Widgets Magazine

OPINIONS

Op-Ed: Honest debate and its enemies

As a student, I felt humbled upon hearing that the Stanford Israel Alliance (SIA) has undertaken an Invest for Peace program. The investment program seeks to do exactly what SIA has always done: engage a geopolitical conflict affecting the lives and safety of their parents, siblings, cousins, and friends, but in a collected manner that reaches out and engages the Stanford community, creating as much of a positive difference as a group of students possibly can. On Tuesday, May 4, Yishai Kabaker published an Op-Ed that announced his Invest-for-Peace strategy, which has since been embraced warmly by the Stanford community.

Yet Mr. Kabaker made clear his apprehension, shared by much of the Jewish community, about the concurrent attempt by Campaign Restore Hope (CRH), to launch a divestment campaign. He did so with good reason. CRH’s predecessor, Students Confronting Apartheid in Israel, last engaged the broader community by proudly hosting Hezbollah apologists and other more “moderate” advocates for Israel’s destruction.

Fadi Quran, who heads the current divestment push and saw these unfortunate events unfold three years ago, sought to allay fears in his Op-Ed on Wednesday, May 5. “This campaign is different,” he said. But he tempered this message with an avalanche of misleading generalizations, such as characterizing the entire Palestinian Arab population as prevented from accessing water. Mr. Quran failed to qualify such statements with the agent of action. While Israel moved rapidly to either build or approve the building of new wells for the Palestinian Water Authority, fulfilling its obligations under the Oslo 2 accords in 1995, the Palestinian Authority failed under its own obligations to provide the requisite pipes, thereby rendering the wells useless.

More generally, the fact that Prime Ministers Barak and Olmert offered full statehood to Palestinian Arabs on more than 95% of the land mass of the West Bank and Gaza, the fact that these offers were not met by negotiations but by barrages of suicide bombings and rocket attacks, and the fact that these attacks were what caused many of the restrictions Mr. Quran laments is, to him and his campaign, irrelevant. While Mr. Quran espoused in his Op-Ed the ideal of not shying from a debate on account of its complexity, we may rest assured this is not the debate he has engaged in.

The divestment program itself undertakes similar subterfuge. It claims to draw from universal values meted out with balance, claiming on its website “to ensure that our university is not invested in companies that violate human rights in the region.” This fails any level of scrutiny. Four companies comprise the roster of divestment, three of which are not publicly traded, and for which divestment is therefore moot. What remains – the only target of consequence – is the Israeli company Elbit, whose equipment monitors a fence that has successfully thwarted suicide bombings against the citizens of Israel, Arab and Jewish alike. In other words, divestment’s target is Israel alone, with no regard for those under the yoke of oppression by the Saudi, Egyptian, Yemeni, Lebanese, Iranian, Hashemite, Syrian, and other regimes of the region whose abuses tower over Israel’s.

And so while we are told that this campaign is about justice, it must be a concept of justice that can retain its meaning without apportionment. Indeed, this is because this concept of justice isn’t justice at all. This divestment campaign doesn’t want to talk about human rights; this divestment campaign just wants to talk about Israel.

The divestment campaign therefore recalls the storied justification Harvard President Lowell once gave in his attempt to place an outright quota on the number of Jews admitted by claiming that Jews cheat. But non-Jews also cheat, he was told. You’re changing the subject, he replied, we’re talking about Jews.

Yes, this divestment campaign believes in human rights, and yes, President Lowell believed in academic integrity.

Josh Weinstein
Graduate student in biophysics

  • Daniel Jacobs

    nice article, Josh. I had a letter that was rejected that I think is inferior to yours, but I will post it below anyway. I appreciate your taking the time

    Editors
    As discussion again heats up regarding potential divestment from companies that do business in Israel, a number of obvious points need to be repeated. Proponents of divestment are not always fair minded. For example, one of the past editions of the Stanford Daily (2007) explicitly banned pro-Israel opinion columns for most of the year.

    The arguments for divestment from Israel conflate unrelated issues. Civil rights, Ghandhi and Martin Luther King are not germane to the Israel-Palestine conflict as suggested seriously in a recent opinion piece. The human rights issue is often misrepresented in a one sided fashion, with critiques of Israel emphasized just as issues such as lack of press and other freedoms in the Palestinian territories are not discussed. Never is heard a word about the enormous moral issues of the “reverse revenge Nakba,” of the 200,000 Jewish Israelis who will lose their homes as the Palestinian “Jew free” West Bank state is established. The wandering Jew will continue to wander. Nor are the human rights of the Schalit family discussed by the divesters. If human rights is part of the discussion, then discuss ALL aspects of human rights.

