Israel Shouldn’t Be the Only Target of Divestment

Dear Editor,

On April 28, the A.S. Council began debating a motion to divest from companies that do business with Israel. The resolution was peppered with various accusations of recent Israeli abuse of Palestinians, specifically citing the fighting in Gaza last year and the area’s present blockade.

The particular accusations, however, were window-dressing — excuses for the resolution. Resolutions nearly identical to these have been debated in various forums in Europe and North America since 2006, long before the present blockade and the Hamas-Israel war in January 2009.

Indeed, the resolution’s sponsors knew very well that, if passed, any such resolution would have no concrete effect. The chairmen of General Electric and United Technologies would lose no sleep over the resolution because the university no longer holds investments in either company. The point was solely symbolic: It is part of a larger attempt to delegitimize the state of Israel. By passing such a resolution, especially in a campus not known for having strong views on the subject, its proponents hoped the larger effort to boycott Israel would gain more momentum, with similar resolutions attempted elsewhere.

At a certain point, readers must ask themselves: Why does Israel alone face such resolutions? Perhaps Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Golan Heights justifies the council’s attempt to delegitimize it.

Such claims are riddled with flaws. For instance, although generally ignored by the media, Israel is not the only country to occupy disputed territory. Critics of Israel ignore Turkey’s occupation of Northern Cyprus since the 1970s (and its treatment of its Kurdish population), and were never heard arguing for sanctions against Syria during its 29-year occupation of Lebanon (or its assassinations of anti-Syrian politicians since its withdrawal). Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor (1975-99, during which 200,000 died) went almost unnoticed in the Western media.

Divestment critics might counter that it is Israel’s particular actions that demand action. Yet compared to other similar conflicts, the death tolls are paltry. Palestinians and Arabs decry Israeli “genocide” of Palestinians. Compare this to other conflicts: In the past five years, the Janjaweed, a violent militant group, has killed 400,000 black Muslims in Darfur. In Rwanda, 800,000 people (more than 10 percent of the total population) were butchered in three months in 1994. In three years, Serbians killed 200,000 Bosnian Muslims (10 percent of the total population).

Realizing that the resolution failed to reflect reality, the A.S. Council moved to indefinitely table the measure last week. In doing so, the council kept itself from becoming pawns of those seeking to delegitimize the state of Israel at any opportunity.

—Cameron Brown

PhD student, political science

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