made up slander. It’s feels good to be a hero for a cause and it’s boring and mundane to check facts which is why there are so many suicide bombers and activists for the wrong causes. I encourage you to read the following web sitehttp://www.mypracticalphilosop… which is full of paranoia creation by the muslims toward Israel. Here is just a sample.
    Valliollah Naghipourfar, cleric and professor of Teheran University, who claimed that Zionists use genies to undermine Iran; in April 2013 well-known Iranian cleric and close confidante of Ayatollah Khamenei warned about “global Jewish sorcery”; in December 2010 Said Mohamed Abdel-Fadli Shusha, governor of South Sinai, spoke about a shark sent by “Mossad” to hurt tourists in Egypt”;
    Israel unleashes rats and pigs against Jerusalem Arabs: According to the Palestinian Authority’s official news agency, Wafa, Israel is “using wild pigs to drive Palestinians out of their homes” and “Rats have become an Israeli weapon to displace and expel Arab residents of the occupied Old City of Jerusalem.”
    “Israel responsible for fatal shark attack and lethal jellyfish in Red Sea”: According to South Sinai Governor Mohamed Abdel, “Mossad throwing the deadly shark (in the sea) to hit tourism in Egypt is not out of the question, but it needs time to confirm.”
    Saudi Arabia “arrests” a vulture as part of a “Zionist plot”: According to a BBC report, the vulture appears to have been tagged by Tel Aviv University researchers studying migration patterns; even so, “the bird could meet a horrible punishment in the notoriously severe Saudi justice system.”

  • Arafat

    Given that you support the Palestinians who openly advocate Jewish genocide (see their duly elected leaders clear-cut party covenants), you correspondingly do as well. It’s hard to believe in this day and age that anyone would openly advocate the liquidation of Jews, but you clearly do and it doesn’t seem to bother you a whit.
    Moreover, it would be hard to believe that anyone would support second class status for women, the honor murder of teenage girls, the brutalization of gays and the suppression of dissenters. But you, as supporters of the Palestinians who regularly practice all of the above, are therefore complicit in these sexist, racist and fascist beliefs as well.
    Why are you so bigoted, misogynist, anti-gay and such hater of Jews? Please tell us pray tell.
    And if to be opposed to such garbage practiced by so many Muslims world-wide makes one an Islamophobe, count me and all who believe in freedom and hate sexism and bigotry vs Jews as a proud Islamophobe.

  • Arafat

    That Israel is still the subject of hatred is deeply disturbing and one of the forces that drives my support for the Jewish State.
    In choosing not to stand idly by as the age-old hatred of the Jewish people has been transferred to the “collective Jew,” I have been speaking up against the new anti-Semitism that is so pervasive today.
    It targets the Jewish people by targeting the Jewish homeland, as the source of injustice and conflict in the world.
    It is perversely couched in the language of human rights.
    Just as conventional anti-Semitism denied Jews the right to live as equal members of humanity, the new anti-Semitism denies the State of Israel the right to live as an equal member of the international community.

    • I notice that none of the comments here disproves the authors’ main point–that Israel is an apartheid state. Actually, calling Israel an apartheid state isn’t quite accurate. Israel is a state with Jim Crow-like aspects that runs an apartheid regime in the West Bank. I see that both Arafat and J. Ron haven’t even tried to challenge this point. I suspect it is because they know they will just look stupid if they do.

