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OPINIONS

Investment, not Divestment, is the solution in Israel/Palestine

Divestment arguments on campus have been framed as pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel, when in reality divestment is anti-both; divestment advocates, regardless of intention, are pushing for a policy that could make everyone worse off, not only on campus, but in the Middle East as well.

Activists who call for divestment from Israel usually start out with the example of how the tactic of divestment helped overthrow a racist and autocratic regime in South Africa in the 1980s, under which black South Africans were not allowed to vote and were not represented in the government. Companies that operated in South Africa were complicit in supporting this racist government, and the only way to get it to change was to damage South Africa’s bottom line by divesting and boycotting.

The strategy worked, the divestment movement gained international traction, and the regime was overthrown and replaced by the democratically elected African National Congress. Activists today argue that divestment from companies in Israel can help change the policies with which they disagree.

However, the history and situation in the Middle East is vastly different from that of South Africa in the 1980s. Israel is a liberal democracy with Arab and Muslim representation in both its parliament and its Supreme Court. Just as in America, some of Israel’s policies are not ideal. But using divestment, a tool that has been used to promote regime change, should not be the way we express discontent with the most stable, liberal, and democratic country in the Middle East.

While Israel is a stable democracy that has lasting peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, this stability was not always a given. The relative peace between Israel and its neighbors in Egypt and Jordan is largely due to American investment. In the years between 1948 and 1973, the U.S. barely invested in Israel. The average annual U.S. government investment between 1948 and 1973 was four percent of what it is today. In that time period, Israel was consistently under attack from its militarily superior neighbors. Between 1948 and 1973, Israel fought three major defensive wars against the heavily armed Egyptian, Syrian, Iraqi and Jordanian armies.  Once the United States began investing in the economic and physical security of all parties, however, the level of conflict de-escalated and Israel was able to sign lasting peace treaties.

Today, investment in Israel and Palestine has helped both parties continue to shift the paradigm of conflict away from the large-scale military interventions of the past. One of the key missions of “The Quartet” (which includes the United Nations, the European Union, Russia and the U.S.) is to promote private sector development in Palestine by investing. The direct results of this investment have led to a more robust middle class in the West Bank, and record lows in attempted terrorist attacks against Israel. This investment has helped lay out the groundwork for an eventual democratic Palestinian state.

Similarly, investment in Israel’s physical and economic security has helped lead to a record low for Israel in terms of military response to terrorist provocation. The Iron Dome missile defense system, funded partially by U.S. investment, successfully defended Israel from a barrage of 1,500 rockets fired from Gaza during the most recent conflict. In prior conflicts, this rocket attack would have resulted in an Israeli ground invasion. The defensive capability of Iron Dome, however, mitigated the damage from those rockets, preventing the need for a ground invasion and saving thousands of Israeli and Palestinian lives.

There are those who argue that while we have made some progress, the pace has not been fast enough. I agree. There are still human rights concerns, and there are still injustices committed by both Palestinians and Israelis that we need to correct.

But the progress that we have made since the war of 1973, in which more than 20,000 were killed and 40,000 were wounded, to the most recent conflict, in which fewer than 200 died, is entirely due to investments in Palestinian society and security investments like Israel’s Iron Dome and security barrier.

Just as divestment from Palestinian economic security could lead to increases in terrorism, divesting from the companies that supply Israel with the tools it needs to defend itself could be disastrous. Even doing so in words could damage the fragile stability that is the Middle East and send us on a path too dark to imagine.

Justin Hefter ‘11

  • Mikaere

    Invest in colonial occupation?? really??

  • K
  • divestment not investment

    SERIOUSLY? Are you going to argue with Desmond Tutu? Ha…

  • http://twitter.com/PeterMGunn Commando Cool

    The solution to colonialism is neo-colonialism. Brilliant!

  • So?
  • So what?
  • Well known fact

    The site aside, look up Desmond Tutu anti-semetism online and you’ll get millions of hits and thousands of articles. He is well known for his ‘Zionism is racism’ comments, marginalization of the Holocaust, and comments about Jewish control of the American media and politics

  • baycommuter

    Justin, how dare you take a moderate stand. Don’t you know that everyone who takes part in the Israeli-Palestinian debate is entirely on one side or the other?

