7:26 PM — Presentations on Issue of Divestment —
The specifics of the topic of divestment will be brought up in this presentation. I strongly encourage you to pay close attention, and to use this opportunity to educate yourselves in the issue and become involved in the dialogue that is taking place on campus.
(a) 7:26 PM - Andrew Ehrich
- President of the Jewish Students Association (JSA)
- Over the past few weeks, much inflammatory rhetoric and misrepresentation of the state of Israel and the Arab-Israeli conflict on the Stanford campus. We represent a broad spectrum on campus and don’t always agree on everything, but I can say for certain that a vast majority of the Jewish and pro-Israel communities at Stanford are united in the campaign against divestment, believe that it is an impediment to peace, preventing real dialogue on the issue.
- Should ASSU take support of the divestment campaign, it will signal that the Senate is not interested in presenting a fair and accurate portrayal of the situation. It will alienate a large number of students by placing all the blame on Israel.
3 Main Points
- Detail how SCAI’s petition has misrepresented and unfairly portray the current conflict: intellectually dishonest, insulting and hurtful to the Jewish community
- Why divestment is not the path to peace, why it is simplistic & counter-productive
- Examples of alternatives to divestment that will be better for this campus
* The situation in the Middle East is extremely complicated. We need a dialogue that fairly engages both sides of the issue, that encourages intellectual openness & meaningful dialogue.
* Rhetoric that demonizes one side of the conflict while ignoring the larger conflict is offensive and unwelcome at this university
1. SCAI petition
- Misrepresentation in the conclusion of SCAI’s petition—a quote from former [Stanford] President Don Kennedy re: the stance of the former apartheid regime of South Africa. In Kennedy’s own words, will be glad to oppose the movement in any way he can, quotation is entirely out of context. Furthermore, comparison of Israel to the regime in Sudan and South Africa is hurtful to students on campus. To most Jews, Israel is not just a state, but a proud, thriving, democratic country. In Israel, it is illegal to discriminate based on race, religion, age, gender, or sexuality. The government in Sudan and the previous government in South Africa created and engaged in policies of systematic and deliberate discrimination. Israeli policies targeted by SCAI are not created for the expressed purpose of discrimination, they are meant to protect Israeli citizens.
- Important to remember that a divestment campaign targeting Israel is not unique to Stanford University. Many other campuses have seen similar campaigns, they have all been rejected for unjust grounds. Harvard, Yale, UC-Berkeley, UMich, Princeton, MIT, Columbia, all rejected divestment. Why? Because divestment campaigns against Israel are simplistic, painting black and white on a palette that is overwhelmingly grey.
- The Stanford Democrats, The Stanford Republicans, Editorial Board of The Stanford Daily – have come out against divestement as a way to faciliate dialogue on campus
- A country I care deeply for is being attacked, the student body of the university I care deeply for is contemplating participating in these attacks.
- There are 2 sides to this conflict, blame cannot be placed solely one party.
- Dialog is not possible when one side of the conflict is demonized. Inflammatory rhetoric not worth of a campus of this stature.
2. Divestment not the path to peace
- Divestment as a strategy fails because it assumes that Israel is responsible for the conflict and can end it whenever it wanted. Facts: remarkably untrue. It is in the country’s self-interest to create peace. In 1947, Israel accepted the UN partition plan, 1979 Made peace with Egypt, 1994 w/ Jordan, 2003: signed Oslo Agreements, 2000: withdrew from Lebanon, made huge concessions to Palestinians in Camp David, recently withdrew from Gaza Strip and parts of West Bank. Response to these efforts: Hamas, a recognized terrorist organization, who hold as its core value Israel’s destruction.
- To assume that Israel can solve the conflict whenever it wanted is to simplify the situation.. Conflict continues DESPITE Israel’s peace offers.