      • Arafat

        • Apartheid is a psychological warfare and propaganda technique used by Arabs to demonize Israel.
        In 1948, the Arabs said they were going to invade Israel, which had at that time “occupied” NO Arab land (Egypt owned Gaza, and Jordan Judea and Samaria), and throw all the Jews into the sea. The Arabs had modern weapons and aircraft, and the Israelis had small arms and a Piper Cub. The Arabs lost because they don’t like to fight armed men, or even armed women. They are pretty good with children, as shown by the Palestinian terrorist who smashed a little girl’s head with a rifle butt.
        The Arabs started another war in 1956, which they lost.
        The Arabs started yet another war in 1967, again with the intention of exterminating all the Jews. They lost, and only then did Israel occupy any land. You do realize, of course, that, had a country done the same thing to the U.S. that the Arabs did to Israel, nuclear weapons would have been used in response.
        Then the Arabs started another war in 1973: that is four in the space of 25 years. The Palestinians also perpetrated an ongoing litany of mindless terroristic violence, including the Ma’alot school massacre and Munich Massacre.
        Then, when Israel turned Gaza over to these people, it gave them greenhouses in which to grow food and build an economy. The Palestinians promptly destroyed the greenhouses, along with synagogues they could have converted into mosques, schools, housing, and so on. Recall that, when the “Terrible” Turks captured Constantinople in 1453, they did not raze the Hagia Sophia; they turned it into a mosque, and even preserved the Christian mosaics which can therefore be seen even today.
        All I can say is that the Palestinians made their own bed, so now they must lie in it. They are also living proof, as in a controlled experiment, that Arab culture is inferior to Euro-American and Judeo-Christian culture. Israelis and Arabs live on similar land that is relatively poor in natural resources, although some Arabs have oil wealth. Israel’s per-capita income is, however, much higher than that of even Saudi Arabia. Maybe it has something to do with women playing an equal and important role in Israeli society, while Saudi religious policemen drove girls back into a burning school because their faces were not covered properly. Maybe it has to do with Israel’s promotion of education and science over religious fanaticism.

        • Arafat

          Countries that do not allow Israelis (Jews) into their territory:
          Iraq (except Iraqi Kurdistan)
          Lebanon (neighboring country; territory dispute – Shebaa farms)
          Malaysia (Clearance permit needed from the Ministry of Home Affairs.)
          Pakistan (Clearance permit needed from the Ministry of Internal Security.)
          Saudi Arabia
          Syria (neighboring country; territory dispute – Golan Heights)
          United Arab Emirates (accepted for transit only; not allowed for admission)
          1.2 million Arabs live and work in Israel.
          Now explain to me again about this f***ing ‘Israel Apartheid Week’ nonsense!

        • Arafat, though your word salad contains some truths mixed with half-truths, truths taken out of context, and outright lies, I don’t have the time or the interest to dissect this all. There are only two points that I will address though.

          It is an outright lie when you say “The Arabs started yet another war in 1967, again with the intention of exterminating all the Jews.” Israel, in fact, fired the first shot. Historians may argue over whether Israel was justified and whether war was inevitable, but there is no competent historian who will say the Arabs fired the first shot. (For the record, I think a very reasonable case can be made that Israel was justified–but their are ambiguities and I can respect those who argue otherwise.)

          You also state, “Apartheid is a psychological warfare and propaganda technique used by Arabs to demonize Israel.” None of the rest of your keyboard diarrhea is relevant to the question of whether Israel is an apartheid state. (Or, as I think is more accurately expressed–whether Israel is a state with Jim Crow-like aspects that runs an apartheid regime in the West Bank).

          Your implication that the “apartheid” term is just a term used by Arabs in a psychological war against Israel is a lie. There is no other way to put it. What is going on in the West Bank is objectively apartheid. And plenty of non-Arabs agree. I will present three–though I could present more.

          1) You may have heard of Desmond Tutu–he won a Noble Peace Prize for his role in fighting apartheid in South Africa. He knows a thing or two about apartheid. He might even know a bit more about it than you do. On March 10, 2014, The Jerusalem Post ran a column entitled “Desmond Tutu: Israel guilty of apartheid in treatment of Palestinians”. Here is what he said:

          ——————-Begin Tutu column—————————————

          Desmond Tutu, the noted civil rights leader who became the first black archbishop of Cape Town, compared Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians to the apartheid regime that discriminated against blacks in his native South Africa.

