The Israel divestment campaign, which Columbia University President Lee Bollinger has called “grotesque and offensive,” is one of the anti-Israel movement’s most specious efforts in recent memory. Constantly distorting the complex nature of the Middle East conflict, divestment advocates are trying to persuade members of the Yale community that the Jewish state is a pariah that deserves nothing less than our utmost condemnation. With this heated debate erupting on college campuses across the nation, an assessment of the rationale behind the movement to induce Yale’s divestment of its financial holdings in Israel is in order.
What should be of concern to those without any personal attachment to the Middle East conflict is that the national divestment movement has embraced terrorist elements. Just last month, a leader of Yale’s very own divestment crusade attended the movement’s national conference held at the University of Michigan. Among the organizations sponsoring the conference was the Islamic Association for Palestine, which has solicited money for the families of suicide bombers. A keynote speaker at the conference was the notorious Sami Al-Arian, currently being investigated by the federal government for his alleged work on behalf of Islamic Jihad and who has publicly stated that Jews are “the sons and daughters of monkeys and pigs.” According to a student at the event, a group of activists chanted “Death to the Jews” in Arabic.
Members of the Yale divestment campaign have yet to denounce publicly the hate rhetoric that epitomizes the national movement, which has officially condoned terrorism. The fifth “guiding principle” of the National Conference on the Palestine Solidarity Movement states, “As a solidarity movement, it is not our place to dictate the strategies or tactics adopted by the Palestinian people in their struggle for liberation.” In addition, the Yale divestment campaign has ranked the Jewish state with Nazi Germany by daringly alleging that Israel is “very possibly” guilty of “crimes of genocide.” Before deigning to sign the divestment petition, one should seriously consider whose company he will be keeping.
That the national divestiture movement has failed to gain popular support and has been renounced by university presidents across the nation has not dissuaded anti-Israel activists at Yale from taking even more extreme positions than their counterparts at other colleges. The Yale divestment petition may be the only one in the country that neglects to condemn Palestinian terrorism, demands the non-negotiable “return” of 4 million Palestinians into the state of Israel, and calls for an immediate, unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the entire West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights. These demands go far beyond those of Yasir Arafat, as even he would not have expected a unilateral withdrawal without a commitment on his part to reign in terrorism. The divestment campaign trusts that the admittedly genocidal Palestinian terrorist organizations and their sponsors in the Arab world will stop killing Jews the minute Israel cedes to their maximal demands.
The Yale divestment petition asserts that Yale has an obligation under international law and its own investment guidelines to divest from countries accused of certain human rights abuses but asks Yale to act on this purported legal obligation only in the case of Israel. If the University were to heed the activists’ calls, it would be analogous to a police force that only responded to calls where the alleged perpetrator of a crime was black, ignoring far more serious crimes perpetrated by others. The law is the law, and we need to start enforcing it somewhere, so why not start with the black people?
The petition calls on Yale to divest until Israel implements U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 but neglects to ask Yale to divest from all other parties that are not implementing 242. Since Resolution 242 calls on all states to recognize Israel and to end “all claims or states of belligerency” in return for Israel’s withdrawal “from territories,” the petition should demand that Yale divest from every country in the world that does not recognize Israel and supports terrorism against it. Yale should be particularly harsh on Lebanon and Syria for hosting attacks against northern Israel, and for that matter, all countries that finance terrorism against Israel, as well as the Palestine Liberation Organization for its continuing terror attacks and its rejection of peace.
The Yale Divest from Israel Campaign has threatened to hire a lawyer and sue the University for not yielding to its demands, perhaps anticipating that its “awareness” campaign aimed at persuading students that Israel is comparable to apartheid South Africa will fail.
As if the agenda stated on the divestment petition were not extreme enough, the other agenda pushed by members of Students for Justice in Palestine at Yale is to abolish the Jewish state. Activists leading the divestment campaign at Yale have repeatedly stated their belief that Zionism, the belief in Jewish national self-determination, is inherently racist and that the only way to bring peace to the region is to eliminate Israel. The one-state solution, which is also supported by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, is often described by SJP with the euphemistic phrase, “one person, one vote.” Rather than advocate for the creation of a separate Palestine, where Palestinians could form their own civil society alongside the Jewish state, leaders of the divestment campaign at Yale believe that all Palestinians should be incorporated into present-day Israel. Rather than allowing a future Palestinian state to absorb Palestinians, just as the Jewish state has absorbed millions of Jews, they argue that the Jewish state should dissolve itself. With 8.5 million Palestinians and 5 million Jews, Israel would become an Arab state with a Jewish minority. A one-state solution for Palestinians and Israelis would be no more viable than one for Pakistanis and Indians, or Turks and Greeks.
If Israel were to surrender to the demands of SJP, Palestinian terrorists currently residing in the disputed territories, plotting murderous attacks, would immediately have the opportunity to converge upon Israeli population centers without even having to pass through a checkpoint. To argue that the Jewish state should entrust the lives of its 6 million citizens to the mercy of Hamas and Islamic Jihad is the essence of anti-Semitism. The Jihadist terrorist organizations have clearly stated that their vision of “peace” in the Middle East is one with no Jews. The divestment movement, viewed in the context of Middle Eastern realities, is the kind face of a genocidal campaign.
Perhaps the divestment campaigners should consider a new strategy, one that chooses to engage those with different viewpoints in a reasoned discussion on the Arab-Israeli conflict and is willing to compare Israel’s military record with that of any other nation in the world, including the United States. This campaign is intellectually dishonest. By propagating ideas that are beyond the pale of rational debate and by refusing to condemn terrorism, the divestment campaign is antithetical to a peaceful solution.
Daniel Fichter and James Kirchick are freshmen in Saybrook and Pierson colleges, respectively. They are members of Yale Friends of Israel.