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Submission against GW-Israel divestment

student government


George Washington University


Submission against GW-Israel divestment

There’s a way to peace; divestment isn’t it

Courtney Buble


The following is a submission from freshman Shira Wolkenfeld. She is a Middle East Studies major from Berkeley, CA. She’s spent a semester studying Arabic in Israel, and has visited the Occupied Territories. While the views reflected above are her own, Shira is part of the GWTogether Coalition.

On Tuesday night, a resolution titled The Advancement of Palestinian Human Rights Act (SR S17-14) was introduced to the Student Life Committee of the Student Association. This resolution was written in collaboration with members of the Divest This Time campaign, which self-affiliates with the global Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions movement on their Facebook page. I am a progressive student who is anti-occupation, pro-Palestine, and pro-Israel, and these beliefs are not in conflict with one another. I believe that the State of Israel has a right to exist, and I believe that a Palestinian state must be established based on pre-1967 borders. I consider current Israeli treatment of and policy towards Palestinians residing in the West Bank and Gaza to be unacceptable and untenable. I am an advocate for a two-state solution. I believe that SR S17-14, though well intentioned, is counterproductive and misses the point.
All sides of this conflict consider themselves to be the victims. Many divestment supporters claim that the fact that Israel has paid increased attention to the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions movement is an indicator of their success. But in fact, the global BDS movement, and resolutions such as this one do nothing more than validate Israelis’ fears that the world is against them, which translates into increased support for Israel’s right-wing government led by Prime Minister Netanyahu. In 2015, he referred to the BDS movement as “an international campaign to blacken [Israel’s] name” and stated BDS “said [Israel is] the foundation of evil in the world.” Moves to divest provide the Israeli right with talking points that bolster their victim mentality. By advocating for Palestinian liberation in this way, Resolution SR S17-14 empowers the actors it claims to fight against.

This is a pressing issue: on Tuesday, more settlements were approved to be built in East Jerusalem, decreasing the viability of a future Palestinian state. The supporters of SR S17-14 want Palestinian human rights and liberation, and they claim to want it urgently. However, their choice of divestment as a tactic reflects otherwise. Israel has one of the strongest economies in the Middle East, and even when BDS resolutions have passed through student governments on campuses across the country, no university has never divested. Even if institutions chose to divest, it would take years before these actions had an impact on Israel’s economy or policies. Many people will argue that these resolutions are merely symbolic: a showing of support for the Palestinian cause. But we do not have time to have this conversation in a way that is merely symbolic.

This resolution, Divest This Time, and the global Boycott, Divest, and Sanction movement don’t even define the term “occupation.” Amnesty International and other humanitarian NGO’s limit the scope of the term occupation to “the West Bank including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip”. In contrast, Divest this Time and the global BDS movement, main supporters of this resolution, refer to the “occupation of all Arab lands.” The logo of Divest this Time replaces the letter “I” in “Divest” with a map, which can be construed as nothing other than the British Mandate of Palestine. The use of this map is incompatible with claims that this campaign is not about the existence Israel. By not specifying whether occupation or Arab lands refers only to the West Bank and Gaza or to the entirety of Israeli territory, they imply their openness to the non-existence of the state of Israel. Not defining these terms does nothing more than muddle an already complicated conversation.

Do not support this resolution simply because you have heard from your peers that it is “the progressive thing to do.” The progressive thing to do is to dig deeper and look harder. It’s time for a productive conversation on this issue. This resolution isn’t it.

The Rival is not taking a stance on SR S17-14. We welcome all views and opinions on the divestment matter. Want to submit an op-ed? Email The Rival at