          Tutu, the Nobel Peace laureate, told News24, a South African media entity, criticized Israeli policies toward the Palestinians in the territories as “humiliating.”

          “I have witnessed the systemic humiliation of Palestinian men, women and children by members of the Israeli security forces,” he said in a statement.

          “Their humiliation is familiar to all black South Africans who were corralled and harassed and insulted and assaulted by the security forces of the apartheid government.”

          Observers in South Africa are preparing to mark “Israeli Apartheid Week” on Monday. Tutu, meanwhile, has declared his support for the use of boycotts and economic sanctions as a means to compel Israel to alter its policies.

          “In South Africa, we could not have achieved our democracy without the help of people around the world, who through the use of non-violent means, such as boycotts and divestment, encouraged their governments and other corporate actors to reverse decades-long support for the apartheid regime,” he told News24.

          “The same issues of inequality and injustice today motivate the divestment movement trying to end Israel’s decades-long occupation of Palestinian territory and the unfair and prejudicial treatment of the Palestinian people by the Israeli government ruling over them.”

          “‘Those who turn a blind eye to injustice actually perpetuate injustice. If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor,” Tutu said.

          ____________End Jerusalem Post article_________________

          On July 28, 2015, Middle East Monitor ran a column entitled, “Veteran South African activist Denis Goldberg: Israel ‘an apartheid state'”

          Begin Middle East Monitor column————-

          South African Jewish anti-apartheid stalwart Denis Goldberg believes the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the use of separate laws for different groups of people makes Israel an apartheid state.

          “There is no doubt in my mind that Israel is an apartheid state,” Goldberg, who fought alongside late South African President Nelson Mandela and other activists against apartheid, told a gathering in Johannesburg.

          “Having lived through apartheid in South Africa, I cannot allow in my name the same kind of oppression to go on,” Goldberg said at an event discussing lessons for the Palestine-Israel conflict from those who struggled against apartheid.

          The Jewish anti-apartheid activist, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in the historic Rivonia Trial during the apartheid era in South Africa in 1964, said he has to speak out against Israel’s segregationist polices.

          “When I come across the deliberate exclusion of people from the benefits of their wealthy societies, whether on class, race or religious grounds, I have to speak out,” he said.

          Goldberg said he has a responsibility as a human being to uphold justice, truth and righteousness, “just as I did as a first-generation white South African” who opposed apartheid.

          He said that he does not oppose Jews, but the Israeli government’s Zionist polices.

          “I have to be an opponent of the exclusionist policies of Zionism, but let me say straight away that I have to be opposed to the exclusionary policies of the feudal Arab states of the Middle East as well,” he said.

          Goldberg said some people ask why Israel is an apartheid state, when it is not like how South Africa used to be during the apartheid era. They say that in Israel there are some Palestinian members of parliament, and that the Palestinians have equal rights.

          “Well I say you don’t need to be like South Africa to be an apartheid state, there is a definition in international law through the UNESCO declaration on apartheid,” he said.

          He said what constitutes apartheid is government laws, regulations and policies that distinguish between groups of people on the basis of race or religion.

          He also faults Israel for destroying the Palestinians’ livelihood and economy by uprooting their centuries-old olive trees, water and irrigation systems.

          Goldberg said the situation in Israel is not as complicated as the Zionist lobby tries to make it seem.

          “It’s simple: the dominant group excludes the indigenous people from their equal rights within the borders of Israel itself and in the occupied territories, in breach of international law,” he said.

          He said these actions showed an attitude that Palestinians were considered lesser people, which is similar to what happened in South Africa during the apartheid era when blacks were barred from voting.

          The anti-apartheid activist added that South Africans have a moral duty to protest what is happening to the Palestinians.

          —————–End Middle East Monitor column

          And finally, I give you a column by Bradley Burston, who wrote the following on Aug. 17, 2015 in the Israeli paper Haaretz

          Begin Burston column———————–

          What I’m about to write will not come easily for me.