- No side in this conflict is perfect, and we genuinely believe that discussion is necessary for a resolution. Injustice has occurred on both sides, but it makes it difficult to question Israel, or celebrate its strengths, in the midst of intolerance. Jewish students cannot feel comfortable discussing the conflict when they have to defend it against hurtful attacks.
- Demonizing Israel and divesting against Israel from protecting itself from terrorist organization that desire its destruction does not make sense as a methodology for achieving peace. Israel has a powerful military, but Israel does not feel safe from violence. Since 1993, terrorist attacks against civilians have claimed hundreds, even thousands of Israeli lives. Security fences built to protect civilians, and attacks have gone down 90% since 2002 when the fence was built. Israel has committed to dismantle the fence once Palestinians denounce terror. Israel has shown, time and again, when the security of its citizens is assured, that it will reciprocate with meaningful attempts for lasting peace.
- Israelis are victims of this conflict, as are Palestinians. There is no shortage of victims, but no divestment policy will change that. The only way is to acknowledge the complexity of the conflict and challenge ourselves to confront it. We need a better way of discussing these issues.
3. Alternatives that will create this type of dialogue
- If we are interested in working with the money in the university’s endowment, wouldn’t it better to invest in organizations that are making concrete steps, programs that foster peace.
- We can give money to ASSU for town meetings that are fair to all sides of the issue.
- While we sit here and debate policies that divide us, these groups are working to bring people together.
- Let us remember that Stanford University is our home and it is imperative that all students feel safe here. Let us direct our energy and intellectual focus to a goal that no one can question, a goal that will not divide our community—intellectually honest dialogue for lasting peace.
(b) 7:42 PM - Omar Shakir
Much of the dialogue on campus has been based on misunderstanding of what the divestment campaign is all about. My goal here today is to demisify the issue and clearly outline the goals of the campaign.
We call on SU To divest from companies that engage in specific actions that violate human rights and international law (5 actions listed). Clarification: These criteria are separate from those in the senate bill, there are important differences, the bill is in no way reflective of SCAI’s overall position.
1. Divest from companies that operate on illegally occupied land
Includes: companies that operate or build facilities on Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank & Golan Heights
- “Occupied land”—requires a bit of history. Common misconception that it is an issue that dates back in time. The fact is, for the most part, these issues a contemporary struggle for land, human rights, and access to resources.
- Loss of Palestinian Land: Late19th century-1946: steady immigration of Jews into the historic land of Palestine. By 1946, Jews owned 6-7% of the land, compared to the indigenous population’s 93%. Administered under British rule, but after WWII British could no longer maintain mandate, referred issue to UN, which agreed on a partition of land into Israel (55%) and Palestine (45%). However, UN resolution lacked enforcement mechanism. 1947-49 armed Israeli groups went on offensive. Results clearly documented: over 700,000 Palestinian refugees, destruction of over 400 villages, increased Israeli land to 78%, reduced Palestinian land to Gaza and the West Bank. After the 1967 war, Israel militarily occupied Gaza and the West Bank.
- Nearly 400,000 settlers still remain in the West Bank
- Biggest example of inequality: different legal systems
- Citizenship (Palestinians only temporary legal residents)
- Palestinian authority lacks true autonomy—no control over its airspace, its water space and its border, has no military.
- Inequality in everyday life: specifically transportation, systematic and not isolated examples
- 700 checkpoints—not on the border (border would make more sense, for security reasons) but near villages. Simple commute becomes long ordeals.
- Different ID’s issued to Palestinian vs. Jewish citizens. Color of ID determines how freely you move within the West Bank and outside of Palestine. Many Palestinians denied the right to go into Jerusalem. Travel permit often required.
- Example of systematic discrimination: travel permits—often required, but rarely issued, for Palestinians from the West Bank and Jewish citizens to be in the same vehicle.
- Israel has established a system of bypass routes that are explicitly Israeli-only. Palestinians must use more winding routes that go through military checkpoints.
