The vast majority of students on our campus look forward to a day when all peoples in the Middle East can peacefully co-exist. With the recent death of Yassir Arafat and the upcoming elections for new Palestinian leadership, prospects for dialogue and negotiations toward a two-state solution, with a strong Israel and a strong Palestine, now exist. However, the renewed call as seen in the Daily article SAFE urges ‘U’ to divest from Israel (11/24/2004) from Students Allied for Freedom and Equality to divest — or withdraw financial investments from all companies that do business with Israel — is neither a compelling nor productive way to achieve this peace. It seeks to create the direct opposite.
SAFE’s call for divestment attempts to de-legitimize and destroy Israel lacks positive benefit. The divestment campaign itself is not a new phenomenon. For the last several years, people and organizations have attempted to convince companies and universities to divest, or withdraw financially, from Israel, Israeli companies or any company that does business with Israel. Time after time, these campaigns have been opposed, rejected and defeated at several campuses at which they have been brought forward, because students and administration officials see it for what it is — a groundless and unjust attempt to de-legitimize Israel. The misleading efforts to demonize Israel are not constructive to a cause of peace and the spread of factual information about the Middle East. Efforts to divest completely ignore Israel’s efforts to make peace and the Palestinian Authority’s continual refusal to clamp down on the ongoing Palestinian suicide bombings against Israeli civilians.
Israel has continually shown its commitment to helping people around the world. Last year, when Iran suffered from a devastating earthquake that killed over 40,000 people, Israel was among the first to offer assistance. Following the 1998 bombings at U.S. embassies in Africa, Israeli medics were first on the scene to respond. On Sept. 11, Israel was the first to help her longtime ally in its time of need.
As the Middle East’s sole democracy, Israel struggles daily to give every citizen the best possible care. Unlike many of its neighboring countries, Israel provides full civil rights and liberties to all of its citizens, regardless of race, religion or gender. Israel is the only place in the Middle East where all of its citizens, including Arabs, are represented democratically in the national legislature and are provided with a fair and process-driven judicial system. In addition, Israel’s Supreme Court is the only state court in the world that allows non-citizens to appeal to it.
As one of America’s strongest allies, Israel works every day for the safety of its people from terrorism. It has signed peace treaties with Jordan and Egypt, countries with whom Israel now has normalized relations. The Palestinian government, however, has consistently, to the detriment of their own people, refused to enter into a viable peace agreement with Israel as recently as 2000 at Camp David.
Israel helps the world immensely as a leader in medicine and biotechnology. Recently, an Israeli company created a mechanism to restore function to paralyzed limbs. Israeli scientists developed the first fully computerized, no-radiation, diagnostic instrumentation for breast cancer. Israeli companies have also done revolutionary research in curing diseases such as asthma, multiple sclerosis and cancer. Israel also leads the world in the field of stem-cell research.
SAFE and the American Movement for Israel have more in common than one would think. Both are interested in both peoples living side by side in peace and harmony. Unlike SAFE, our actions have reflected this yearning for peace on campus. SAFE’s method of advocacy is destructive to the campus community and the larger conflict. Every student organization certainly retains the right to express its views through campus discourse. As University students, we must work together to inform the student body and campus community of our differences, but also to express our common goal to see peace in the Middle East.
In October of 2002, University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman clearly declared that this University will never divest from Israeli companies. In a public statement, she stated that our campus includes a diverse population of more than 4,000 international students and one of the largest Jewish- and Arab-American student bodies on any major university in the nation. The diversity of body and minds “provide(s) us with a unique opportunity and responsibility to study and debate, in an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect, the pressing issues facing our world.” Let’s concentrate on more constructive efforts of collaborative dialogue and discussion and drop the divestment issue once and for all on this campus.
Kuhn is an LSA junior and Risch is an LSA sophomore. Both are co-chairs of American Movement for Israel. Mironov is a Business senior and president of the Michigan Student Assembly. Nathan is and LSA senior and MSA vice-president. Levine is an LSA junior and MSA student general counsel. Leung is an engineering senior and MSA treasurer. Wells-Reid is an engineering senior and MSA chief of staff. Jacobs is an LSA sophomore and chair of the College Republicans. Spurgeon is and LSA senior and an MSA representative.