          I used to be one of those people who took issue with the label of apartheid as applied to Israel. I was one of those people who could be counted on to argue that, while the country’s settlement and occupation policies were anti-democratic and brutal and slow-dose suicidal, the word apartheid did not apply.

          I’m not one of those people any more.  Not after the last few weeks.

          Not after terrorists firebombed a West Bank Palestinian home, annihilating a family, murdering an 18-month-old boy and his father, burning his mother over 90 percent of her body – only to have Israel’s government rule the family ineligible for the financial support and compensation automatically granted Israeli victims of terrorism, settlers included.
          I can’t pretend anymore. Not after Israel’s Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, explicitly declaring stone-throwing to be terrorism, drove the passage of a bill holding stone-throwers liable to up to 20 years in prison.

          The law did not specify that it targeted only Palestinian stone-throwers. It didn’t have to.
          Just one week later, pro-settlement Jews hurled rocks, furniture, and bottles of urine at Israeli soldiers and police at a West Bank settlement, and in response, Benjamin Netanyahu immediately rewarded the Jewish stone-throwers with a pledge to build hundreds of new settlement homes.

          This is what has become of the rule of law. Two sets of books. One for Us, and one to throw at Them. Apartheid.

          We are what we have created. We are what we do, and the injury we do in a thousand ways to millions of others. We are what we turn a blind eye to. Our Israel is what it has become: Apartheid.

          There was a time when I drew a distinction between Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies and this country I have loved so long.

          No more. Every single day we wake to yet another outrage.
          I used to be a person who wanted to believe that there were moral and democratic limits – or, failing that, pragmatic constraints – to how low the prime minister was willing to go, how far he was willing to bend to the proud proponents of apartheid, in order to bolster his power.

          Not any more. Not after Danny Danon.

          Not when the prime minister’s choice to represent all of us, all of Israel at the United Nations, is a man who proposed legislation to annex the West Bank, effectively creating Bantustans for Palestinians who would live there stateless, deprived of basic human rights.
          The man who will represent all of us at the United Nations, the man who will speak to the Third World on our behalf, is the same man who called African asylum seekers in Israel “a national plague.”

          The man who will represent all of us at the United Nations is the same politician who proposed legislation aimed at crippling left-leaning NGOs which come to the aid of Palestinian civilians and oppose the institution of occupation, while giving the government a green light to keep financially supporting right-wing NGOs suspected of channeling funds to support violence by pro-settlement Jews.

          What does apartheid mean, in Israeli terms?

          Apartheid means fundamentalist clergy spearheading the deepening of segregation, inequality, supremacism, and subjugation.

          Apartheid means Likud lawmaker and former Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter calling Sunday for separate, segregated roads and highways for Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank.
          Apartheid means hundreds of attacks by settlers targeting Palestinian property, livelihoods, and lives, without convictions, charges, or even suspects. Apartheid means uncounted Palestinians jailed without trial, shot dead without trial, shot dead in the back while fleeing and without just cause.

          Apartheid means Israeli officials using the army, police, military courts, and draconian administrative detentions, not only to head off terrorism, but to curtail nearly every avenue of non-violent protest available to Palestinians.

          Late last month, over the explicit protest of the head of the Israeli Medical Association and human rights groups combatting torture, Israel enacted the government’s “Law to Prevent Harm Caused by Hunger Strikes.” The law allows force-feeding of prisoners, even if the prisoner refuses, if the striker’s life is deemed in danger.

          Netanyahu’s Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who pushed hard for passage of the bill, has called hunger strikes by Palestinian security prisoners jailed for months without charge or trial “a  new type of suicide terrorist attack through which they will threaten the State of Israel”.

          Only under a system as warped as apartheid, does a government need to label and treat non-violence as terrorism.

          Years ago, in apartheid South Africa, Jews who loved their country and hated its policies, took courageous roles in defeating with non-violence a regime of racism and denial of human rights.

          May we in Israel follow their example.