- Consequences on everyday Palestinian life:
- Economy—disincentive for investments.
- Education—transportation system makes it very difficult for students to even get to school/university, many drop out because of these difficulties. Prestigious Palestinian university closed 1987-1992 because of political situation.
- Health—92 Palestinians have died because inability to get proper medical care due to the system of unequal transport.
2. Divest from companies that provide military support & weaponry to facilitate illegal operations in Occupied Territories
- 40-year occupation—military component affects all but particularly children. 809 children killed by Israeli military forces (September 2003-December 2006).
- The nature of the military regime far more systematic than merely killing.
- Currently 9,000 Palestinians in detention, 2,200 without being charged, 800 defined as children. Use of torture against detainees. Practices of extra-judicial killings, other acts of collective punishment such as curfews that last for up to weeks and months at a time.
3. Divest from companies that provide support for the construction and maintenance of Israel’s separation barrier
- Israel built this barrier in 2002 for security reasons.
- But this barrier is not built on the internationally-recognized border between the West Bank and Israel, for the most part extends into the West Bank, strategically annexing land to Israel. By the time this structure is complete, will annex 55% of the West Bank to Israel.
- The wall extends 4 times the Berlin Wall.
- July 2004 – International Court of Justice ruled the strutcure illegal, and called for immediate dismantlement and Israel provide reparations for those affected.
- Palestinians trapped between the wall and the Green Line, separation from families.
4. Divest from companies that profit from home demolishment and land confiscation
- Example: Caterpillar, bulldozers specifically engineered to allow Israel to demolish homes. Stanford University uses Caterpillar in much of its construction.
- Demolishment of houses in the path of the separation barriers, or security reasons. Often with little evidence, Israel tears down structures without warning and many Palestinians die in their home.
5. Divest from companies that engage in practices of institutionally discrimination
- Example: McDonald’s in Israel has banned the use of Arabic in the workplace and explicitly fires those who speak the language.
- Israel defines itself as a Jewish state, not a state of its citizens.
- Law of Return
- Automatic citizenship to any returning Jew from anywhere in the world, instantly.
- Denies the same right to Palestinian refugees.
- Palestinian represents 1/3 of the world’s refugees.
- School systems
- Israeli Arabs and Jews attend different schools, schools receive different allocation of resources.
- Social customs
- Israelis can marry anyone and the spouse will receive citizenship.
- Palestinians are denied residency within Israel and not allowed to gain citizenship even after marrying an Israeli citizen.
(c) 7:58 PM – Questions for both Presenters
For now, limiting questions to senators, because on Senate’s time.
Omar, what is your opinion on the alternatives that Andrew gave?
Omar Shakir (O.S.):
- The fact that alternatives are being discussed is a sign that the dialog on campus is going somewhere, indicative of a positive direction. But it is separate from the issue of considering the morality of Stanford’s investments. The question we need to be thinking is, do we as a student senate want to issue a statement that somehow condone these practices, or do we want to make a statement that says we don’t think the university should be investing in these kinds of companies?
- We all need to remember that divestment is the last step in the process, but a strong statement from the senate concerned about the investments can lead the Board of Trustees to use their leverage to make change in other ways. For example, as a stakeholder in these companies they can urge them to change their policies.
- Not going to happen if there isn’t a strong statement from the Senate that they are concerned about the university’s investments, because the university really looks at student feedback.
Andrew, what is your response to the way Omar has petitioned the divestment campaign, i.e. not attacking the state of Israel / its right to have a nation, but rather against the acts of companies that violate human rights—the attack being on specific companies rather than the Jewish students at Stanford?
Andrew Elrich (A.E.):
The reason why I feel threatened is because Omar’s points and SCAI’s points talk about Israeli’s security measure that are maintained to protect Israeli citizens. Israel has a right to exist as a democratic state with secured borders. To attack policies that are being undertaken to achieve that is to attack the right of Israel to protect itself. Israel has tried different things before it built a security fence, it did not work. And the security fence has reduced attacks on Israel by 90% since it was built.
