We, Jewish Voice for Peace at the University of Michigan, endorse the resolution that calls upon the University to appoint a committee to investigate its investments in socially irresponsible companies that violate Palestinian human rights proposed by Students Allied for Freedom and Equality. As Jewish students, we are compelled to voice our support for this resolution and show that the Jewish voice regarding UMDivest is not monolithic. We write this statement both in direct response to the newly formed Wolverines for Peace campaign, and in acknowledgment of the unfair reality that Jewish voices carry disproportionately more weight than Palestinian voices on our campus.
Recently, a group of our fellow Jewish classmates took advantage of this privilege and formed the Wolverines for Peace campaign, which stands in opposition to the divestment resolution being brought to a vote on Tuesday. Wolverines for Peace is the product of a collaboration of student leaders in Hillel — an institution that claims to speak for all Jews, and yet seems to intentionally exclude Jewish voices whose political views are not aligned. Therefore, we find it necessary to speak out as Jews on this campus who are working towards peace, and believe that divesting from military occupation is the best way to contribute to both peace and dialogue.
The Wolverines for Peace believe that dialogue, not divestment, is the best path to peace. However, what the Wolverines for Peace fail to recognize is that the most important action in a productive dialogue is listening. How can the Wolverines for Peace claim to promote dialogue, when there is not a single Palestinian student leading their campaign? How can they brand themselves with an image appropriating the Palestinian flag when their public voice seems to be exclusively Jewish? How can they claim to know the best way to create coexistence, while actively refusing to acknowledge the legitimacy of Palestinian students’ calls to divest, and in doing so, peacefully resist militarized violence? If these Wolverines were really for peace, then they would recognize that the process for peace is collaborative, and Wolverines for Peace is not.
The premise of the Wolverines for Peace campaign is that divestment is not the answer, as it assigns absolute blame to Israel and is counterproductive to reaching compromise — both on campus and in the region. To support this position, Wolverines for Peace have incorporated a John F. Kennedy quote to emphasize their mission, “Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures. And however undramatic the pursuit of peace, that pursuit must go on.”
If we look to the region today, there are no steps being taken to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people. The Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, recently announced that no Palestinian state would ever be created on his watch. His recent reelection only confirms that the Palestinian people do not have a partner for peace. This is not a peace process. There are no barriers being eroded, and the only new structures being built are settlements and walls that violate international law.
What we don’t understand is how divesting from four multinational corporations — profiting from an internationally recognized illegal military occupation — is counterproductive to peace. Furthermore, the notion of complacency with the slow pace of peacemaking is comfortable for some of us in our Ann Arbor bubble, but let’s be clear — our Palestinian classmates, and their families, are suffering at the hands of companies our University is invested in. There is no waiting. They do not have the privilege of feeling content with a stagnant “peace process.”
This Tuesday, we have an opportunity to change the status quo and reaffirm our University’s commitment to social justice.
We at Jewish Voice for Peace believe in divestment as a necessary act of nonviolent resistance to a military occupation. We seek to amplify the concerns of our Palestinian classmates who are part of a University that continues to take a direct stance that disregards their human rights. We affirm that it is a necessary step toward creating a fair and balanced space for dialogue.
We, too, are Wolverines for peace, and the “Wolverines for Peace” do not speak for us.
Sarah Blume, LSA junior, and Daniel Hurwitz-Goodman, LSA senior, on behalf of Jewish Voice for Peace at the University of Michigan.