Though it is unlikely that divestiture will be implemented on these campuses, the goal of the campaign is similar to, and grows out of, previous attempts to single out Israel by equating Zionism with racism and by complying with the now discredited Arab boycott of Israel of years past.
The ignorance implicit in the Harvard/MIT divestiture petition, which first began circulating around those schools last spring, is best reflected by its own words, which demand that Israel comply with four conditions if university investment in the country is to continue. The petition calls on Israel to comply with United Nations Resolution 242, the United Nations Committee Against Torture 2001 Report , the Fourth Geneva Convention , and says Israel should acknowledge in principle the applicability of United Nations Resolution 194 with respect to the rights of refugees. Apparently, most of the signatories of this petition, which included 130 Harvard and MIT faculty members at last count, are unaware of the fact that Israel has already complied with or has offered to comply with each of these conditions.
U.N. Resolution 242, drafted by U.N. Justice Arthur Goldberg (for whom I had served as a law clerk), does not call on Israel to give back all of the territories captured during the defensive war of 1967. The compromise agreed to by the Security Council was that Israel would give back "territories"--meaning most but not all--in exchange for complete termination of all claims or states of belligerency by Arab countries. The only two countries that have met that condition are Egypt and Jordan. Israel returned every inch of land captured from Egypt as soon as Egypt renounced belligerency, and Jordan has abandoned all claims to land now occupied by Israel.
Moreover, in the year 2000, at Camp David and Taba, Israel offered to give up 97% of the disputed land on the West Bank and to accept a Palestinian state. That offer constituted full compliance with the language of Resolution 242. Ironically, other Arab states and the Palestinian Authority continue to hold states of belligerency against Israel--these countries are out of compliance with Resolution 242. Yet, the divestiture petition imposes no conditions on these states, many of which also receive American foreign aid and investments from Harvard and other universities.
Jordan and Egypt, both of which receive substantial American aid and investment, openly practice torture of the most violent and lethal nature. Indeed it is well known that other intelligence agencies, including that of the United States, sub-contract torture to these allies (along with the Philippines). Yet the divestiture petition demands that only Israel stop doing something that it has already stopped doing, without making any demands on countries that continue to engage in torture. There are scores of countries with worse records. Why single out Israel?
Another condition laid out in the divestiture petition is that Israel acknowledge in principle that refugees be allowed to return to their former lands, or else be compensated for their losses, to comply with United Nations Resolution 194. At both Camp David and Taba, Israel offered the option for Palestinians to be compensated for their losses, and the Palestinians rejected it. Moreover, no Arab state has yet offered compensation to the hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees that were forced to flee countries they and their families have lived in for hundreds of years after Arab countries declared war on Israel in 1948. Yet the petition demands nothing of these Arab countries.
The final condition, the cessation of building new settlements and the dismantling of existing settlements, is an issue that deeply divides Israelis. A majority of Israelis agree that no new settlements should be built and that most of the existing settlements should be vacated as part of an overall peace in the area. Even a significant number of the settlers have now expressed a willingness to leave their homes in exchange for peace. But the Palestinians have refused to accept peace offers made by the Israeli government. Many moderate Palestinians agree that Arafat's rejection of the peace offer made at Camp David and at Taba was a tactical mistake and that the resumption of terrorism against Israel is morally indefensible. Yet the one-sided divestiture petition faults only Israel.