On Tuesday, Brown University’s Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policies (ACCRIP) met to discuss Brown Divest’s proposal that the University withdraw its investments from companies whose products and operations contribute to and facilitate the Israeli government’s violence and abuses of Palestinians’ human rights. These companies include Boeing, in whose bombers the Israeli Air Force kill Gazan children and civilians, and Caterpillar, whose contracts with Israel provide the Israel Defense Forces with the bulldozers its soldiers use to demolish Palestinians’ homes and to construct illegal settlements. At ACCRIP’s meeting, a group of students who claimed to represent “united Jewish students against Divest” delivered an inaccurate, Islamophobic, and unsurprising, yet deeply disappointing, presentation.
I’m not interested in spreading this group’s message by even printing its language, so I will respond directly here to two of its claims with which I take most personal issue. Firstly, Jewish students at Brown are not “united against Divest.” As a member of Brown Jewish Voice for Peace and the Brown Divest coalition, I have worked with fellow Jewish students who understand that the actions of Israel—and certainly those of American and British war profiteers—are not only open to criticism, but are, in fact, indefensible. According to the “united” Jewish students, Brown University’s Jewish community is united in its view that Palestinian resisters either are responsible for the actions of Israeli oppressors or are themselves terrorist aggressors. Not only is this portrayal of Palestinians dehumanizing, but this group’s attempts to enlist all other Jewish students at Brown in their campaign also betrays their lack of interest even in the “conversation” they claim to desire.
Secondly, “united Jewish students’” direct comparison of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement (which these students equate with Brown Divest) to the antisemitic actions of German citizens under Nazi rule in the years before the Holocaust was a contemptible and deeply antisemitic smear. The legacy of the atrocity of the Holocaust is shared by all Jews, who use it as a lens to understand oppression of any group, past or present. But degrading the memory of history’s worst anti-Jewish crime to defend the systematic oppression of Palestinians at the hands of the government that claims to represent Jews around the world is not only reprehensible, but blatantly antisemitic.
I believe ACCRIP will recommend that Brown divest from companies that participate in Israel’s violations of international law. I can only hope that “united Jewish students” will come to understand that this campaign is not against them, but is rather targeting these companies to end oppression in Palestine.