    If the point of divestment is to force a political solution, then divesters need to acknowledge that Israel made two separate attempts in the past ten years to settle the conflict permanently with far reaching concessions; first at the Camp David summit with Ehud Barak, Yasir Arafat and Bill Clinton (and the subsequent negotiations at Taba), and secondly with negotiations between Ehud Olmert and Abu Abbas. Not only were both offers rejected, but counter-offers were not even made. The Palestinian Authority still does not have Israel on its official maps, and the Hamas Charter remains overtly anti-Semitic. The Israeli concessions, then, have merely pushed peace away onto the horizon. Divestment would then punish the wrong side, that is the one that has attempted to reach a solution repeatedly, rather than bring consequences to the Palestinian leaders who have obstructed a settlement.

    What is most bothersome about the analogies to divestment campaigns in the past is not their lack of a fit historically, but the sense that those who missed the last carnival have to attend this one. The Left may have done well in South Africa, but did worse in Zimbabwe and Iran. It matters not if the Stanford community “unites” around a silly campaign or if one or another of the organizers is a genuine do-gooder. What is important is that the scholarly analysis of the campaign is lacking.
    Sincerely,
    Daniel H Jacobs, MD
    Alumnus, Class of 1982
    A.B. History

  • Dusty

    “This divestment campaign doesn’t want to talk about human rights; this divestment campaign just wants to talk about Israel.”

    We discovered this to be the case at UC Berkeley as well. While anti-Israel activists insisted that the divestment bill was about “human rights” and they were not singly out any particular country, when an alternate bill was proposed, identifing over 100 companies that manufacture weapons of war, it was rejected by the Senate as “too broad’.

    The resolution sought to form a commission to ensure that no U.C. system assets are invested in the top 100 companies listed by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. The list included businesses based in the United States, Israel, Germany, France and Italy.

    If the recent school senate activity was truly about ethical investment, and not about singling out the only democracy in the middle east, why did that resolution fail?

    After ten years of defeat, the anti-Israel divestment forces are itching for some sort of win, some sort of victory to claim “momentum ” is growing. Students through out the country have seen through this charade. Stanford will too. Divestment is wrong. It was wrong for UC Berkeley. Wrong for UC San Diego. And its wrong for Stanford

  • T. Hua

    Any objective person watching this debate who knows anything about the situation realizes that the divestment campaign has nothing to do with human rights or justice but about religious and political differences with Israel. If Israel were a Muslim country, you could bet your life they would not even think to do this divestment bs.

  • Books to recommend

    What is often missing in this discussion is, ‘whose land is this anyways’? We know where the Jews came from. They’ve been there since biblical times and according to historical travelers have been there ever since, complimented by various waves of immigration through the centuries. But when did the Muslims and the Arabs get there? Since this is a US university, where historical facts are accessible, I recommend that you all look in to the various waves of Arab immigration in to Palestine through the centuries. There is a fantastic book written in 1938 before Israel became a Jewish state that addresses some of this history. It’s called “The Rape of Palestine” by William Ziff and is available in the Green Library. Not all Arabs were in Palestine from “Time Immemorial” (another good book by Joan Peters) – while like the Jews, some Arabs have been part of the landscape for centuries, the majority of Arabs were also immigrants. A third book on this subject is “The Claim of Dispossession by Arieh L. Avneri.
    The history of the land is important to the discussion.

  • Joe

    “This divestment campaign doesn’t want to talk about human rights; this divestment campaign just wants to talk about Israel.”

    I almost missed this sentence because you talked about Israel instead of the divestment campaign for a couple of paragraphs before it and my mind wandered. Is anyone seriously proposing that Stanford take a specific action? If so, let’s talk about that and only that. Otherwise, if you just want to have a shouting match about who did what in an ethnic strife on the other side of the planet, leave the rest of us out of it.

  • to Joe

    Is the question whether or not people are actually attempting a divestment campaign to be taken up by the Stanford investment committee? If so, the answer is yes. To this extent, its claims and merits (whether real or imaginary) are sort of relevant.

