Israel Divestment Assaults Democracy Op/Ed by Reut Cohen


Israel Divestment Assaults Democracy

By Reut Cohen | 3/6/2009

In the struggle to defeat Israel, those who support terror as a weapon against Israelis certainly have no difficulty in distorting the truth, even it is in the form of a divestment petition on a university campus. The purpose of boycott and divestment campaigns is not only to hurt Israel’s economy but to cast her as a pariah state. These campaigns are sponsored by anti-Israel and anti-Semitic groups in the United States and around the world.

Arab boycott of Jewish interests began in 1921, more than 27 years prior to the establishment of Israel in 1948. The boycott remains in effect today under the sponsorship of the Arab League and its Central Boycott Office in Damascus, Syria. Divestment and boycott efforts not only include products produced in Israel, but also companies that do business in or with Israel. Ships that have docked in Israeli ports regardless of the cargo's point of origin or ultimate destination have also been blacklisted.

Congress passed a law creating the Office of Antiboycott Compliance within the Department of Commerce in 1977. This law disallows U.S. firms from partaking in actions in support of unsanctioned foreign boycotts against a country that is an ally to the United States. Because Israel is an ally of the United States and the government does not sanction the Arab boycott of Israel, the law prohibits actions that further or support the Arab League boycott of Israel. US legislation forbids participation in such boycotts in order to prevent private citizens from potentially generating a de-facto foreign policy.

These divestment campaigns have gained momentum since 2000, mostly on college campuses where movements have become more like street theater, but also in cities and towns, churches, businesses and non-profit organizations. These campaigns, moreover, were initially inspired by the Palestinian Authority, which is part of the official Arab League boycott of Israel.

Despite the best efforts of antisemitic and anti-Israel activists, including some gains among church groups, the divestment campaign’s main negative impact has been on Israel’s image. A divestment movement at Harvard University drew censure from Lawrence Summers, then the university president. Summers called the efforts to single out Israel for divestment as anti-Semitic “in their effect, if not their intent. In May 2008, the United Methodist Church rejected five petitions calling for divestment from companies which support or profit from Israel."

Nonetheless, these divestment campaigns must be condemned as they perpetuate lies about Israel, including the lie
introduced by the UN which asserts that "Zionism equals racism." Zionism is a term coined in 1896 to describe an international philosophy maintaining that Jews should have a single national homeland in the Middle East where they would not have to worry about discrimination, pogroms, or other persecutions, but be able to live peacefully.

Today 22 countries are officially Muslim and 48 countries—and growing—maintain Muslim majority populations. Yet condemnation of Zionism is ridiculous when one recognizes that Zionism has created a country which is tolerant of all individuals and minorities, including Muslims. Arab Christian and Muslims today serve within the Israeli government and enjoy a higher standard of living than any other country in the Middle East. The few remaining Jews in Islamic countries live in fear of persecution, spurring them to 
leave their native lands if possible; only last week some Jews from the ancient Jewish community in Yemen had to flee from murderous al Qaeda-inspired attacks.

Israel accepted the notion of a Palestinian state back in 1948 when even the Arabs did not wish for it. In recent decades, Israel uprooted Jewish settlements and gave land to Egypt and Jordan in return for peace treaties. Under the Oslo Accords, Israel granted Palestinian autonomy and received non-stop terror in return. Furthermore, unlike Arab governments which have used Palestinians as scapegoats, Israel absorbed indigenous Jewish populations of the Middle East who today amount to more than half of the Israeli population.

The real reason for the lack of peace has everything to do with Arab Nationalism and Islamic radicalism. It has nothing to do with bogus charges of human rights violations against the Jewish state where the rights of all citizens, regardless of nationality or religion, are protected.

From March 1st to the 8th universities, both in the United States and the United Kingdom, will be pushing anti-Israel divestment campaigns on their campuses. These divestment campaigns will perpetuate lies about the state of Israel, painting the Jewish state as racist and a colonial usurper, all this despite the fact it’s no larger than the state of New Jersey and its territory doesn’t even amount to one percent of the Middle East.

Students are preparing to address the hypocrisy of Israel divestment campaigns. Utilizing resources from organizations like the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s campus division, i-Act, students on college campuses will have the ability to print flyers and coordinate events which point to how silly divestment campaigns are as they certainly don’t stop citizens of the Arab world from using technology developed in Israel.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, explained the motivations of Israel divestment and boycott campaigns. “The real goal of the boycotts, calls for divestment and sanctions is to cast Israel as the 21st Century version of the hated regime of Apartheid South Africa,” Cooper stated. “Israel is far from perfect but doesn't deserve the vicious double standard applied to the Jewish state and her alone,” he stressed.

A flyer that defends Israel, which is available here for downloading and printing, points out that Israel is a leader in innovation that we all take for granted. Rabbi Aron Hier, the Director of campus Outreach, can be contacted at for information about the campaign and how to get involved.

Other informative brochures, from groups like StandWithUs, demonstrate freedom and tolerance in Israel, comparing Israel to neighboring Arab nations in which shocking human rights violations occur without much international condemnation. Brochures and materials for students are available here and are designed to help students combat anti-Israel campaigns.

Divestment is an assault on democracy, the free market economy and US laws which protect our allies like the State of Israel—which also happens to be the only democracy in the entire Middle East.

Reut Cohen graduated from UCI, where she ran a blog to document the anti-Israel, anti-Semitic, and anti-American incidents on campus.