I appreciate Sam Frolichstein-Appel and Brian Solomon’s explanation of the Brown University Divest Coalition (May 2019) and their care in explaining their point of view. However, I feel that their ideas ignore important issues.
I don’t hesitate to voice my objection to many policies of the current Israeli government. Although I lived in Israel many years ago, one of my enduring memories is of everyone – including students at Bethlehem University, which I visited – expressing opinions at the tops of their voices. I hope this is still true.
However, the Brown Divest movement calls for the school’s administration to “divest… from companies complicit in human rights abuses *in Palestine*” (my emphasis). Not in Saudi Arabia (where women have few rights, and which apparently tortures and murders dissident journalists), not ISIL (which invades Yazidi villages in Iraq, slaughters all the men and boys, and gang rapes the women who are then sold as sex slaves), not in Russia, not in China (where the Uighars are apparently being imprisoned in “re-education” camps). No, only in Israel, where a non-Jewish Arab sits on the Supreme Court, and non-Jewish Arabs and Druze serve in the Knesset.
The authors may argue that, as committed Jews, they feel a particular duty to criticize Israel. Brown University, however, is not a Jewish institution. In singling out Israel, these well-meaning students open the door to attacks by anti-Semites. People who already attack Israel may reason that when even Jews say that it is only Israel that should be punished, since Israel is Jewish, it is clear that Jews, too, are evil and should be punished.
People who believe that Brown should divest itself of investment in any company complicit in human rights abuses should say so. Jewish students might add that, as Jews, they hold Israel to higher standards. But in singling out Israel, they become complicit in aiding the increasing movements in the U.S. that target Jews as the enemy.