Harvard & MIT professors campaign for divestment from Israel
May 2002

Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology professors have recently called for their institutions to divest from companies that do business with Israel. Four Harvard and MIT professors recently initiated a petition, writing: "A few of us who are professors at MIT and Harvard feel we can no longer remain silent while Israel supported by the US continues its occupation in the West Bank and Gaza. Our goal is to pressure Israel to comply with international conventions of human rights."

They adopted a divestment petition, based on one created at Princeton, asking for Harvard and MIT to withdraw investments from companies that do business with Israel. So far, over forty faculty from MIT and 39 at Harvard have signed the petition. In addition, they have created a website, http://www.harvardmitdivest.org, "with the purpose of encouraging an open and critical discussion of the Israeli occupation and US support thereof, highlighting local events and other sources of information about the current crisis, how it arose, and how it might be resolved."

The petition drew immediate fire from supporters of Israel and those who worried that if the schools adopted such a policy, donors would stop giving money. Alan Dershowitz, a law professor at Harvard stated: "Any effort to divest from Israel would fail because it would destroy any university that attempted it. Faculty would leave, students would refuse to attend, the contributors would refuse to contribute."

Harvard is widely remembered as being slow in responding to the campaign to divest from South Africa.

"It would be a mistake to expect any immediate outcome,'' said Nancy Kanwisher, an MIT professor who initiated the petition. "If people become more willing to question Israeli policy, that will be a step forward."

Petition supporters noted that it took several years for the idea of universities divesting from South Africa to become policy, but that it helped gain human rights in South Africa.

The petition reads as follows:

"We, the undersigned are appalled by the human rights abuses against Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli government, the continual military occupation and colonization of Palestinian territory by Israeli armed forces and settlers, and the forcible eviction from and demolition of Palestinian homes, towns and cities. We find the recent attacks on Israeli citizens unacceptable and abhorrent. But these should not and do not negate the human rights of the Palestinians.

"As members of the MIT and Harvard University communities, we believe that our universities ought to use their influence - political and financial- to encourage the United States government and the government of Israel to respect the human rights of the Palestinians. We therefore call on the US government to make military aid and arms sales to Israel conditional on immediate initiation and rapid progress in implementing the conditions listed below. We also call on MIT and Harvard to divest from Israel, and from US companies that sell arms to Israel, until these conditions are met:

More info: http://www.harvardmitdivest.org

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