- We need to look at this claim about security. How does an occupation, an establishment of settlements within the Occupied Territories, moving your own military in, establishing communities in the West Bank—to me there is no connection to security. If you use the gerneal word ‘security’ you can justify so many actions across the world. ‘Security’ can justify a nuclear bomb going off. We need to judge the veracity of ‘security’. Israel has every right to protect itself within the boundaries of international law.
- Correlation vs. causation: Yes, maybe suicide bombings have decreased 90% since the construction of the security fence. There are many other factors. For example, Hamas as of 2004 has had a unilateral ceasefire on Israel, has not engaged in suicide bombings since then. There are other considerations to make, you can’t simply say that correlation is causation.
Omar referred to international law. International Court of Justice’s ruling (that the security fence violates international law) actually doesn’t hold because in order for a ruling to have the force of law, both parties must agree with the framework in which it was discussed. The International Court refused to admit and allow Israel its right to protect itself and the fact that fence was built to protect itself. Therefore the ruling does not hold the force of law.
That’s like saying a murderer can disagree to a jury trial because he didn’t consent to being tried. To say that the ruling doesn’t apply because Israel didn’t consent to the agreement to me is a fallacious argument.
Lisa Llanos (L.L.):
Andrew, considering your statement about Israel’s right to protect itself—my concern is what can be done in terms of the protection of human rights. International law is the only authority we have over this. If Israel isn’t really considering itself subject to international law, if not international law, who is holding them in check? What will they consider a legitimate request to stop some of these practices?
It is in Israel’s self interest to create conditions for a lasting peace. Unfortunately, the International Court of Justice did not recognize some of the things Israel has brought. The problem is that Israeli measures for security are meant to ensure a situation where a peace process can take place. Israel cannot negotiate with Palestinians and Palestinian authority when terrorism is taking place and the citizens are in threat. I think it is unfortunate when international authorities cannot be trusted, but it is still true that Israel has a right to protect itself and a right to exist as a state.
- International law the only standard we use, if we don’t have it there’s nothing else we can use.
- If security walls built for security why not just on the border, why is it built deep in the West Bank, annexing resources?
- “It’s too complicated”—Why always the argument that it is too complicated, too nuanced? The idea that the issue shouldn’t be dealt with because “it is too complicated” is simply a way to avoid an actual discussion.
I know that a couple of senators are concerned in terms of the bill—that it won’t necessarily represent the opinion of the student body. Omar, you said that you yourself have some issues with the bill. Do you think a bill can be drafted that can accurately reflect the concerns of the majority?
- The discussion has become polarized, but not two separate communities working in isolation. Many people have joined the campaign. The Senate’s role—everyday the Senate makes decisions. You can’t pull students on every issue. Your job is to use your judgment as senators to make a decision that you think is the most moral one, and the most accurate decision to take. Most students on campus, over 90% haven’t engaged in this petition. It is your job to look at the issue and deal with it.
- Concerns with bill: I am concerned with the fact that the criterion about operating on illegally occupied land is not there.
- You need to find some ground that best reflects a common ground and push for it. Create a bill that reflects most of the Senate’s concerns. Really look at the issue, and say what criteria do we want. If you have concerns about some of the criteria, don’t include them. If you want to add more, it is also your prerogative. But don’t ignore the issue.
My concern is, is the bill the right way to go about this? The world cannot decide on this issue, can the Stanford Undergraduate Senate decide?
You can’t be naïve and think that one action will end the whole Israeli-Palestinian conflict. You need to break it down to the micro-level. This is our endowment and we want the university to investigate the five sets of practices and whether we should be investing in that. You have to look at the nature of the request—look at it as a calculation based on the 5 criteria and not based on “How can we solve this conflict?” I think we can be trendsetters here at Stanford—people look back on motions taken here and that has a very big impact nationally.
