Kenneth Waltzer
Kenneth Waltzer

Students to Debate Divestment at George Washington University

A resolution under consideration before the Student Association at George Washington University pushed by a group called Divest This Time calls upon the university to divest from all investments in companies “that contribute to the suffering of Palestinians.”  The vote on the resolution is Monday, May 1st.  The companies highlighted are Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Elbit Systems Ltd., Caterpillar Inc., CEMEX, General Electric, Hewlett-Packard Company, Northrop Grumman Corporation, The Raytheon Company, and Motorola Solutions, Inc.

According to the resolution, Boeing manufactures the AH-64D Apache attack helicopter for the State of Israel. The AH-64D’s engine, the T700, is built by General Electric. The AH-64D’s weapons guidance system, the AN/APG-78, is built by Northrop Grumman. The AH-64D is armed with the AGM-114 Hellfire missile, a weapon built by Lockheed Martin.

According to the resolution, the Israeli army during Operation Cast Lead destroyed a cement packing plant in Gaza. Caterpillar Inc. D-9 bulldozers and tanks used explosives to destroy a silo. AH-64 helicopters shot holes through remaining cement containers and destroyed the plant’s manufacturing line. CAT D-9 bulldozers were used to destroy the factory walls.

According to the resolution, Lockheed Martin manufactures the F-16 Fighting Falcon Fighter Jet and sells it to Israel. The Raytheon Company builds air-to-ground missiles that are used by the F-16. The F-16’s missiles are guided by The Boeing Company’s JDAM system, a missile guidance system. Elbit Systems Ltd. provides avionics packages and cockpit and structural modifications for Israeli F-16s.  AN F-16 fired on a house occupied by the al-Daya family.

The resolution continues: resources mined by CEMEX are sold to the State of Israel and used in the construction of the Israeli West Bank Wall. According to Israel, the wall was built for security reasons, however, the United Nations determined that the irregular route of the wall was chosen to annex Palestinian land and protect illegal Israeli settlements.

Finally, the resolution says:  HP Inc. provides the State of Israel with a biometric identification system used to distinguish Palestinians from the territories from Israeli citizens. Used at checkpoints in the West Bank, the biometric system, or BASEL System Project, identifies Palestinians and demarcates their second-class status.

But nowhere does the resolution submitted late during the year at George Washington acknowledge the right of a nation state to buy and use weapons in pursuit of legitimate self-defense.

Nowhere does the resolution acknowledge the right of self-defense to respond to the blatant use of cement not to build needed shelter but to create offensive military tunnels under the Israeli border.

Nowhere does the resolution acknowledge the extensive efforts by Israeli authorities during Cast Lead to protect civilian life, despite efforts by Hamas to hide in and mount its activities among civilian institutions and residences.

Nor does the resolution acknowledge the effects of the security wall in diminishing death and injuries in Israel due to suicide bombings and other incursions. Nor does it mention how HP Inc facilitates quick check procedures easing access at the wall for Palestinians seeking legal entry to Israel.

Finally, nowhere does the resolution indicate that, under international law, specifically UN 242, the Palestinians must continue to reside under military law until a just and lasting peace is created through negotiations with security for all states in the region.

The effort by the Student Association to call on George Washington to enact a “socially responsible investment policy and divest from companies dealing with Israel” is not socially responsible at all.  It reflects a one-sided, obsessive focus on Israel,  and offers a selective account of what such business products do or should be held responsible for.

Divest This Time is spreading a demeaning teaching about Israel and the Middle East.  The first casualty is truth. The resolution states that only Israel takes action, Palestinians only suffer or are acted upon. There is no accounting for past aggressive wars against UN partition plans or aimed at eliminating Israel from the region.  There is no accounting for suicide bombers, terrorist campaigns, explosions in pizza parlors and old age hotels, or rockets fired from Gaza against innocent civilians.

The second casualty is dialogue.  Divest This Time offers a Manichaean world view that there are only oppressors and the oppressed.  There is not a conflict to be mediated or negotiated, not two peoples fighting for their rights in a single land.

Finally, the last casualty is campus comity.  Such divestment motions and efforts to capture universities  as megaphones create division and suspicion where there should be mutual dialogue and respect.

About the Author
Kenneth Waltzer is former director of Jewish Studies at Michigan State University and a progressive opponent of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. He a historian of the Holocaust completing a book on the rescue of children and youths at Buchenwald. He directed the Academic Engagement Network 2015-2019.