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Submission from director of communication for GW for Israel

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George Washington University

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Submission from director of communication for GW for Israel

It's time for dialogue not division

Courtney Buble

4.30.17

The following is a submission from Michael S. Montague, director of communication for GW for Israel, regarding SR-S17-14.

Last Wednesday, the Student Life and Finance committees of the SA voted to move SR-S17-14, the Advancement of Palestinian Human Rights Act, to a senate at-large vote. The bill is a call to action for the university to divest from a list of companies that have ties to Israel and, by extension, are complicit in the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. GW’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) marketed the bill using the campaign Divest This Time over the past few weeks. SJP at GW is associated with the global Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement.

The text of the bill gives reasons for why each company is complicit in some form of international crime via connections to the state of Israel. Nowhere in the bill is it established what the sources are for the facts and figures provided, only quotes from various international organizations condemning Israel. Most importantly, it is not even known if GW as a university invests in any of the companies mentioned. SJP did however send a letter to the university asking to divulge their investments, yet received no response. The bill is based solely on the assumption that the university invests in these companies, with no cited supporting evidence. This means that even if this bill passes, there is no guarantee that GW had a connection with these companies in the first place.

My main concern is that this bill minimizes a conflict that has spanned generations and affected countless lives into a few pages. The notion that such a minimization is even feasible does both Israeli and Palestinian narratives a grave disservice. Not only does this bill blatantly disregard the delicate and nuanced nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it also ignores the thousands of rockets that have been launched into Israel by Hamas, the incitement and glorification of terrorists who commit attacks against Israelis by the Palestinian Authority, as well as the numerous car-ramming attacks on Israeli citizens in Jerusalem.

That said, I agree with the Divest This Time campaign that we, as a university, should be on the right side of history; we should be the university that starts a dialogue and sets an example for universities across the globe that peace comes through dialogue instead of dividing our community. Yet, SJP at GW states in their mission statement that they will refuse to “normalize the status quo by engaging in dialogues, discussions, panels, or other public forums” unless in complete accordance with their opinion. Refusing to begin or even engage in a dialogue with a party with a differing opinion is antithetical to the very peace they seem to seek. That, coupled with constant delegitimization and demonization of Israel contributes to an even more divided atmosphere on campus. In this regard, I hope that SJP recognizes this, and considers a more open-minded policy.

To say that Israel can do no wrong is ignoring reality. It is crucial to understand that Israel is a country that has internal issues that require action and practical solutions. Discussions need to be had, and ideas need to be shared. Calling for divestment does not start such dialogue, rather stifles it. This bill ignores differing view points, and contributes to further division in the community. As GW students who seek to make the world a better place, we should surely know the value of meaningful discourse. If we truly want to follow the University’s mission statement to “dedicate itself to furthering human well-being” let’s talk as students, as passionate advocates for our causes. Then, bit by bit, we can work our way towards understanding varying narratives and build on that knowledge to develop a meaningful framework for peace.



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 gw@therival.news.