SPME on a Faculty Petition at Columbia University Calling for Divestment from Firms Doing Business With Israel

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March 8, 2016—Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) strongly condemns a Faculty Petition calling for divestment from firms engaged in business dealings with Israel, signed by over 50 Columbia University professors, in which they collectively “take issue with our financial involvements in institutions associated with the State of Israel’s military occupation of Palestinian lands, continued violations of Palestinian human rights, systematic destruction of life and property, inhumane segregation and systemic forms of discrimination.”

Expressing support of the toxic BDS campaign to promote boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against Israel, the Columbia academics “demand that the University divest from corporations that supply, perpetuate, and profit from a system that has subjugated the Palestinian people for over 68 years. We note that our position unequivocally stands in support of a non-violent movement privileging human rights as the only means toward finding a political resolution.”

The petition also proudly proclaims that the signatories “stand with Columbia University Apartheid Divest, Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine as well as with Jewish Voice for Peace in calling upon the University to take a moral stance against Israel’s violence in all its forms.”

Despite their moral discourse, each of these groups has a history of virulent anti-Israel activism, both on the Columbia campus and elsewhere, and their activities have caused chronic bias against Israel, a distortion of facts about the Middle East, apologies for Arab terror and intractability, and even the spread of anti-Semitism on campuses where the BDS campaign has been relentless and pervasive.

SPME believes that the BDS movement as a whole is contrary to the search for peace, since it represents a form of misguided economic and cognitive warfare. It is in direct opposition to decades of agreements between Israel and Palestinians, in which both sides pledged to negotiate a peaceful settlement and a commitment to a two state solution. By focusing obsessively on Israel, and not on countries where actual human and civil rights abuses exist and where academics are suppressed, the actions of those supporting the BDS campaign are, as former Harvard University President Lawrence H. Summers put it, “anti-Semitic in their effect if not in their intent.”

The faculty signatories of the petition, typically, never mention or acknowledge the fact that Israel has been under siege by its Arab neighbors since the founding of the State, including to the current day where homicidal Palestinians have stabbed, run over, and attempted to murder Israeli civilians in the  “knife Intifada.” (This is what the signers of the petition refer to as “non-violent” resistance.) Instead, without any context and completely ignoring the Arab contribution to the conflict, the petitions systematically singles Israel out for denunciation.

Rather than contributing to peace, the supporters of this petition enlist in the war effort of the Palestinian leadership against Israel and any just settlement: the one-sided invective against Israel replicates Palestinian war propaganda rather than reflecting a serious search for a just peace.

“SPME finds it alarming that professors, who are generally expected to exercise reason and scholarship before making assessments about matters of fact, history, or current events, have come up with such a belligerently judgmental formulation without any reference to the nature of Israel’s foes in this conflict,” said Dr. Asaf Romirowsky, Executive Director of SPME. “The belief that if Israel is stripped of its ability to defend itself that peace can somehow be realized is not only naïve, but dangerous.”

“The Columbia signatories claim to act out of a concern for human rights,” said Dr. Richard Landes, Chair of SPME’s Council of Scholars. “Were they so committed in the region, there are many more serious violators of those rights, including Palestinian rights, than Israel. The same Palestinian leaders who promote hatred of Israel and violent “resistance” also systematically violate the human rights of their own people, including the right of people to dissent from their irredentist ‘resistance.’ And in order to effect such a reversal of priorities, they adopt a narrative that reveals a stunning lack of scholarly integrity.”

“The call to boycott Israeli universities is part of the larger, and more destructive, boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign, and is based on many of its supporters’ desire, not merely to chastise Israel economically and culturally, but to exclude Israeli voices that might contradict the Manichaean narrative, and work towards dismantling Israel completely,” said Dr. Richard L. Cravatts, president of SPME. “By joining in this world-wide campaign of the demonization and delegitimization of Israel, the Columbia University professors who signed this statement demonstrate a remarkable lack of intellectual integrity combined with a worrisome enthusiasm for some of the most regressive political forces on the planet.”

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COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY IN THE CITY OF NEW YORK
FACULTY PETITION

As both scholars and community members, we are professionally, intellectually, and morally invested in our University. We deem it our duty to hold our institution accountable for the ethical implications of its own actions, notably its financial investments and their implications around the world. In particular, we take issue with our financial involvements in institutions associated with the State of Israel’s military occupation of Palestinian lands, continued violations of Palestinian human rights, systematic destruction of life and property, inhumane segregation and systemic forms of discrimination.