Marcelo Worsley (M.W.):
Andrew, can you touch on how you feel on each of the 5 points, how it might either impede progress in trying to build peace?
How do the 5 points of the bill jeopardize Israel’s rights to protect itself as a nation state?
- First of all, the security fence was built after other options were tried and didn’t work. Critizizng Israel for operasting on occupied land is a misrepresentation of UN Resolution 242, which talks about the instability of territory acquired by war. That doesn’t apply to situations where countries have attacked another country, and the defending country is getting land. In that case the attacking country would have no reason not to attack because they could never lose land.
- The way we talk about the issue—this issue has two sides. Divesting from Israel cannot convince Israel that it does not have a right to protect its citizens. Israel knows what it needs, and while it’s unfortunate that we’ve created this situation, injustices have occurred on both sides and divestment will not change that.
I’m analyzing the situation—it’s not about divesting from Israel itself, it’s about how our endowment is directly involved in facilitating these events.
- Facilitating those events is a way that Israel remains a free and democratic country. Furthermore, supporting divestment signals to Jewish students on campus that it is not safe to affirm their support for Israel, and to the Jewish community it is important to affirm that belief. By calling that racist and apartheid, it is hurtful to us and does not make us feel comfortable here.
- In terms of the majority of the student body, the petition that SIA has created has over 400 more signatures than the SCAI petition. Furthermore, Stanford Democrats, Stanford Republicans, and The Stanford Daily Editorial Board, have all come out against divestment.
We all acknowledge that injustice has taken place on both sides. Do you see any of these divestment tactics as actually changing the injustices, or have an impact on the injustices that are taking place?
No. I’ll repeat again that Israel has a right to protect itself. From 1993-2002, terrorist attacks that made citizens vulnerable going out. Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, and still attacks continued to target Israeli civilians. Divestment cannot change anything because it assumes that Israel could change the situation, but doesn’t because it is racist and apartheid—which is anti-Semitic, hurtful and simply not true.
You can be pro-Israeli and still support these measures. These measures are aimed to attack the root cause of the conflict and build future peace for both people. As an example, the divestment in Sudan. Many Moslems and Sudanese said that it was hurtful, that they were being demonized. But it wasn’t the case because it wasn’t anti-Sudanese, it was selective divestment. To make this simplistic equation is wrong.
- The issue that has always been raised is—“Why are you singling out Israel? Why don’t you focus on all the Arab countries?” I’d like to address that.
- Quote from Desmond Tutu: “Divestment from SA was no less justified because there was repression elsewhere in the African continent” When we divest from Sudan, we didn’t say, “Well, there are human rights violations in Congo and Sri Langka and so we can’t undertake this action.”
- We have sanctions in many countries like Syria and Iran, but as American students in an American university with American connections to human rights violations, we really have an imperative to act.
- I’d like to remind you that this year marks the 40th anniversary of the occupation. Do we have to wait to solve every other violation, every other conflict, before we try to solve this one? It is time that we take a stand on the issue.
- Don’t think about these issues as a controversy, look at the nature of the request. Should we be investing in these 5 kinds of companies? If you think criterion #4 is effective but #5 isn’t, it’s your prerogative, but don’t simply dismiss this bill because you think it is not the Senate’s role or because it is a controversial issue. All issues of this magnitude will become controversial to students. Your job is to evaluate the claims and to make a statement. I encourage you to look at both sides, and make a judgment, make a bill that reflects what you think is the best way to improve the situation and that the investments made are responsible ones.
You cannot solve a problem by simply demonizing one side. You have to solve a problem by bringing both sides together. Divestment does not do that, because it attacks policies that operate within a larger historical context that cannot be simplified as one side doing right, and one side doing wrong. On this campus it will polarize people by assuming that Israel can solve the problem, but doesn’t. Israel has tried to solve the problem multiple times and tried negotiations time and time again.