          _________End Burston column_________________

          Now Arafat, if you want to argue that we should support Israel DESPITE the fact that it is a Jim Crow-like state that runs an apartheid regime, then fine. But at least be honest and admit that it runs an apartheid regime. Trying to imply otherwise only damages what little credibility you may have.

  • Netanyahu

    Arafat get a life. Wanting two state does not make you ant-semantic. And honestly you are insulting Jews who died during the Holocaust by just floating around the word nazi like it is nothing.

    • Arafat

      “And honestly you are insulting Jews who died during the Holocaust by just floating around the word nazi like it is nothing.”

      Could you explain what you mean by this?

  • As a part-time teacher at the Univ of California at Irvine (and a Gentile), I have seen and heard first-hand how the anti-Israel drive and BDS is motivated by anti-Semitism.

    Please read the below report by the AMCHA Initiative. This report is the result of a year-long study by an organization established by two UC professors to combat anti-Semitism on UC campuses.

    We are witnessing a world-wide resurgence in anti-Semitism. In the US, the focal point for this resurgence is on our college campuses.

    • Gary Fouse, AMCHA is a severely right-wing organization that tries to suppress speech critical of Israel. Forward (A Jewish newspaper/website) published the following letter on Oct. 1, 2014.

      Statement by Jewish Studies Professors in North America Regarding the Amcha Initiative

      We the undersigned are professors of Jewish studies at North American universities.

      Several of us have also headed programs and centers in Jewish studies. Many of us have worked hard to nurture serious, sustained study of Israeli politics and culture on our home campuses and elsewhere.

      It is in this latter regard that we call attention to the activities of an organization calledthe AMCHA Initiative whose mission is “investigating, educating about, and combatting antisemitism at institutions of higher learning in America.” Most recently, AMCHA has undertaken to monitor centers for Middle Eastern studies on American campuses including producing a lengthy report on UCLA’s in which that center is accused of antisemitism.

      AMCHA has also circulated a list of more than 200 Middle Eastern studies faculty whom it urges Jewish students and others to avoid because, it asserts, they espouse anti-Zionist andeven antisemitic viewpoints in their classrooms.

      It goes without saying that we, as students of antisemitism, are unequivocally opposed to any and all traces of this scourge. That said, we find the actions of AMCHA deplorable.

      Its technique of monitoring lectures, symposia and conferences strains the basic principle of academic freedom on which the American university is built. Moreover, its definition of antisemitism is so undiscriminating as to be meaningless. Instead of encouraging openness through its efforts, AMCHA’s approach closes off all but the most narrow intellectual directions and has a chilling effect on research and teaching. AMCHA’s methods lend little support to Israel, whose very survival depends on free, open, and vigorous debate about its future.

      Universities and colleges are designed to provide opportunities to students to consider theworld around them from a wide range of perspectives. The institutions where we teach, as well as many others we know well (including those appearing on AMCHA’s list), offer a broad array of courses dealing with Israel and Palestinian affairs. None of these, whether supportive or critical of Israeli policy, ought to be monitored for content or political orientation. We find it regrettable that AMCHA, so intent on combatting the boycott of Israel, has launched a boycott initiative of its own. This further degrades the currency of academic freedom.

      AMCHA’s tactics are designed to stifle debate on issues debated in Israel and around the world, and the presumption that students must be protected from their own universities is misguided and destructive. Efforts such as these do not promote academic integrity, but rather serve to deaden the kind of spirited academic exchange that is the lifeblood of the university.

