Divestment: Frequently Asked Questions

Is divestment from the Israeli occupation anti-Semitic?

We reject the notion that these nonviolent tools are inherently anti-Semitic. In the spring of 2010 JVP put together a 40-page document with testimony of the growing Jewish support for divestment from the Israeli occupation.  No state is above criticism. No state is above the rule of international law and the scope of human rights.

Does divestment from the Israeli occupation single out Israel?

Simply put, singling out Israel is the right thing to do. (See Singling out Israel is the right thing to do, Yaman Salahi. The Berkeley Daily Planet, Apr 8, 2010) From an American perspective, Israel is already singled out by the United States because it is our single largest recipient of military aid, in the last half century receiving more aid than to all of sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean combined.12  Every President including President Obama, re-commits to the “special relationship” of Israel and the U.S.

The fact that there are other human rights violators around the world, including the United States, does not mean that no action should be taken against Israel’s human rights violations.

Does divestment from the Israeli occupation harm Palestinians?

Yes it can have an economic impact. Any kind of economic pressure is bound to harm first and foremost the Palestinians, who are already economically vulnerable because of the restrictions that the Israeli occupation imposes on their ability to study, work, and move people or goods. The WhoProfits website provides ample details about Israel’s exploitation of Palestinian labor, Palestinian natural resources and the captive Palestinian consumer market.

Despite the cost, Palestinians themselves have asked for boycotts, divestments, and sanctions because they see them as an effective tool to express international solidarity and oppose the Israeli occupation. As mentioned earlier, a broad range of Palestinian support economic boycotts, divestments, and sanctions, as well as academic and cultural boycotts of Israel.

Does divestment from the Israeli occupation force Israelis to “circle the wagons”?

About 90% of Israeli Jews supported the invasion of Gaza in 2008-2009.16  The wagons are already circled.  Israelis’ continued ability to lead a very normal life, despite the ongoing occupation just a few miles away, means that Israelis have no incentive to make their government’s behavior change. We cannot underestimate the monetary importance or the symbolic value of economic pressure against the Israeli occupation.

Does divestment from the Israeli occupation create divisions inside the anti-occupation movement?

The efforts to end the Israeli occupation are spearheaded by a good number of groups and grassroots activists holding different ideologies and using different tactics. Some will use economic pressure and others will not. Tactics are not dogmas.

Our hope is that groups that opt not to choose the divestment route will focus on their own work and not resort to spreading misleading information. So far, we’ve been mostly disappointed.

Does divestment make some uncomfortable?

It does, just as the South African divestment campaigns did, before they were broadly embraced. Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote to the Berkeley students pushing for divestment in their campus from the Israeli occupation:

“To those who wrongly accuse you of unfairness or harm done to them by this call for divestment, I suggest, with humility, that the harm suffered from being confronted with opinions that challenge one’s own pales in comparison to the harm done by living a life under occupation and daily denial of basic rights and dignity. It is not with rancor that we criticize the Israeli government, but with hope, a hope that a better future can be made for both Israelis and Palestinians, a future in which both the violence of the occupier and the resulting violent resistance of the occupied come to an end, and where one people need not rule over another, engendering suffering, humiliation, and retaliation.”

See Tutu: Issue is the same in Palestine as it was in South Africa, ‘equality’, Archbishop Tutu. Apr 11, 2010

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