  • Lulz

    The situation isn’t as bleak as Mr. Weinstein depicts it. This op-ed comes across as rather silly since the two sides that the author portrays as good and evil have come together and are talking — indeed, agreeing to a debate, contradicting even his title — this announced an an op-ed that is published in the same publication on the same day.

    http://www.stanforddaily.com/2010/05/10/three-steps-forward-campaign-restore-hope-and-invest-for-peace/

  • Concerned_Student

    “In other words, divestment’s target is Israel alone, with no regard for those under the yoke of oppression by the Saudi, Egyptian, Yemeni, Lebanese, Iranian, Hashemite, Syrian, and other regimes of the region whose abuses tower over Israel’s.”

    As an American, I think we should divest from those countries you mentioned as well if it is shown that Stanford invests in companies that commit or abet in human rights abuses in those countries. However, I also completely understand the rationale for starting a divestment campaign with Israel. Israel receives more aid from the United States than all those nations you listed combined. Israel is the only country in that list that has nuclear weapons and (along with Iran) fails to disclose any of its nuclear activities to the NPT regime. The Israeli/Palestinian conflict and its tremendous geopolitical importance is arguably one of the key factors in fostering global anti-US sentiment and the appeal of Islamic extremism. From the perspective of US vital interest, it doesn’t seem sound for the United States in general, and Stanford specifically, to keep investing in companies that abuse human rights.

    Ultimately, your argument is weakened by playing the “this is anti-Jewish” card. Israel can be validly criticized. Many Jews are supporters of divestment. This is about ending human rights violations in the West Bank and Gaza. This is about the fact that the West Bank and Gaza are not Israel’s territory as defined by international law. As an occupying power, Israel is failing to meet even its most basic responsibilities. The Israeli segregation wall has also been ruled illegal by the ICJ. Read “Witness in Palestine: A Jewish American Woman in the Occupied Territories” by Anna Baltzer to understand what is really happening in the West Bank and Gaza. Israeli settlers (read: colonizers) are ethnically cleansing people daily.

    Taking all this into consideration, Israel should be one of the leading divestment focuses for any US institution until a viable Palestinian state is created on the territories that belong to it. It is offensive to tell Palestinians that they can have 95% of their own territory in the form of a demilitarized state. Any sane individual would reject such an offer.

  • to Concerned_Student

    Egypt receives roughly 2.5-3 billion dollars from the US yearly, Jordan received 513 million dollars from the US in 2009, 600 million dollars to the Palestinian Authority, and 300 million dollars for humanitarian aid to the Hamas regime in Gaza. Obama has proposed giving Pakistan 2.8 billion dollars in military aid this year, and 1.5 billion dollars in economic aid. And don’t forget the close economic relations with Saudi Arabia.

  • Concerned_Student

    My point exactly. Israel receives more in US aid than all of those states combined (roughly 8-10 billion), even including the proposed aid to Pakistan you mentioned.

    Also take into account that roughly 7.5 million people live in Israel. Thus, on a per capita basis, the difference is even more striking.

  • to Concerned_Student

    I’m sorry, what? In 2007, according to the Congressional Research Service, US aid to Israel was 2.5 billion. Where do you get your data?

  • Concerned_Student

    “More U.S. aid goes to Israel than any other country, even though Israel’s per capita income is as high as many European countries. In fiscal year 2003 Israel received a foreign military financing grant of $3.1 billion and a $600 million grant for economic security in addition to $11 billion in commercial loan guarantees. This total aid package of nearly $15 billion makes Israel by far the largest single recipient of U.S. aid. U.S. aid is a function of politics. According to a Time/CNN poll, released April 12, 2002, 60% of Americans favor cutting aid to Israel if Israel does not immediately withdraw its troops from Palestinian areas. Further, U.S. aid to other countries is often tied to various conditions, depending on what the U.S. wants the aid recipient to do. We are asking that aid to Israel be treated in the same manner.”

    http://www.jewishvoiceforpeace.org/publish/article_17.shtml

  • To concerned student

    There would not be a fence if not for the Palestinian suicide bombers. Muslim suicide bombers built this fence. While its a nuisance to those who want to get through it, it is saving lives.
    And the West Bank does not belong to the Arabs. It is disputed land with a long history. Muslims have 56 states already – 22 of them Arab. The Jews have just as much historic rights to the land being suggested for carving the 57th Muslim state, as the Arabs of Palestine do.

