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On Tuesday, a group of Yale students launched a petition demanding the University immediately divest from corporations that conduct business in Israel. The divestment petition argues that the Israeli government is guilty of “war crimes, and in some cases crimes against humanity.” Any examination proves that divestment from Israel is inappropriate and detrimental to the goal of peace.
Israel is the only nation that has offered statehood to the Palestinians. The 1948 U.N. partition would have established a large, independent Palestinian state, yet the Palestinians chose violence and sought to destroy Israel through war. In 2000, after five decades of Arab-initiated conflict, Palestinians were offered a state, rejected it, and resorted to brutal terrorism. Over the past two years, Israel has been the victim of a calculated campaign to threaten its existence. Israel must deal with the diversion of water from tributaries necessary to Israel, the development of weapons of mass destruction by Israel’s avowed enemies, and the payment of millions of dollars to homicide bombers who incinerate civilians. Furthermore, Israel is continually attacked by terror organizations Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, and Islamic Jihad.
Despite all of these challenges, Israel has admirably remained a liberal democracy championing the rights of all of its citizens. Israel’s Arab citizens, comprising 19 percent of the entire population, exercise full voting rights and serve in the Israeli Parliament. Regardless of race, religion, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation, every person in Israel enjoys freedom of speech, religion, assembly and due process. Israel has the only independent judiciary in the Middle East. Its Supreme Court, one of the most highly regarded in the world, is an important component in the protection of basic human and civil rights for all Israeli citizens. Israel even protects the civil liberties of homicide bombers.
It is unjust to single out Israel from other nations whose records are far worse on the issues of freedom of religion, speech, and other basic human and civil rights. Egypt tortures and imprisons homosexuals; Sudan continues to enslave minorities; and China is engaged in cultural genocide in Tibet.
The Yale Divest from Israel Campaign demands that Yale recognize its legal obligation to divest from countries that “inflict social injury” and violate international law. But its petition asks Yale to act on this obligation only in the case of Israel, which has not been proven to have violated international law. Nowhere in the language of the petition is there a condemnation of Palestinian terrorism. By isolating the Israeli government and failing to place just blame on the Palestinian Authority and its allies, the petition’s inflammatory rhetoric in no way places faith in a solution based on peace and reconciliation. If the campaign’s goals were indeed realized, the unintended consequences would further devastate the plight of the Palestinians as well as weaken Israel’s ability to protect its innocent citizens from continued Arab terrorism. The success of this campaign would establish the dangerous precedent of allowing terrorism to achieve political success and legitimacy. Rather than working toward a Palestinian state, divestment proponents focus on destroying Israel. In failing to acknowledge the suffering on both sides, the divestment movement discriminates against a nation struggling to live in peace and would only serve both to hurt innocent Palestinians and Israelis.
The notion that divestment from Israel would bring an end to the plight of the Palestinian people is misguided. Israel is a Western democracy, fighting for its very existence on a daily basis amidst a sea of hostile theocratic and despotic regimes. It is time for Yale to join the communities and presidents at Brown, Columbia, Penn and Harvard in explicitly and unambiguously denouncing divestment.
Nelson Moussazadeh is a sophomore in Morse College. He is the vice-president of Yale Friends of Israel. Sam Yebri is a senior in Ezra Stiles College. He is the former president of Yale Friends of Israel.