In 2002, faculty members across various departments called for an end to our investment in all firms that supplied Israel’s military with arms and military hardware. Students, alumni, faculty, and staff agreed to attach their name to a call to remove the State of Israel’s social license in its use of asymmetrical and excessive violence against Palestinian civilians.

We now stand with Columbia University Apartheid Divest, Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine as well as with Jewish Voice for Peace in calling upon the University to take a moral stance against Israel’s violence in all its forms. We demand that the University divest from corporations that supply, perpetuate, and profit from a system that has subjugated the Palestinian people for over 68 years. We note that our position unequivocally stands in support of a non-violent movement privileging human rights as the only means toward finding a political resolution.

We call on our University to recognize its undeniable role in, and influence upon, global systems, a distinguished role that comes with a commensurately weighty measure of moral accountability.

Signatories

  1. Nadia Abu El-Haj | Anthropology, Barnard
  2. Lila Abu Lughod | Anthropology, Columbia
  3. Gil Anidjar | Religion & MESAAS, Columbia
  4. Zainab Bahrani | Art History & Archaeology, Columbia
  5. Brian Boyd | Anthropology, Columbia
  6. Allison Busch | MESAAS, Columbia
  7. Partha Chatterjee | Anthropology & MESAAS, Columbia
  8. Hamid Dabashi | MESAAS, Columbia
  9. Valentine Daniel | Anthropology, Columbia
  10. Katherine Franke | Law, Columbia
  11. Victoria de Grazia | History, Columbia
  12. Robert Gooding-Williams | Philosophy & IRAAS, Columbia
  13. Stathis Gourgouris | English & Comparative Literature, Columbia
  14. Farah Griffin | English & Comparative Literature, Columbia
  15. Wael Hallaq | MESAAS, Columbia
  16. Marianne Hirsch | English & Comparative Literature, Columbia
  17. Jean Howard | English & Comparative Literature, Columbia
  18. Rashid Khalidi | History & MESAAS, Columbia
  19. Mahmood Mamdani | Anthropology & MESAAS, Columbia
  20. Joseph Massad | MESAAS, Columbia
  21. Brinkley Messick | Anthropology & MESAAS, Columbia
  22. Timothy Mitchell | MESAAS, Columbia
  23. Rosalind Morris | Anthropology, Columbia
  24. Frederick Neuhouser | Philosophy, Barnard
  25. Mae Ngai | History, Columbia
  26. Gregory Pflugfelder | History & EALAC, Columbia
  27. Sheldon Pollock | MESAAS, Columbia
  28. Elizabeth Povinelli | Anthropology, Columbia
  29. Wayne L. Proudfoot | Philosophy, Columbia
  30. Anupama Rao | History & Human Rights, Barnard
  31. Bruce Robbins | English & Comparative Literature, Columbia
  32. George Saliba | MESAAS, Columbia
  33. Dirk Salomons | SIPA, Columbia
  34. David Scott | Anthropology, Columbia
  35. Avinoam Shalem | Art History & Archaeology, Columbia
  36. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak | English & Comparative Literature, Columbia
  37. Neferti Tadiar | Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies, Barnard
  38. Michael Taussig | Anthropology, Columbia
  39. Marc Van De Mieroop | History, Columbia
  40. Gauri Viswanathan | English & Comparative Literature, Columbia
  41. Paige West | Anthropology, Barnard
  42. Michael Harris | Mathematics, Columbia
  43. Jonathan Crary | Art History & Archaeology, Columbia
  44. Shamus Khan | Sociology, Columbia
  45. Zoe Crossland | Anthropology, Columbia
  46. Steven Gregory | Anthropology, Columbia
  47. James Schamus | Film, Columbia
  48. Abeer Shaheen | MESAAS, Columbia
  49. Elizabeth Bernstein | Sociology, Barnard
  50. Blake Turner | Psychiatry, Columbia
  51. Lydia Goehr | Philosophy, Columbia
  52. Danielle Haase-Dubosc | French & Romance Philology, Columbia
  53. Peter Marcuse | GSAPP, Columbia
  54. Gray Tuttle | EALAC, Columbia

SPME on a Faculty Petition at Columbia University Calling for Divestment from Firms Doing Business With Israel

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AUTHOR

SPME

Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) is not-for-profit [501 (C) (3)], grass-roots community of scholars who have united to promote honest, fact-based, and civil discourse, especially in regard to Middle East issues. We believe that ethnic, national, and religious hatreds, including anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism, have no place in our institutions, disciplines, and communities. We employ academic means to address these issues.

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