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Divestment as precedent for further action

Addressing the socially responsible investing resolution on Palestine.

Spencer Potiker, Contributing Writer

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The recent push for a divestment movement at Cal State University Long Beach is not only warranted, but necessary. I say this as the descendant of Eastern European Jews who moved to the United States to escape persecution, and as a CSULB graduate who will be walking this May with a degree in both Sociology and Economics. I strongly advise our student council to adopt this divestment resolution as I see it not only as taking a stance against the illegal occupation of Palestine, but as setting a precedent for the continued disengagement with any company that perpetuates violence around the world.

First, I want to say that historical and current elements of anti-Semitism are very real. Jews around the world have had limited rights and have been persecuted for their faith for almost all of recorded history. I have also personally felt attacked by anti-Semitism whether it be someone making anti-Semitic comments in front of me without knowing that I am Jewish, the picture of my sister’s face taped onto a photo of Anne Frank that circulated at my high school, or the rising threats against Jewish Americans in general from white supremacist groups like the alt-right; anti-Semitism is everywhere. Having said that, I don’t believe that we should be conflating anti-Semitic rhetoric and action with rhetoric that is opposed to the Zionist project and the settler-colonial state of Israel. Not only do I believe it to be a deflection and a false equivalency, but I also feel it detracts from actual anti-Semitism that Jews around the world face.

When I hear my fellow Jews make arguments against divestment, they often refer to the genocidal mass murder of our people by the Nazi regime and the persecution and ghettoization that preceded it. If anything, instead of making us feel threatened by divestment it should make us understand it. Palestinians have had their land expropriated, been packed into refugee camps, and their livelihoods severely undermined by the state of Israel. I encourage my fellow Jews on campus to see the parallels between the oppressive situations rather than looking at Israel through an ethno-nationalist lens.

Next I would like to briefly discuss why boycotts and divestments can be such an effective strategy to put pressure on Israel to end occupation. Ever since Israel has occupied Palestine it has controlled its airspace, sea access, and borders while at the same time expropriating Palestinian resources and systematically undermining any Palestinian industries that compete with Israeli companies. This combination has severely undermined the Palestinian economy’s productive capacity while at the same time making it nearly impossible for Palestinians to import goods from nations other than Israel. Thus the captive consumer market created in Palestine stimulates the Israeli economy. n order to put pressure on the oppressive Likud regime to end its occupation, economic strategies must be used. In my opinion it is our responsibility to do what the people living in occupied Palestine cannot and boycott any activity that provides stimulus to the Israeli economy until they end their illegal occupation. This resolution does not even ask us to go that far, as it is only asking to stop economic activity with those companies that directly help enforce the state of Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine and contribute directly to the perpetuation of violence on the people living within the occupied territories.

 I would also like to briefly address some of the administrations deflections to other social injustices around the world. I do agree that there are many other problems that need to be dealt with around the world, but that does not mean we should ignore what is happening in Palestine. Instead, that means we should move on once we pass this resolution to other social problems that we see fit. We should not be directly or indirectly funding any industry that helps to perpetuate any type of violence around the world. However I urge the student government to see this resolution not as the singling out of Jews, but instead as a starting point for a long road ahead of disengagement with companies that marginalize people of any race, gender, sexual orientation, or religious belief system. The Students for Justice in Palestine understand that their movement is part of a bigger effort to bring justice to all corners of the world. In fact the closing statement at their 2012 national conference was as follows: “We believe that no struggle against oppression is divorced from one another, that in order to resist structural oppression we must embody the principles and ideals we envision for a just society, and that we must be vigilant about upholding ethical positions against homophobia, sexism, racism, bigotry, classism, colonialism, and discrimination of any form,” meaning that they would never condone discrimination against Jewish students.

Lastly I would like to point out that the only anti-Semitic rhetoric I have seen related to this campaign has come from the administration at our university. At no point while reading the resolution was I ever offended as a Jewish person, however in a letter sent from administration I felt grouped into a monolithic community that does not have freedom of thought. Conoley’s letter read, “When I speak to our Jewish students, ‘they’ report that BDS resolutions are perceived as direct attacks on ‘their’ right to be on campus.” I do not feel this in the slightest. Being grouped into a monolithic category is literally the definition of liberal racism.

 So I urge the student government to take a stand against the illegal occupation of Palestine and pass this resolution that will create a precedent for dealing with other injustices around the world in the future. At the same time I would also like to advise my fellow Jewish students to empathize with the situation of the Palestinian people.

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3 Comments

3 Responses to “Divestment as precedent for further action”

  1. Zachary M. on May 3rd, 2017 10:30 am

    Thank you for writing this excellent piece. You are not alone in your stance for justice and solidarity.

    Free Palestine, fight settler-colonialism!

    [Reply]

  2. Connor Tucholski on May 3rd, 2017 12:05 pm

    I’m Sorry but you are wrong. It’s sad to see the anti-Israel indoctrination that has taken place, especially by someone of Jewish decent. It is seen throughout your article, and doesn’t show many of the evils and want of death that the Palestinian people and Arab leaders focus towards the Jews, Christians, and even many of the Muslims that live in Israel in peace.

    In the Hamas covenant it says, “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it just as it obliterated others before it, the Islamic resistance movement is a distinguished Palestinian movement whose allegiance is to Allah and whose way of life is Islam it strives to raise that banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine” (Yale University Translation).