  • Concerned_Student

    Your statements are clearly based on passion and religious arguments. The separation wall was not built by Muslim suicide bombers, it was built (in large part) with US taxpayer dollars. The fence is not just a “nuisance,” it is a violation of international law and countless human rights for hundreds of thousands of people. It has devastated the Palestinian economy. It is ethnic cleansing on a large scale. It is the creation of a ghetto, much like the Jews of Europe once lived in.The goal is to make the West Bank and Gaza intolerable for Palestinians and promote Israeli colonization.

    Legally speaking, the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem are Palestinian land under illegal IDF occupation. Of course “the region” has a long history, all “regions” do. This has nothing to do about “Muslim” states, “Arab” states, “Jewish” states. This has to do about a fundamental and consistent violation of human rights and international law by Israel. This has nothing to do with “historic rights,” which even you note may be equal.

    You are missing the point of the debate.

  • Concerned_Student

    Additionally, I would like to see two DEMOCRATIC states, living side by side, not a “Muslim” state and a “Jewish” state, as you put it.

  • Josh to other Josh

    To the guy posting the stuff about Amnesty’s report, etc. please be more precise. There are a number of obfuscations organization such as amnesty have used over the years to continually demonize Israel in its *terrible quest to collaborate* on water infrastructure with the Palestinian Authority. The main problem is that these guys tabulate only the output from aquifers on the Jordanian side of the 1949 armistice boundaries and do not include the water pumped by Israel from its own side into Palestinian municipalities. For a detailed accounting, please see http://www.water.gov.il/NR/rdonlyres/A111EFEF-3857-41F0-B598-F48119AE9170/0/WaterIssuesBetweenIsraelandthePalestinians.pdf
    Also the main point is that under the Oslo accords, infrastructure was the responsibility of the PA, given the massive amounts of assistance it was being given. It doesn’t really matter whether it was corruption or ideology that prevented this from happening, the point is this salient feature is ignored by your analysis.

    Also, what’s with the personal attacks? I presented a reasoned argument. Linda Hess’s op-ed Thursday had everything in it from religious antagonism to accusations of genocide.

    Cheers.

  • Dusty

    Looks like UC Divestment has been squashed like a bug, with the following statement from Mark G. Yudof, President of the University. Divestment has a long history of failure. Stanford, we hope you join the illustrious club of Universities taht examine and reject this divisive, damaging measure.

    From Pres. Yudof;

    Recently, there have been two bills put forward for a vote before student organizations within the University of California that call on the University to divest from companies doing business with Israel. Understandably, these bills have received considerable attention from the public and the media.

    The overarching question of the University of California divesting from any company is a complex one and any action considered must conform to State and federal laws, as well as to the University’s fiduciary responsibilities as a public entity to protect the security of its pension and endowment funds. In 2005, the Regents stated that a policy of divestment from a foreign government shall be adopted by the University only when the United States government declares that a foreign regime is committing acts of genocide. It was also noted at the time that divestment is a serious decision that should be rarely pursued.

    We share The Regents’ belief that divestment needs to be undertaken with caution. We firmly believe that if there is to be any discussion of divestment from a business or country, it must be robust and fair-minded. We must take great care that no one organization or country is held to a different standard than any other. In the current resolutions voted on by the UC student organizations, the State of Israel and companies doing business with Israel have been the sole focus. This isolation of Israel among all countries of the world greatly disturbs us and is of grave concern to members of the Jewish community.

    We fully support the Board of Regents in its policy to divest from a foreign government or companies doing business with a foreign government only when the United States government declares that a foreign regime is committing acts of genocide. The U.S. has not made any declaration regarding the State of Israel and, therefore, we will not bring a recommendation before the Board to divest from companies doing business with the State of Israel.

  • Dusty

    Re: “illegal occupation”. You’d be wrong. These are disputed territories
    The right of Jews to settle in all parts of the Land of Israel was first recognized by the international community in the 1922 League of Nations Mandate for Palestine. The purpose of the Mandate was to facilitate the establishment of a Jewish national home in the Jewish people’s ancient homeland. Indeed, Article 6 of the Mandate provided for “close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands not required for public use.”