  • Isaac_Galili

    Why is there no debate on divesting and boycotting such apartheid societies as Saudi Arabia (gender & religious apartheid); Morocco and Algeria (Arab minority repressing and ruling over the non-Arab Berber majority); China (illegal occupation of Tibet and massive cultural repression);Turkey (illegal occupation of northern Cyprus and ethnic cleansing of Greeks; refusal to acknowledge the Armenian genocide and the repression of the non-Turkish Kurds)? The reason is clear: the well-oiled, well-financed global anti-Israel propaganda campaign.

    If these self-proclaimed champions for Palestinians really cared for Palestinian rights, why are they silent on the over 1000 Palestinians killed in the Syrian civil war? Or the racist discriminatory laws in Lebanon that prevent Palestinians born there from gaining citizenship, owning property or working in over two dozen professions.

    The reason: they are pushing a particular nationalist ideology disguised as a “human rights” campaign.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joseph.tillotson Joseph Tillotson

    The basic flaw in Mr. Hefter’s essay is that Israel is not a legitimate state, but rather an imposed colonial state founded on land stolen from the Palestinians. If one wants to know the truth about Israel’s founding, it would shock those who fervently believe that it is a ” light unto all nations”: in 1948′ the year the United Nations voted in favor of partitioning Palestine, Israeli military forces expelled over 750,000 Palestinians from their homes, and destroyed over 500 villages( see Ilan Pappe, “the ethnic cleansing of Palestine”). Several massacres were committed by the Israelis. In 1967, it attacked preemptively ( not defensively) neighboring countries and took control over the remainder of the land.
    Today, Israel can justly be accused of genocide, ethnic cleansing, and apartheid (worse than South Africa). Israel simply ignores U.N. Resolutions condemming its behavior.
    Israel is a pariah in the world’s community, deservedly so.

  • quomodo

    What about the millions of Jews expelled from Arab lands?

    I guess you don’t care about that?

  • Dibs

    Wait, Tutu’s an infallible cult leader now? I call dibs on chief minion!

  • http://twitter.com/yonatan_c Yoni C

    nailed all your talking points there, u should be proud!

  • Anonymous

    It is not divestment from Israel but rather Israeli companies that directly profit from the illegal occupation, illegal settlements and from exploiting Palestinian human rights. There is a big difference that you fail to outline..

  • garybkatz

    Joseph, you are mis-stating facts. The Israeli military did NOT expel 750,000 Palestinians. It is well documented that most of the Palestinians who left were advised to do so by Arab leaders. Why? To facilitate the liquidation of the Jews by the 5 Arab armies which attacked Israel. The Arab leaders also used scare tactics against their own people, spreading false rumors of Jews raping Arab women, and so on. If you research interviews with Arabs who fled in ’48 (as opposed to people who weren’t there merely spreading propaganda), you will find the vast majority do not claim the Israeli military forced them out. The fact that over one million Arabs live peacefully in Israel today, with full rights, attests to this historical fact. Ilan Pappe had his own agenda. Your allegation that Israel is worse than South Africa exposes your agenda.

  • http://www.facebook.com/meqdad.taheri Meqdad Taheri

    Apartheid is a legal system of segregation and subjugation,
    based on the doctrine that the subjugated race in the inferior one.

    In Israel, a Palestinian is sitting on the Israeli Supreme
    Court: Justice Salim Joubran, a former lecturer at the Law Faculty at the
    University of Haifa.

    Justice Joubran was preceded by another Palestinian, Justice
    Abdel Rahman Zuabi.

    At the end of 2011, Justice Joubran was one of three
    justices who upheld the conviction of Israel’s former president, Moshe Katzav,
    a Jew.

    Other Palestinian notables in Israel include Israeli
    Ambassador Ali Yahya, Deputy Minister of Health Nawaf Massalha, Israeli beauty
    queen Rana Raslan, Israeli Minister Raleb Majadele, Israeli police Lieutenant-General
    Jamal Hakrush, Professor Majd el-Haj, the dean of research at Haifa University,
    and more.

    Palestinian citizens of Israel have more rights than
    Palestinians do in any other Arab country. These rights, equal to those of the
    Jews, are protected by multiple layers of Israeli law.

    The Jews don’t consider the Palestinian a different race,
    but a fellow Semitic nation that wants to destroy them. Nevertheless, Israel is
    the safest place in the Middle East for a Muslim (Sunni, Shiite or other) to
    worship, and for a Christian and a homosexual to exist. There is scant evidence
    to suggest that this would have been the case had there been no Israel.