    On 5 separate occasions the state of Israel offered the 2-state compromise to the Palestinians, even with the terrorist attacks where Palestinians would send men women and children to suicide bomb Israelis targets. In 1936 after the failed Palestinian rebellion the British formed the Peel Commission, which concluded that Jews and Arabs wanted to govern the same land. From this commission is where we get the 2 State System from. The Arabs were offered 80% of the land while the Jews were given 20%. The Jews accepted and the Arabs declined. In 1947, the UN also concluded the 2-state system. Again, Jews accept and Arabs reject it by launching an “all-out war”. Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria joined and were defeated. In 1949 the west bank and E. Jerusalem was occupied by Jordan. In 1967 Egypt, Syria and Jordan invaded again, this is known as the six-day war. Israel, occupied the west bank, and the Gaza Strip, and wanted to 1. Either give the territory back to Jordan, or give it to the Palestinians, both hoping for peace. The Arab League then met and created their three no’s 1. No peace with Israel, No recognition of Israel, No negotiations with Israel. In 2000, Ehud Barak, Israeli’s prime minister, met with Yasser Arafat of the Palestine liberation organization chairman to hammer out a new 2 state system, again the Arabs declined. All of Gaza, 94% of the west bank and East Jerusalem as its capital was offered. President Clinton said “Arafat was here 14 days and said no to everything.” The Arabs then launched bombings killing over 1000 Israelis and maimed thousands of others. 2008, Ehud Olmert offered A Palestinian State, All of Gaza, 94% of the West Bank and East Jerusalem as its capital and even much additional land. Again the Arabs said no. In between the last 2 offers Israel left Gaza, allowing Palestinian control in which “According to UN data, more than 4,800 rockets and 1,700 mortars were fired from Gaza towards Israel” in the span of about a month (8th July – 26th of August), to put that in prospective that’s around, 94 rocket strikes and 33 Mortar strikes per day. Of which 224 hit residential zones. The missiles were dumb fire (non-guided) missiles, and mortars, making their attacks indiscriminate. 8.3 Million people live in range of these attacks. These attacks are devastating to families in Israel, “Four-year-old Israeli Daniel Tregerman was killed when a mortar launched in Gaza by Hamas’ military wing, the Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades, struck a car parked outside his family’s home in Kibbutz Nahal Oz on 22 August and sent shrapnel flying. Amnesty said rocket fire had also endangered Palestinian civilians. The group said an independent munitions expert had concluded that a Palestinian rocket had exploded next to a supermarket in the al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City on 28 July, killing 13 civilians, 11 of them children aged between seven and 14.”

    Dennis Prager at a debate at Oxford University said, in the 1930’s, was there a debate that Great Britain was a greater threat to World Peace than Nazi Germany? Nazi Germany is to Britain, as Hamas is to Israel. Who is the greater threat to peace in Syria, Isis or Israel, who is the greater threat to peace in Lebanon Hezbollah or Israel, who is the greater threat to peace in Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood or Israel?”
    In each of these cases the answer is obvious. Every person should agree that Isis, Hezbollah, and the Muslim Brotherhood are greater threats than Israel. You don’t get to change the scenario just because it’s now Hamas and not Isis.

    No war in the modern world was fought between two free states. Instead it was always a free vs police state or two police states. If someone could name an example of a free state not wanting peace and the police state wanting peace, I would love to hear the example. The problem is that it doesn’t exist. Israel is targeted for extinction by Arab countries, again please name an example of that in the world today.

    Who is the real villain in the middle east? It is the Arab world who refuses peace, and wants the extermination of Israel. Because of this, the divestment agenda is not only Arab propaganda lead, but is directed at the wrong people. If anywhere should be targeted by this agenda, it should be the Arab world that refuses to allow peace in the middle east. Israel has done nothing wrong and simply want to live in a state of peace one that the Arab world and the Palestinian leadership refuse to allow. Instead of attempting to impose pressure on the people that recognize the right of the Palestinians to have their own country, you should be turning your pressure to the Palestinian leaders and those in the Arab world.

    [Reply]

  3. N.N. on May 10th, 2017 1:11 pm

    The problem with movements like BDS and CSULB Divest is that they do not assign any culpability whatsoever to Palestinians. As someone who has worked in Israel and researched the conflict, I can tell you that the conflict is very complex. Yes, the Israeli occupation is very real and illegal settlement-building should be halted immediately. But many Palestinians also voted Hamas into power, a group that has explicitly called for the destruction of Israel. Refusing to acknowledge and condemn the role that terrorism has played in extending the conflict in not productive, nor will it bring peace in Israel. That is the problem I have with the BDS movement and CSULB Divest.

    The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a topic you obviously care deeply about. I applaud you for sharing your opinion. But I want to urge you to visit Israel/Palestine yourself, observe it, and speak to people on both sides of the conflict. It is easy to take a side when all you know of the conflict is simplified information from biased news sources and provocative rhetoric from divisive movements. It is much harder to take a side when you speak with both Israelis and Palestinians who have suffered due to errors in judgment made on both sides.

    [Reply]

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1250 Bellflower Blvd. Long Beach, CA 90840 -- LA-4 201  --  (562) 985-8000.
Divestment as precedent for further action