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Op-Ed: Scholarly analysis of divestment needed

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, Gandhi 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 are 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, 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.

Daniel H Jacobs ’82

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