The March 4 issue included four letters critical of the divestment petition, signed by more than 70 current and retired faculty members, urging the University to “divest from all companies that contribute to or profit from the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and continued siege of Gaza.” I am one of the signatories of that petition. I write in my personal capacity and do not claim to represent or reflect all signatories.
The letters differ in content and length, but the suggestion, explicit or implicit, is that we, the signatories, are hostile to Israel and wish its destruction. Stephen Tauber *68 accuses us of “rank anti-Semitism.”
Why did I sign this petition? The occupation of the West Bank is now nearly 48 years old. In 1967 the U.S., along with all other members of the U.N. Security Council, approved U.N. Resolution 242, calling for Israeli withdrawal from territories occupied as a result of the fighting in June 1967. That is still the policy of the U.S. government.
The petition I signed is premised on the proposition that Israeli settlements in territories occupied in 1967 are illegal. That, too, is the policy of the U.S. government. I personally am convinced that under Likud leadership, Israel has no intention of halting, let alone dismantling, civilian settlements in the West Bank. It could reasonably be argued that I and the other signatories should focus our attention on the U.S. government. I agree, but given the track record of the last 48 years, I have concluded I may be more effective within a community where I have some voice, i.e., the Princeton community.
Despite what is stated in some of the letters, the faculty signatories do not claim that the Palestinians are angels, that Israel is not a democracy, that by ceasing its occupation of the West Bank peace will break out. We focus on businesses that are profiting from the occupation. By doing so they condone what I and the U.S. government regard as illegal activity. Princeton should not be a party, directly or indirectly, to this lamentable situation.
Finally, it is suggested that we are picking on Israel when so many other countries violate human rights and abuse their populations. Well, yes, we are focusing on Israel because it receives the greatest level of military, technological, and diplomatic support of any country with which the U.S. is engaged. Our support has underwritten Israel’s ability to maintain its occupation even though the U.S. government professes that it wants to see an end to that occupation.