Ellie Park, Photography Editor

On Wednesday morning, Eytan Israel ’26 and other co-authors sent a letter to University President Peter Salovey in opposition to the calls for divestment from military weapons manufacturing — hours before the University publicly announced its decision to maintain such investments.

In the first 24 hours of its circulation, the letter gained 133 signatures — including students, parents, alumni and professors across Yale College and Yale’s graduate schools. The letter followed the monthslong advocacy campaign to pressure the University to divest from military weapons manufacturing and claims that only a minority of Yale students support the divestment. The News could not independently verify views across the student body. 

“We call on you not to divest from companies that provide Israel, along with Ukraine and other countries of the free world, with the integral ability to defend itself against countries that seek to dismantle democracy and plunge the world into panic and destruction,” the authors of the letter wrote.

The letter refers to Iran launching drones and missiles against Israel earlier this week, an escalatory retaliation to Israel killing seven people — including two senior members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — in a strike this month against Iran’s consular building in Syria. The letter also refers to Hezbollah’s rocket and drone attacks on Israel to justify military weapons investments as a way to support what it describes as Israeli self-defense. 

The document mentions as well Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, during which Hamas killed around 1,200 people and kidnapped around 250 more. Since then, Israel has killed more than 33,700 Palestinians over the course of its war against Hamas in Gaza, the Associated Press reported on April 15 based on estimates from the Gaza Health Ministry, and the Israeli government reports that Hamas still holds more than 130 hostages, of whom 36 are confirmed dead.

The letter further cites remarks from a post that Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky made on X, formerly Twitter, comparing Iran’s recent attacks on Israel to routine Russian attacks on Ukraine. Russia has used Iranian Shahed drones to attack Ukrainian energy infrastructure and residential areas.

“Words do not stop drones and do not intercept missiles. Only tangible assistance does,” Zelensky wrote in a post — which the letter cites — condemning Iran’s attack on the state of Israel.  

The Patriot air defense system, which the U.S. provided to Ukraine to shut down Russian rockets and drones, is manufactured by Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Boeing — companies from which protesters have called on the University to divest. 

Israel noted that no Ukranian student directly contributed to writing the letter but said he spoke with a Ukrainian peer about it.

“When I let [a Ukrainian classmate] know the contents of the letter and asked her if she thinks her Ukrainian friends would be willing to stand against the call for the divestment of the companies that also provide the defense equipment that allows Ukraine to defend itself,” Israel recounted, “she said that although she had not yet read the petition, if the emphasis is on defense, she thinks it is likely many Ukrainian students would sign.”

Israel added that he reached out to Ukraine House at Yale, a student organization that has advocated for aiding Ukraine amid Russia’s full-scale invasion, but had not yet received a response due to “the rapid progression of the petition and events.”

In Israel’s view, Yale’s investments have played an important role in aiding democratic countries in defending themselves. 

“As stated in our petition, without the military jets of Lockheed Martin, the Iron Dome (Raytheon Manufacturing) and Arrow (Boeing Manufacturing) interceptor missiles, and the patriot defense systems (Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing), democratic countries around the world would have no means to defend themselves against the powers that seek to destroy them,” Israel wrote.

To one Beinecke protester, who requested anonymity on the grounds of safety concerns, claims of Israel’s self-defense and American democracy do not fully encapsulate the scope of the destruction in Gaza.

“These words like nation, Western world, Israeli defense, American democracy: they have little meaning to me,” the protester wrote to the News. “You must remember that for most of us with non-European heritage, the imperial and colonial interests of the West are responsible for the very worst of our homeland’s wounds. We know very well who the true malicious actor is. We know very well what America seeks to destroy.”

In its final remarks, the letter urged Salovey to “refuse the demands from a small minority of students.” 

At around 150, the number of participants in the pro-divestment sit-in protests this week has been slightly greater than the number of signatories the letter accrued in just under one day. 

Since November, Yale students have submitted more than 2,200 letters to Salovey urging Yale to divest its investment in arms manufacturers. At the beginning of the Beinecke occupation, the Yale students for divestment created a second letter campaign which has since garnered 480 letters. Accordingly, another pro-divestment protester who also requested anonymity on the grounds of safety concerns said the letter’s mention of a “‘small minority’ is dishonest and disingenuous.” 

“We hope that this is the end of the campaign against the companies that allow Israel and the western world to defend itself, but we are aware that this is likely not the case,” wrote Israel to the News of the University’s decision on investment policies. “We will stand strong by our beliefs, growing our coalition every day, to continue showing the administration that hundreds of their students, faculty, alumni, and parent body support them and their decision.”   

Yale adopted a policy prohibiting investments in assault weapons retailers in 2018 and committed in its Wednesday announcement to divestment from assault weapons manufacturers that retail to the general public. 

Stasiuk, one of this article’s co-authors, is also the vice president of Ukraine House at Yale but was not involved in any sourcing or reporting directly related to that affiliation.

Update, April 18: This article has been updated to also include information about pro-divestment letters submitted to the University and comment from a pro-divestment protester.

Yurii Stasiuk is a Managing Editor of the Yale Daily News. He previously covered City Hall as a beat reporter. Originally from Kalush, Ukraine, he is a sophomore in Jonathan Edwards College majoring in History and Political Science.