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Column: Divest from injustice

There is only one state where over $2 billion a year of U.S. military aid goes to fund the systematic violation of the human rights of an entire people. The United States gives more military aid to Israel than to all other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean combined. These billions of dollars are vital to the maintenance of Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories, and this money is coming directly from us. Our role as global citizens, and specifically as members of the Duke community, requires that we demand that our money be spent in socially and environmentally responsible ways. Investing in companies that deal arms to a state that is responsible for the oppression of millions is not responsible social policy. Duke should divest from military ties to Israel until we know our money will not be spent to maintain illegal control over occupied lands and people.

Of course, this argument can be used to promote divestment from dozens of countries with corrupt governments and oppressive regimes as many critics of divestment have pointed out, and I sincerely hope that it will be. But the extremely close relationship between the U.S. and Israel makes both the situation and our complicity with it unique. Since Sept. 11, the United States has been actively working to cut off funding to terrorists and impose sanctions on states that support terror, yet we continue to invest billions in state terrorism, as demonstrated by curfews, home demolitions, preventing of food and water attainment, immobilization of groups of Palestinians even in medical emergencies and more. Of course, the most just outcome of a campaign for responsible investment would ensure that all Duke money is invested in socially and environmentally responsible corporations and law-abiding countries, but change must begin somewhere. The work toward ethical fiscal policy can not end with Israel, but certainly the largest recipient of American military aid is a logical place to start.

Divestment is also not an attempt to condone Palestinian terrorism against Israeli civilians. The murder of innocents is wrong no matter what the context. But the collective punishment of an entire people in response to the actions of a few militants is also wrong. Denying equal resources to Palestinians and expanding settlements in Palestinian lands are simply unjust. Though these actions may make some Israelis feel safer, all people in the area are actually less safe than before. Violence is a result of the occupation and not vice-versa. Armed uprising would not be necessary if the Palestinian people had self-determination and freedom from the control of the Israeli military. Palestinians do not have an organized government to represent them and thus cannot be held responsible for the terrorism of fringe groups in the same way that Israel's elected officials can be held responsible for the occupation.

It is because of the striking imbalance of power between Israel and the Palestinians, an imbalance that has been created by the occupation itself, that Israel must enforce a just peace. There is no way for an unorganized population of people who have been forcibly impoverished and are under constant military curfew to protect their rights against the 16th richest country in the world. A population with no legitimate government to represent them and no military to defend them cannot be expected to barter with one of the most well-funded military states in history. The Palestinians power to negotiate is destroyed by the occupation, and thus the occupation must end before any peace process can continue. If Israelis deserve a state with enough resources to provide for its people and defendable borders, so do the Palestinians. If Israel is unwilling to take this necessary step toward a just peace, then our money should not be funding their military machine.

The occupation makes all people in Israel and Palestine less safe regardless of ethnicity, religion or location. Our government has already cut off funding for independent terrorist groups all over the world, and we must do the same for all states that inflict terror. Our call for military divestment from Israel is a call for safety. It is a movement for peace and self-determination, and it is the beginning of a movement to make sure that our money supports peace and justice all over the world.


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