Divestment proposal is divisive, ill-informed

The Associated Students of Portland State University International Affairs Committee introduced a resolution to student government on May 23 calling for PSU to divest from companies doing business with the Israeli military. The resolution follows a recommendation from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which was started in 2005 by pro-Palestinian organizations seeking international pressure on Israel to end settlements in occupied territories and other measures. The BDS resolution calls for divestment from companies such as Caterpillar and Hewlett Packard.

As President, I support the right of students to express political, economic and social opinions. In this case, however, I think the resolution is divisive and ill-informed.

As an initial matter, it is important to note that Portland State University does not directly invest its funds. We are one of six Oregon public universities whose funds are deposited in the Public University Fund managed by the Oregon State Treasurer, who is prohibited by law from holding any equity investments. Thus, the resolution has no practical effect and is intended as a political statement.

More importantly, I do not support this resolution because I am concerned by the divisiveness and tenor of the conversation that has taken us to this place. There is no question that members of the PSU community have divergent views about Israel, Palestine and the Middle East in general. Robust debate is central to the educational mission of a public university. So it is not clear why the ASPSU International Affairs Committee feels it is appropriate to dictate an opinion about the policies of one nation when there are multiple governments and corporations whose policies and practices we may disagree with.

We are responsible for respecting the rights of all members of our campus community. The tone and tenor of the BDS movement has made members of our community feel unsafe and unwelcome at PSU, and it is not acceptable to marginalize or scapegoat them. Anti-Semitism cannot and will not be tolerated on our campus.

We place a high value on the cultures, religions and political views that make up the rich mosaic of our community. I believe this resolution would divide us at a time when we are striving to nurture our diverse and inclusive campus environment.

19 thoughts on “Divestment proposal is divisive, ill-informed

  1. Ben says:

    I thank you for standing against evil double standards, hypocrisy, racism, anti semitism and the lies that the BDS movement so blindly accepts and spreads.

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  2. Barbara says:

    BDS creates a very hostile environment for Jewish professors, students, and supporters of Israel. How are going to make these people feel welcome on campus? Why would you boycott thinking of academics? It’s like Nazi Germany’s burning books. BDS seeks to hurt Jews and Jewish supporters on campus. It is not just anti usrael but sntibjewish with its taunts and intimidation a of students and speakers.
    BDS is anti-Israel and antisemitism. It preaches Jewish hate. It preaches the end of Israel. It results in loss of Palestinian jobs and hurts the Palestinian economy. Even Palestinians are upset about problems that BDS caused.
    Look and see who funds BDS and supports related school organizations. WESPAC, Muslim brotherhood, 52 Muslim countries, PLO, Fatah. Is that what we want in America? I think not. I think it is an Un-American organization that seeks to tear out the only democracy in the Middle East and has no place on college campuses. Stop intimating Jewish students on campus.

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  3. Robert Dunn says:

    The BDS movement is simply anti-semitism by a more acceptable name. Why is there no BDS movement against China for its occupation of Tibet or Russia for its occupation of Crimea. Israel was created, like many modern states by agreement either of the UN or European powers. Why is Israel singled out for delegitimization? When you talk about Israel as an apartheid state, ask any South African how many black judges civil servants or full citizens with the vote there were in South Africa pre-Mandela? This is not a trick question, Arab judges judge Jews in Israel. However, the interesting thing about the BDS movement is its unwillingness to be confused by the facts!

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  4. Andria SWITZER says:

    This president is most credible, most insightful, most truthful, most noble of any I’ve ever met it heard of. Others need follow his example. Too many university administrators and Governors ignore the BDS and contribute to divisiveness and hatred. We need an adult intervention like this. Hurray!

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  5. Sam Gioia says:

    Thank you for this thoughtful response, Dr. Wievel. While I agree with every point, I wonder if the exact same things might have been said about divestment from the Republic of South Africa 30 years ago. That was a University divestment effort that turned out to be just and had a profound effect in dismantling apartheid.

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    • Scott Rose says:

      It helps to remind people of the circumstances of Middle Eastern Jews at the time of modern Israel’s Declaration of Independence.
      At that time, Middle Eastern Jews had been 1) evicted from Jordan even though many of their families had lived there for many hundreds of years; 2) subjected to threats of total annihilation from the likes of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, whom Arafat called a Palestinian “national hero;” — the Mufti had organized Muslim SS troops in Bosnia and wiped out the Jewish population of that country; 3) subjected to random, periodic Muslim-led pogroms and on and on and on — Jews in the Middle East at this time were hardly any safer than they had been in Hitler’s Europe!
      There was no other place for them to go, and no possibility of their being secure with Muslims holding power over them.
      Despite those egregious circumstances, in 1947 Jews accepted, but Arabs rejected a two state solution.
      And, in marked contrast to the Arabs’ vow to “drive the Jews into the sea,” Middle Eastern Jews wrote these words into Israel’s Declaration of Independence:
      “WE APPEAL – in the very midst of the onslaught launched against us now for months – to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.
      WE EXTEND our hand to all neighbouring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighbourliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.”
      THAT is what Arabs initiated a war of attempted annihilation against.
      And then, having failed to drive the Jews in the sea, the surrounding Arab countries either severely persecuted, or expelled their Jewish populations as “revenge” for the creation of modern Israel – which in itself tells us a lot about the status of the Jews in those Arab societies to begin with.

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      • Abbey Kaplan Aznar says:

        Hope people will read your post. Important that they know a two state solution was offered and rejected. I don’t think everyone understands this. Too many facts never brought to light. The Arab terrorists (not all Arabs-but I refuse to call them Palestinians) overlook all of past history and twist facts to suit themselves.

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    • Jonathan Mayer says:

      The difference here is that South Africa practiced apartheid, Israel doesn’t. Why not boycot Palestinians for there terrorism? This is a two way street whereas the South African issue wasn’t.

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    • James Davidson says:

      @Sam Gioia – I appreciate your point and the way you wrote your comment. However, I do not believe that Israel practices ‘apartheid’ since there are over one million full Israeli citizens of Arab Muslim or Christian faiths with every right as any other citizen. That was definitely not true in South Africa. Also in South Africa there was a small minority controlling a much larger majority, while in Israel the majority are in fact Jewish or full Israeli citizens. I also believe that the BDS movement is singling out Israel when there are arguably dozens of countries around the world with far worse records on human rights. This smacks of hypocrisy to me and suggests more sinister motives by some subscribers to he BDS movement.

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