“When you have two alternatives, the first thing you have to do is to look for the third that you didn’t think about, that doesn’t exist.” -Shimon Peres, President of Israel
In fall 2011, Students for Palestinian Equal Rights (SPER) renewed its call to action with a petition entitled, “Divestment from Companies whose Direct Violations of International Law have an Injurious Impact on Palestinians: Petition to the Trustees of Stanford University.” As with each major issue that has affected the Stanford community – from the Vietnam War, to South African apartheid, to ROTC – this issue invariably reached the office of the ASSU Executive. Individuals and groups from both sides of this debate have approached me.
In order to best represent all Stanford students, I felt that it was my duty to read and educate myself about this debate, in addition to experiencing it myself, so that I could form a detailed and well-researched opinion. In that spirit, I agreed to be part of a student delegation to Israel this past summer (sponsored by the Israeli government), attended the 2012 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference last quarter, and visited the opposing OccupyAIPAC encampment. Throughout these visits, I continued to read various Middle Eastern news sources (including Al Jazeera, Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post) to stay abreast of current events in the region. Over the past six months, I have read and re-read the petition, met with many members of the Stanford community, and done my own independent research. Of course, one can never stop learning about a topic as deep as Israel-Palestine, but I do believe that I have now formed a detailed and well-researched opinion.
Stanford is not removed from this debate; rather, our investments are actively serving to perpetuate this conflict, which harms all parties in the region. Stanford and its investments have a real impact in Israel-Palestine – politically, socially, and economically. For example, Stanford’s investments in Caterpillar Inc. mean that we are directly complicit in the unlawful destruction and demolition of Palestinian property to allow the construction of Israeli settlements and Israeli-only roads. These activities are considered illegal by the Fourth Geneva Convention, as affirmed by the U.N. Security Council. In short, our investments are not serving the interests of the Israeli or Palestinian people; rather, we are merely helping to intensify this conflict, and result in greater profit to these firms. The continuation of the conflict in Israel-Palestine does not serve the interests of Jews or Muslims; instead, the continuing debate has merely served to oppress many, worsen Israel’s image, and divide the international community. As a community, we must seek and demand a long-lasting peace.
Ultimately, this petition is not radical, extreme, or anti-Semitic; this petition is pro-justice, pro-peace, and based on the approved Stanford model of investment responsibility. The petition calls for a specific action for a specific purpose – to divest from companies engaged in unethical actions, ensuring that we fulfill our legal and ethical obligations to persons outside Stanford.
While there may be other modes of engaging in dialogue – many of which I greatly admire, such as the Seeds of Change project and the Peres Center for Peace – I believe that this petition acts as an additional push towards true peace and justice for all peoples. All peoples – regardless of race, ethnicity, or creed – have a right to self-determination. No single initiative will create a lasting peace; it is only if we stand together, to promote all human rights, that true peace might come to the Middle East.
Citing University policy, carefully tailoring the issue to the Stanford case, and levying charges against those most responsible, this petition is deeply pro-peace, pro-dialogue and pro-Stanford. Having seen the power imbalance in Israel, I believe that this petition strictly seeks to force those at fault – which includes leaders across the international political spectrum – to engage in real and lasting dialogue, designed to create a long-term solution in the Middle East that respects the equally legitimate narratives of Palestinians and Israelis.
As President Peres stated, we must find a third solution to this crisis. I believe that this petition can help start that search. For these reasons, I sign this petition and urge my fellow Stanford community members to do the same.
Michael Cruz ’12