      Robert Alter, University of California, Berkeley
      Bernard Avishai, Dartmouth College
      Carol Bakhos, University of California, Los Angeles
      David Biale, University of California, Davis
      Ra’anan Boustan, University of California, Los Angeles
      Matti Bunzl, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
      Steven M. Cohen, Hebrew Union College (New York)
      Hasia R. Diner, New York University
      Nathaniel Deutsch, University of California, Santa Cruz
      John M. Efron, University of California, Berkeley
      David Engel, New York University
      Yael Feldman, New York University
      Reuven Firestone, Hebrew Union College (Los Angeles)
      Charlotte Fonrobert, Stanford University
      Rachel Havrelock, University of Illinois at Chicago
      Susannah Heschel, Dartmouth College
      Hannan Hever, Yale University
      Marion Kaplan, New York University
      Ari Y. Kelman, Stanford University
      Laura S. Levitt, Temple University
      Shaul Magid, Indiana University
      Frances Malino, Wellesley College
      Barbara E. Mann, Jewish Theological Seminary
      Tony Michels, University of Wisconsin, Madison
      Deborah Dash Moore, University of Michigan
      David N. Myers, University of California, Los Angeles
      Anita Norich, University of Michigan
      Derek Penslar, University of Toronto/University of Oxford
      Riv-Ellen Prell, University of Minnesota
      Aron Rodrigue, Stanford University
      Marsha Rozenblit, University of Maryland
      Naomi Seidman, Graduate Theological Union
      Jeffrey Shandler, Rutgers University
      Eugene Sheppard, Brandeis University
      Sarah Abrevaya Stein, University of California, Los Angeles
      David M. Stern, University of Pennsylvania
      Jeffrey Veidlinger, University of Michigan
      Sam Wineburg, Stanford University
      Diane Wolf, University of California, Davis
      Steven J. Zipperstein, Stanford University

    • Though there is a resurgence in anti-Semitism, the question is–what is the cause and what is the effect?

      One of the main causes of rising anti-Semitism around the world is the perception that Jews uncritically support Israel’s illegal and oppressive occupation of the West Bank and its attacks against Gaza. Here is how J.J. Goldberg described a 2014 report by the Jewish People Policy Institute: (What Happens in Israel Doesn’t Stay in Israel, Forward, Aug. 18, 2014)

      Begin Goldberg quote—————–

      Much of the report focuses on participants’ concerns about Israeli democracy itself — religious pluralism and discrimination against Arab citizens, for example. But one section is devoted to “The impact of Israel’s policies on the security and wellbeing of Jews around the world.” It warns: “There is clear evidence that periods of tension between Israel and its neighbors raise the frequency and severity of harassment/attacks on Jews in locations around the world.”

      In many incidents of physical attacks on Jews, the assailant cites Israeli actions as the motivation. . . . And it quotes a 2012 Anti-Defamation League research report, “Anti-Semitism on the Rise in America,” which claimed, “Anti-Israel feelings are triggering anti-Semitism.”

      It’s often argued, correctly, that anger at Israel shouldn’t lead to attacks on Jews in other countries. But enemies of Israel are already prepared to attack Israeli commuter buses and restaurants. It’s only a short jump from there to foreigners who identify themselves as Israel’s next line of defense and declare, “We are one.”

      End Goldberg quote—————————-

      Bibi Netanyahu did not help alleviate the perception that all Jews unquestioningly support Israel, no matter how egregiously it acts. Many of our politicians demand that Muslims loudly denounce Islamic extremism whenever a Muslim carries out a terrorist attack anywhere in the world. And though it does not get nearly the media coverage it deserves, many Muslims have spoken out against the abuse of their religion as an excuse to commit terrorism. I suspect they speak out for two reasons. First, they speak out because it is the right thing to do. And second, they speak out because they hope that if the public hears a loud Muslim voice condemning terrorism it will stem the rising tide of Islamophobia.

      In a similar manner, the more Jews are perceived as supporting Israel’s brutal occupation, the more anti-Semitism is likely to grow. Jewish protest against the occupation and for Palestinian rights can provide an inoculation against the cancer of anti-Semitism.

    • There are some within the BDS movement who are genuinely anti-Semitic (though they are probably a relatively small minority of BDS supporters). Just as there are some gun owners who are murderers. Opposing BDS because some are anti-Semitic makes as much sense as taking away everyone’s guns because some are murderers.

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