The Michigan Daily - Friday, October 11, 2002 - 14A
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Seventy-five protesters were arrested during a five-hour siege of a central campus
building at the University of California at Berkeley in April.
A question o
Daily Staff Reporters
Photo courtesy 0f Planetary Photojournal at http.Iphotjournal.jp/.nasa.gov
he main source
of tension over
stems from Israeli military
occupation of the West
Bank and the Gaza Strip,
dating back to June 1967,
political science Prof.
Mark Tessler said. Tessler,
who teaches a class on the
Arab-Israeli conflict at the
University, said that since
Israel's borders expanded
to include' Gaza and the
West Bank, the Israeli
government has fluctuated
on the regions' policies.
Although periods of
active Israeli involvement
have been balanced with
there have always been acts
of violence in the areas.
"From September 2000,
there's been active violence
and confrontation. Israel
began to interject itself in a
more militant way," Tessler
said. "In the last two years,
the Israeli military has been
seizing the compounds of
Palestinian leaders and
strictly enforcing curfews."
Tessler said a definitive
decision must be made
about the future of Gaza
ctivists on college campuses that are known for initiating powerful and wide-reaching social movements are
now igniting debate as they demand that administrators evaluate their economic investments in companies
located in Israel. The petitions, rallies and division of opinions within universities nationwide serve to voice
The foremost question lies at the center of this controversy: Will
The divestment campaign has and continues to take a strongl
has become a divisive issue at politically active universities *
sity of California at Berkeley and Harvard University.
ivestment is an excel- indelibly put pressure on the various uni-
lent strategy for edu- versity administrations.
cating students on Because of the divestment campaign
economic ties and it's the most for South Africa between 1985 and
effective way that students in the 1987, 89 universities divested, as did
U.S. can participate in the move- more than 100 corporations. But,
ment to end the oppression of the no university has announced
Palestinians," said University of plans to divest from Israel yet.
Texas senior Andy Gallagher, a Regardless of how Univer-
Students for Justice in Palestine sity administrators react
member. toward the divestment move-
ment, the issue has taken
divestment really bring peace to the Middle East?
hold on various campus political scenes and in the process,
d' the University of Texas at Austin, the Univer-
Not only is the argument for divest-
ment a move toward ending Palestinian
suffering, but for others, the campaign is
a move for peace.
"I think divestment is definitely a step
toward peace. It isn't the end, though.
What divestment does is it takes the U.S.
from the position of a biased player to
impartiality," said Will Youmans, a mem-
ber of Berkeley Law Students for Justice
Others view divestment as more of a
last resort effort than anything.
"I don't want to divest. I want to con-
tinue investing in Israel, but an Israel
that is no longer occupying territories
outside its legal borders and that is living
in peace with its neighbors," Harvard
psychology Prof. Elizabeth Spelke said.
While numerous Pro-Israeli groups
have accused the divestment movement
of working under the auspices of anti-
Semitism, it is not a motive for divest-
ment supporters. Instead, their campaign
is fueled by respective compassion for
the people of Palestine.
"If what we're doing is racist, then
what they are doing is definitely racist,"
Gallagher said matter-of-factly.
At Harvard, President Lawrence Sum-
mers inferred that divestment campaigns
were "anti-Semitic in their effect, if not
their intent" in a speech during morning
prayer services last month.
His statements angered countless
divestment supporters both on and off of
the Harvard campus.
"I was very offended and ashamed by
the comments made by the president of
my university," Harvard Law student
Faisal Chaundhry said.
"By stating that divestment is a form
of anti-Semitism, he is essentially trying
to silence those who would criticize the
deplorable policies of the Israeli govern-
ment. Coming from the president of such
a world-renowned institution, these com-
ments are very frightening, since they
constitute a glaring abuse of the term
hold of a substantial number
of university students.
"Students are really attracted
to divestment because it is based
on human rights, social responsibili-
ty and equality," Youmans said.
The divestment website for Berkeley,
as well as the other University of Califor-
nia campuses, www ucdivest.org, has gar-
nered close to 1,300 signatures of
students, faculty, staff and community
Among the various strategies
espoused in the Berkeley moveient,
rallies and protests have peacefully
addressed concerns regarding the
school's financial investments in Israel.
But at an April 2002 sit-in, Berkeley
administrators ordered the arrests of more
than 40 students and threatened a number
of them with severe academic sanctions.
