News: CJ Exclusives

Divestiture Issue Returns to Campus

Movements grow to sever ties to Israel, terrorists

Movements are underway on college campuses nationwide to cause them to “divest” in holdings that support causes promoters find odious. The campaigns hearken to those in the 1980s where colleges refused to do business with South Africa because of its policy of apartheid. The most well-known current campaign is the one seeking universities to divest in Israel, but there is another campaign under way to have universities divest in terror.

Concerning Israel, that divestiture campaign got its start by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Professor Francis A. Boyle. Boyle likens Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians to apartheid in South Africa. Boyle wrote a letter to The Daily Tar Heel, published Oct. 14, 2002, supporting the effort at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “A worldwide divestment/disinvestments campaign against Israel will play a critical role in dismantling its criminal apartheid regime against the Palestinian people living in occupied Palestine as well as in Israel itself,” he wrote. Faculty, staff, and students collected signatures on a petition calling for UNC-CH to divest.

Similar petitions have been signed at colleges nationwide, and there is also a large movement in Europe calling to end support of Israeli researchers. UNC-CH Chancellor James Moeser, however, would not back the proposal.

UNC-CH anthropology Professor Donald Nonini wrote in favor of divestiture in the DTH Oct. 14, citing examples:

Over the last seven years, U.S. weapons manufacturers such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin have supplied Israel annually with an average of more than $1 billion in weapons (paid for by the U.S. government and, indirectly, by U.S. citizens) that support the occupation: American-made F-16 jets and Apache helicopters send missiles into Palestinian homes, and American-made Caterpillar bulldozers demolish Palestinian dwellings. Other corporations have benefited directly or actively from the occupation. For instance, Intel has recently signed an agreement with the Israeli government to construct a $1.6 billion fabrication plant in Kiryat Gat, on lands that were owned by Palestinians before 1967. University endowments holding these corporations’ stocks or bonds receive part of their profits.

Harvard University President Lawrence H. Summers publicly criticized the campaign in a Sept. 17, 2002, campus address at morning prayers. Summers cited “disturbing evidence of an upturn in anti-Semitism globally,” then turned to academe, decrying that “where anti-Semitism and views that are profoundly anti-Israeli have traditionally been the primary preserve of poorly educated right-wing populists, profoundly anti-Israel views are increasingly finding support in progressive intellectual communities. Serious and thoughtful people are advocating and taking actions that are anti-Semitic in their effect if not their intent.”

First on his list were the “Hundreds of European academics [who] have called for an end of support to Israeli researchers,” and finally, “some here at Harvard and some at universities across the country have called for the University to single out Israel among all nations as the lone country where it is inappropriate for any part of the university’s endowment to be invested. I hasten to say the university has categorically rejected this suggestion.”

Campaign at N.C. State, Duke

Meanwhile, Broadside magazine, published by conservative students at North Carolina State University, has launched a divestiture campaign of its own. The March 2003 issue calls on the university to drop stock in “companies that support unsavory governments.” The Broadside campaign also cites the South African divestiture campaign as a model. It has set up a website for its campaign:

“N.C. State owns stock in Conoco and GE, two U.S. based companies that the Global Security Risk Monitor [an investor research outfit] cites as having assets in countries that are state-sponsors of terrorism,” writes Broadside Publisher Mark Hofer. “At the end of the 2002 calendar year, the university had over $1.3 million in those two companies alone. But this only includes the U.S. based companies. Over seventy percent of the Risk Monitor consists of foreign companies.”

Hofer told Carolina Journal that students at other universities, including Duke University and Oklahoma University, have started similar campaigns.
Hofer was also asked how the divest-in-terror campaign compared with the divest-in-Israel campaign. This campaign is “in another league” than the divest-in-Israel campaign, he said.

“The State Department identifies each of the targeted countries as sponsors of terrorism. Israel is not among them,” Hofer said. “Israel has also not called for its citizens to attack U.S. interests. The countries targeted in the Terror Divestment campaign have directly threatened U.S. citizens.”

Sanders is assistant editor at Carolina Journal.