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February 15, 2009

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I'm not sure what policy it is precisely that these students are advocating, but I'd guess that they are in favor of Hampshire College divesting any investment in companies that have a presence in Israel. I am troubled by divestiture (is "divestment" even a word?) since it is a collective punishment. Aren't we against collective punishment here in Dove's Eye View?

http://bedouina.typepad.com/doves_eye/2006/06/collective_puni.html

The whole collective punishment question is tricky in my opinion. The whole issue of whom is punished by various boycotts, divestitures, embargoes and blockades is a murky one. I was fascinated to learn that the most onerous punishment put on South Africa in the mind of its citizens was its ban from international sports.

As with South Africa, I have to ask whether these proposals are really fair. Why not protest over investments in China? or Zimbabwe? Doesn't China treats its minorities worse than Israel does?

I don't get it. You're equating economic pressure by a small college on a foreign country with bombing a region to bits and killing 1300 people, 400 of them children? Divesting equals phosphorous bombs? Collective punishment? Starving the people of Gaza for years, cutting off their fuel, water and medical supplies, equals Hampshire College divesting?

I'm sorry, that's like when my gay friends complained that losing on Prop 8 in California was a "Holocaust." Category mistake.

And you say it's not fair to pick on those poor Israelis, because why aren't I complaining about the Chinese?

My government supports the Israeli government in violating international laws regarding war and the treatment of civilians - over, and over, and over again. It's too grotesque for me to ignore. Thousands of dead people. It's horrible. I think we're doing ourselves harm by enabling the Israelis in their behavior.

This is my issue for reasons which any reader of mine ought to know well. To tell me it's not fair to support taking economic action against the ISraelis because I am not focusing on the Chinese is ... puzzling.

I have long held back on calling for an academic boycott of Israel, largely because I think academics need to talk to each other, and that reaching out to Israeli academics can help change things inside that country.

But you had better believe that I refrain from buying products made in Israel, especially if I have any reason to believe they are made in factories in the West Bank. But in general, as the daughter of an Arab peasant, I cannot eat an Israeli tomato in good conscience. Not now. Not after all they have done. Maybe if my friend the Israeli peacenik grew it and offered it to me as a sign of her good will. But not if it's for sale at my local market. Israeli feta cheese either.

I support the divestment movement. The civil rights movement in the South used the boycott to pressure segregationists.

Perhaps you mistake me. No harm done. I need to be more clear in the future. Stay tuned.

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