Where the University of Texas is
concerned, groups such as the Pales-
tinian Solidarity Committee and Stu-
dents for Justice in Palestine have
been pro-active in their approach to
alert their university community's
opinion on the current situation in
the Middle East. Documentary film
screenings and speakers spread
general awareness for their pur-
"The interest is there and a lot of
people are asking questions, espe-
cially now that all eyes are on the
Middle East," Gallagher said.
The Harvard Society of Arab Stu-
dents, among the first to spearhead 4,,
the divestment campaign in the
country, remain set on informing the
campus about the issue of divestment
and its benefits.
"The Society of Arab Students hasp
been supporting the divestment cam-
paign by signing onto the petition
(www.harvardmitdivest.org) as well
as putting up poster displays and
hosting speakers to educate the cam-
pus community about the illegal
the University of Califor- what you have to do. It's territories
nia at Berkeley, peole on a tough situation," he
both sides of the debate said.
launched websites supporting their On both sides,
cause. These websites in turn have words like oppres-
led other uni etrsities to do the sion and apartheid
same. are infiltrating the
campaign in an
Berkeley's anti-divestment advocates encour attempt to evoke strong
age their supporters to read and sign their peti- emotional responses, af
tion, posted at www.ucjustice.org, said-Adam strategy Adelman said is
Weisberg, executive director of Hillel atBerkeley. largely due to a lack of
"The movement is big in the mind of the stu- knowledge.
dents but it hasn't gained any reaction in terms of "This connection is being°
becoming a reality,"Weisberg said. made by ignorance. The
Opponents at Harvard have active- main reason this is going on
ly been showing their support of the is because of complete igno-
decision through different tech- rance of the facts. Facts are being ignored'and distorted
niques since the university formally through a play of emotional propaganda," he said. "If people
announced it will not remove its are looking at rights being violated, they're looking in the
investments from Israel in May. wrong place,.
Pro-Israel events received special Weisberg said the analogy is outrageous and irrelevant.
ttention as an offshoot of the "The comparison of Israel to South Africa is absurd. Israel
movement as well, Harvard for has been working for peace with its Arab neighbors,"he said.
srael President David Adelman David Kogan, president of Texans for Israel, also said
aid.he feels such analogies feed growing propaganda of the
"We have been handing out issue.
fliers with myths and facts. There "We're interested in being an educational and information-
was a poster display with the his- al resource," he said, adding he is concerned about a resur-
tory of (Israeli) politics and gence of anti-Semitism.
information on Zionism;" Adel- "It's not necessarily anti-Semitic. Divestment is not effec-
man said. By placing the dis- tive, but it is based on anti-Semitic notions," he said.
play in the Science Center, a "I don't think the divestment campaign is anti-Semitic
main building on Harvard's at face value;' Mendelsohn said. "There are groups using
campus, Adelman said several divestment as an anti-Semitic tool and we should be con-
thousand students were edu- cerned."
cated about the anti-divest- At Harvard, the issue of anti-Semitism has been prevalent
melt campaign. since Summers' speech.
"There i.s also a Buy Mendelsohn said Summers was merely addressing a grow-
Israel campaign with selling ing issue at an international level, rather than criticizing ten-
Israeli products on campus. sions at the school.
We're pumping money into Most anti-divestment groups respect the effort and ded-
Israel rather than sapping ication of divestment advocates despite a commonly-
money out," he said. shared idea that divestment will not help heal the scars
Other groups at Harvard created by decades of conflict. But Kogan said he is wor-
have been keeping campus ried indifferent students are joining a cause they are
communication open by removed from and confused by.
submitting viewpoints to "They have no personal investment in the issue, I'm sorry
the college newspaper to say. I almost want to say, 'go fight another battle. This one
and meeting with is mine,"'he said.
administrators, said Whether or not these campus campaigns will last long
Josh Mendelsohn, enough to capture politicians' attention is yet to be seen
president of Jews for as some begin to grow disillusioned with the movement.
Conservative Politics. "Divestment campaigns on university campuses are a triv-
"The means all ial, minor and dying publicity stunt, engaged in by a small
come together at some and limited group of students with a variety of motives. But
point. Whatever you in the end, reason will prevail and the strategic and economic
have to do to increase importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship will live on and
awareness - that's continue to prosper,' Mendelsohn said.
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