Last week, anti-divestment and pro-divestment supporters took to White Plaza with both groups concentrated in separate corners of the ring. This was a missed opportunity for debate. Imagine how much more substantive and fruitful campus activism could be if we turned around and faced each other.
But the divestment campaign provides little more than a distraction. Instead of facing the real-life dilemmas of a conflict in which two peoples demand, legitimately, the right to live decent lives in the same slice of land, it seeks to seduce supporters by collapsing suspicions of dubious multi-national corporate activities into the Palestine-Israel mix.
The Ferguson Action movement has flourished as a refreshing example of how our generation can successfully organize itself and make its opposition to injustices heard – something that Divestment organizers clearly hope to emulate in surely the best of intentions. But the Ferguson-Palestine narrative is a dangerous line to walk, and Divestment organizers risk not only alienating members of the coalition they have worked so hard to build, but, more importantly, perpetuating an anti-Semitic fiction that affects us all.
ecurity figures prominently in the arguments of those who support maintaining Stanford’s investments in Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Two op-eds in the Stanford Daily last quarter, as well as a recent letter to the editor, invoked “thousands of rockets” and even the well-worn “terror tunnels” to justify Israel’s killing of over 2,100 Palestinians during Operation Protective Edge. Security is the rebuttal to efforts to hold Israel accountable for atrocities and violations of international law, like the collective punishment of Gazans or the construction of the apartheid wall in the West Bank.
Monday afternoon, Stanford students and community members shut down the San Mateo-Hayward bridge in support of the Ferguson Action national demands, which include the demilitarization of local law enforcement and the repurposing of law enforcement funds to support community-based alternatives to incarceration.
How can I, an Israeli whose soul is deeply rooted in Israel, support an act that may lead to harm for myself and my own people? As an Israeli scientist, I may find myself in the obscure situation in which my own funding will be cut off, I will not be able to present at conferences, my parents and friends may greatly suffer from the situation. Supporting the BDS movement should therefore be pursued only with the assumption that this is a necessary stage in ending the destructive situation in Israel.
Activists are right to point out problems with the occupation, but failing to discuss the origin of these issues and trying to act as if this conflict is black and white is a disservice to intelligent Stanford students who are trying to understand this very complex conflict.
Divestment weakens the multinational corporations which provide the infrastructure for and profit off of this occupation, making a genuine peace – a just peace – more possible. Make no mistake: as was the case in South Africa, history is marching forward. Now is the time to decide whether or not this institution will be on its right side.