Yesterday the Michigan Student Assembly reviewed a proposed resolution calling for the University to divest funds from, among other companies, Northrup Grumman — a company that supplies the radar equipment used in Israeli military aircrafts. While we recognize the concerns of those who seek to encourage more responsible investments by the University, this is not a resolution we can support. We believe resolutions that cast Israel as solely responsible for the Middle East conflict only lead to greater polarization on campus. This resolution will inhibit — rather than foster — the ability to build the broad coalition necessary for peace.
While we oppose this resolution, we earnestly stand with the writers of the resolution in their desire for justice for the Palestinian people and we condemn the targeting of innocent civilians — Palestinian or Israeli — as immoral. However, in the long history of this conflict, both sides have committed grave violence toward the other and both sides have experienced tremendous loss. This resolution incorrectly assigns blame only to Israeli military actions without acknowledging the context in which they occur. The devastation in Gaza that elicited condemnation from international human rights groups was a response to months of terrorist rocket attacks on Israeli cities.
Targeting Northrup Grumman for supplying Israel with weapons and technology that have contributed to Palestinian civilian casualties dismisses the necessity of these same supplies in the work of ensuring Israel’s legitimate defense. Creating an environment where peace can be achieved will require partnerships based on recognition of the legitimate claims of both sides and real loss suffered by both peoples.
At other campuses that have reviewed resolutions such as these, the result was only greater polarization. At the University of California, Berkeley, for example, the student government sessions ran for hours as protesters and counter-protesters chanted insensitive and ignorant slogans. Tears were shed, relationships were lost and, in the end, the outcome did not bring peace any closer.
While we do not support this resolution and fear its effect — as this debate unfolds — we reject rhetorical arguments that polarize campuses further. We do not believe that support for divestment from Israel is inherently anti-Semitic, and we know that opposition to divestment is not equivalent to support for the occupation. We aim to model an engaged dialogue, free from simplistic rhetorical slogans and derivative attacks on opponents, in the hope that all sides will recognize our collective responsibility to civil discourse on campus.
We believe rather than pursuing these divisive resolutions, we can find ways of working together on campus to achieve peace. We can support Palestinian businesses through microfinance and encourage Palestinian-Israeli economic cooperation through investment in the Trade Unions United for Israel and Palestine. In addition, we can and must exert political pressure on all parties to negotiate for peace.
The peace that we all want to see can come about only by consensus, and consensus is built through cooperation. Even amid the most difficult arguments, we hope to continue to seek platforms for cooperation with all groups on campus working toward peace and justice in the region in the coming weeks.
This viewpoint was written on behalf of the J Street UMich Board by Yonah Lieberman, LSA Sophomore and Chair of J Street UMich and Dafna Eisbruch, LSA Junior and Coffee Talk Committee Chair of J Street UMich.