    For more than a thousand years, the only time that Jewish settlement was prohibited in the West Bank was under the Jordanian occupation (1948-1967) that resulted from an armed invasion. During this period of Jordanian rule, which was not internationally recognized, Jordan eliminated the Jewish presence in the West Bank (as Egypt did in the Gaza Strip) and declared that the sale of land to Jews was a capital offense. It is untenable that this outrage could invalidate the right of Jews to establish homes in these areas, and accordingly, the legal titles to land that had already been acquired remain valid to this day.

    read more here:

    http://zionism-israel.com/issues/are_settlements_legal.html

  • Muslim suicide bombers built the fence

    ‘Concerned_student’ misses the point about Muslim suicide bombers building the fence. What the poster means is that if Palestinian Muslims weren’t coming into Israel to suicide bomb civilians in busses, discos, pizza parlors, hotels, university cafeterias etc., the Israelis would not have put up the fence. Before the suicide bombers, there were no checkpoints, no barriers and no fence.

  • LOL Josh

    Josh, I think your position on the issue becomes obvious when you say that “Amnesty International” and the “World Bank” are biased, whereas you believe that the Israeli government is Neutral?!?!

    I read the Israeli report, and it is strongly based on the notion of a Joint Water Committee responsible for water issues. “Joint” makes it seem like things are “equal.” If you read the World Bank report, however, you would realize that only Israel had veto powers on all water related issues in the “Joint” committee.

    When will you become a true believer and lover of Israel and begin to criticize it and make it better instead of trying to hide its severe oppressiveness from the world? I would much rather have someone working hard to make my nation better than deceitfully covering up it human rights abuses. Do you secretly hate Israel, Josh?

  • to LOL

    Neutrality has nothing to do with it. Amnesty and the World Bank simply don’t tabulate the input from Israeli aquifers. If you contest the Israeli numbers, that’s fine, but I find no compelling evidence to the contrary. And yes, I do think the JWC should have equitable veto power.
    But you’ve gone completely off the main point. The Oslo Accords, whose institutions you may not think much of, demanded a certain quid-pro-quo in order to obtain the necessary distribution of water resources, from wells Israel previously and continues to establish for the PWC. Presently it’s estimated that roughly 40% is lost to leakage, the elimination of which would completely close the so-called water-gap. The question then is what went wrong? The general consensus is that much of the money originally intended for infrastructure was lost to PA corruption, although it very well might have been ideological. Either way, the point is that one must ask “why” more systematically than the campaign does.
    By the way, assuming this is Amanda, I’d be happy to clarify my previous encounters with you offline.

  • Concerned Student

    I think you missed the point of my response to the “suicide bombers built the ‘fence'” comment.

    Go through the logic. You say that Israel built the wall in order to prevent suicide bomb attacks from happening withing Israel (which is definitely one of the reasons the wall was built). That response, however, begs the question of why there are Palestinian suicide bombers in the first place.

    Using your logic, it is clear that if there was no suicide bombers, there would be no wall, but have you ever thought of the fact that if there was no occupation in the first place, there would never have been suicide bombers?

    Additionally, you are also incorrect when you say that there was no checkpoints and barriers before the suicide bombers. Actually, one of the main Resistance tactics during the Palestinian intifadas was the removal of barriers, roadblocks, and checkpoints that were decimating the Palestinian people and economy. Israel responded to the removal of such things as roadblocks (whose only purpose is to prevent Palestinians from traveling WITHIN the West Bank and Gaza) with collective punishment and the shelling/bombing of Palestinian villages and bulldozing of houses.

    Don’t forget that the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights has been going on for over 43 years and that terrorist organizations, like Hamas, didn’t even come into existence until the late 1980’s.

  • Dusty

    “More U.S. aid goes to Israel than any other country”

    Thats not true (Hint: JVP is not a good source of info. Ever)

    2010 budget (in billions)
    Iraq 18.44
    Israel 2.62
    Egypt 1.87
    Afghanistan 1.77
    Colombia 0.57
    Jordan 0.56
    Pakistan 0.39
    Liberia 0.21
    Peru 0.17
    Ethiopia 0.16
    Bolivia 0.15
    Uganda 0.14
    Sudan 0.14
    Indonesia 0.13
    Kenya 0.13

  • for concerned_student

    I just saw your comment with the link, and I gotta say, you’re way off. The number you quoted wasn’t just wrong because it comprised loans which Israel has systematically repaid, but was also for the duration of the entire decade. 2.5 billion is still the correct number, and is well below the sum total allocated to Israel’s neighbors, PA included.