    Brigitte Gabriel (a.k.a. Nour Saman), A Lebanese woman,
    whose mother was hospitalized in Israel, remembered:

    “I was amazed that the Israelis were providing medical
    treatment to Palestinian and Muslim gunmen…These Palestinians and Muslims
    were sworn, mortal enemies, dedicated to the destruction of Israel and the
    slaughter of Jews. Yet, Israeli doctors and nurses worked feverishly to save
    their lives. Each patient was treated solely according to the nature of his or
    her injury. The doctor treated my mother before he treated an Israeli soldier
    lying next to her because her injury was more severe than his. The Israelis did
    not see religion, political affiliation, or nationality. They saw only people
    in need, and they helped.”

    In Apartheid South Africa the whites did not act out of self
    defense, against a mortal enemy who threatened to exterminate them. The whites
    subjugated the blacks purely because of racial ideology.

    According to Malcolm Hedding, a South African Ordained
    Minister, “Apartheid was a totalitarian system of governance, not unlike those
    of the Arab world today… There is absolutely nothing equivalent to this in the
    dispute that rages between the Palestinians and Israel today. Arabs, Jews,
    Christians and Palestinians share the same shopping malls, benches, hospitals,
    theatres, and in many cases, suburbs… The truth is the Apartheid accusation is
    just another smokescreen in the war against Israel! I should know it because I
    grew up in Apartheid South Africa.”

    According to Rhoda Kadalie, and Julia Bertelsmann, black
    South Africans academics whose families fought against apartheid, “Arab
    citizens of Israel can vote and serve in the Knesset; black South Africans
    could not vote until 1994. There are no laws in Israel that discriminate
    against Arab citizens or separate them from Jews. Unlike the United Kingdom,
    Greece, and Norway, Israel has no state religion, and it recognizes Arabic as
    one of its official languages.”

    As Ishmael Khaldi, a Palestinian deputy consul of Israel in
    the US put it, “If Israel were an apartheid state, I would not have been
    appointed here, nor would I have chosen to take upon myself this duty.”

    As one who is truly concerned about Palestinian welfare, I
    would spent less time inventing lies about the Jews, and more time speaking out
    about Palestinian suffering whether in Palestine (under Israel, Fatah, or
    Hamas), or elsewhere in the region, as in Syria, where thousands of
    Palestinians are now facing death.

    Far from leading to peace, smearing Israel as an apartheid
    state will only lead to more hatred and strife, and may lead to events such as
    the ones brilliantly depicted in Jonathan Bloomfield’s award-winning book,
    “Palestine,” in which actual history and future predictions are thinly veiled
    as fiction.

  • http://www.facebook.com/meqdad.taheri Meqdad Taheri

    The Arabs of Palestine fled at the urging and fear mongering
    of their own leaders, who promised that after the Jews were wiped out they could
    return. You can listen to their testimonies—their very own words—on youtube: watch?v=FuGqpFxogRg ; watch?v=cn4r7ZjG9Nc .

    There was no ethnic cleansing.

    In contrast, no Jewish leader told the 850,000 Jews in Arab
    countries to move out temporarily so the Arabs in their lands can be
    exterminated, and then they can return. And in many of these lands, e.g., Mesopotamia,
    the Jews predated the Arabs by more than 1,200 years.

    These Jewish refugees were absorbed by Israel, unlike their 750,000
    Arab counterparts who fled Palestine and were refused settlement and rights
    among their very own Arab brethren.

    By 1950, “Saturday” was largely complete. The Jews were
    gone. Today “Sunday” is taking place, and Christians are fleeing Arab lands in
    droves. As the current Arab saying goes, “After Saturday comes Sunday.”

    Palestinians could have stayed if they had not listened to the
    exaggerated scare stories of Hazam Nusseibeh and Hussayn Khalidi of the Higher
    Arab Executive, who had actually intended with their horror stories to draw in
    more Arabs to the fight.

    The Jews in the Arab countries could NOT have stayed. It was
    either fleeing as refugees (and losing an untold fortune that had been built
    over many generations) or facing death.

    They fled.

    They lost all their land, business and property, and became penniless
    refugees in Israel.

  • ari

    This guy is a moron. Your argument is based on the false pretense that Israel is a democracy, and ignores the occupation of Palestinian territories since 1967.

  • Jonathan Poto

    Correlation doesn’t equal causation. You don’t have proof that the US investing in Israel is what brought about (relative) peace in the region.

    Also, I disagree with the concept of Israel being a liberal democracy. Given the power of the military over that country it functions more as a quazi military republic.