Palestinian and pro-Palestinian groups obsessed with harming Israel are busy. The method is simple, they convince people with no knowledge of the complexity of the Palestinian-Israeli dispute that only Israel is to be blamed. They recruit Israelis and Jews to push this agenda. Brown University as a case in point.
In December, a divest resolution was approved by the university’s Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policies (ACCRIP) paving the way for activists to pressure the university to withdraw support for companies "facilitating the occupation and its human rights abuses".
In March 2019 Brown University Palestinian groups among them Brown Divest! advised ACCRIP to divest from companies doing business with Israel. They provided a number of investment screening criteria, "based on international human rights law" on companies that:
- Provide products or services that contribute to the maintenance of the Israeli military occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem;
- Provide products or services to the maintenance and expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories;
- Establish facilities or operations in Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories;
- Provide products or services that contribute to the maintenance and construction of the Separation Wall;
- Provide products or services that contribute to violent acts against either Israeli or Palestinian civilians.
Christina Paxson, Brown University’s President, wrote in March 2019 against the Brown Divest referendum, that “Brown’s endowment is not a political instrument to be used to express views on complex social and political issues.”
But already in November 2012, ACCRIP wrote President Paxson that for two years, "we have had an ongoing dialog with Brown Students for Justice in Palestine (BSJP). The group raises serious allegations that major US corporations in which Brown may be an investor, such as Caterpillar, Boeing, and others," that are "profiting from the illegal occupation of Palestinian territories.”
Paxson responded in 2012, explaining that "the conflict between Israel and Palestine is deeply troubling, complex and divisive," that needs to be resolved to establish a lasting peace. As a university, "we have forums for civil, inclusive and open discourse". But "When it comes to divestiture, ACCRIP has the narrow charge of applying a well-defined set of criteria to the facts of each case brought to its attention."
Brown Professor Beshara Doumani, a Saudi born Palestinian who heads Brown's Middle East Studies program is one of the faculty members who signed an open letter in support of Brown Divest referendum. He said, "This is a clear case of systematic discrimination and violence by one powerful party against another that has been going on for decades." To recall, IAM reported that Doumani has helped to recruit Ariella Azoulay to Brown University because she is an Israeli academic supportive of the boycott of Israel. Not surprisingly, Azoulay, of the department of Comparative Literature and Modern Culture and Media, also called upon other Jewish people as well as ACCRIP to support the divestment proposal. She said, “I insist on our right as Jews to support and to take responsibility towards the catastrophe that is happening on a daily basis in Palestine... It’s true that it will not solve the Palestinian catastrophe, but it will be what students can do today. Even if it is small, it is significant.”
IAM reported in February 2018, on a conference promoting BDS chaired by Doumani and held at Brown on March 8, 2018. "Do boycotts foreclose or open up socially productive conversations about the ethics of cultural and academic production?" It was based on the published book, Assuming Boycott: Resistance, Agency, and Cultural Production, and asked, "What are the political possibilities embodied in emerging forms of intersectional solidarity around boycott movements, such as BDS?" Doumani was also a signatory in the BDS petition in August 2014 "Over 100 Middle East Studies Scholars and Librarians Call for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions." Evidently, Doumani's Palestine Studies program mostly attacks Israel. Besides Azoulay, Gadi Algazi, a scholar of late medieval history at TAU who has switched to writing political polemics on the Palestinian-Israeli dispute, was another invitee to Brown. Also, BGU Neve Gordon lectured at Brown, in 2015.
After sharp criticism for its pro-Palestinian bias, in late 2016 Brown University has launched the Israel Fund, an endowment offering opportunities for Brown community members to learn about Israel from Israelis, hosted by the Judaic Studies program. Not surprisingly, the Israel Fund faced opposition from Doumani who decried the "uncertainty about the agenda behind the Israel Fund.” Doumani was evidently upset that the Israel Fund may provide a positive perspective of Israel, but he should not have been worried. Unlike the highly politicized program which Doumani runs, the Israel Fund awards themes such as “The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Contested Narratives.”
Meanwhile, Azoulay and other Israelis and Jews serve as the “fig leaves” of Doumani’s long term BDS drive.
NEWS, UNIVERSITY NEWS
ACCRIP votes to recommend divestment
Corporation will review divestment recommendation before deciding action
By OLIVIA BURDETTE
SENIOR STAFF WRITER
Tuesday, December 3, 2019
Two thirds of the ACCRIP members present voted in favor of the motion.
The Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Practices voted to recommend that the University divest from “companies identified as facilitating human rights abuses in Palestine” Monday afternoon.
Six of the nine committee members present at the meeting voted in favor of the motion, which also recommends that the University’s Investment Office communicates the University’s desire to divest to all of its investment managers. Two alumni members of the committee voted against the motion, while another committee member abstained.
The vote came at the end of ACCRIP’s final meeting of the semester, during which the members heard from several professors who presented arguments both in favor of and against the divestment proposal.
Once ACCRIP makes their recommendation to the University, a Proxy Committee of the Corporation will review it and decide whether to take action, according to ACCRIP’s official charter. ACCRIP has not yet presented its report to President Christina Paxson P’19. “It would be premature to speak about a report we have not received,” Assistant Vice President for News and Editorial Development Brian Clark wrote in an email to The Herald. “ACCRIP intends some process of further review with its members before submitting to the president a report in support of a recommendation for consideration,” he added.
After minimal deliberation, seven members of ACCRIP voted to acknowledge that social harm was occurring in Palestine, while two abstained. The committee’s final agenda item was to decide whether they were ready to vote on recommending divestment. ACCRIP Chair and Professor of Medical Science Chi-Ming Hai said that the committee should “take action” to make a recommendation as soon as possible so that the student organizers could be recognized for their activism.
Pro-divestment attendees of the meeting broke out in applause and cheers once the motion was passed. “I am really excited that ACCRIP took this step towards divestment,” said Tal Frieden ’19.5, a member of student group Jewish Voice for Peace, in an interview with The Herald. “We know that this is the first Ivy League university to recommend divestment from companies committing human rights violations in Palestine, and we’re really excited for other universities to join this movement.” Frieden added that Jewish Voice for Peace would “hold the University accountable to fulfilling this recommendation” in a follow-up message to The Herald.
Student group Brown Students for Israel voiced concern over the outcome of the vote in a Facebook post. “We strongly condemn this motion,” the group wrote. “Moreover, we are appalled by the disregard and disrespect to which anti-Divest students, faculty, alumni and even ACCRIP members, were subjected in the course of today’s meeting.”
At the meeting, Professor of History and Judaic Studies Adam Teller argued against divestment on the grounds that student group Brown Divest’s proposal was too vague to address the Israel-Palestine conflict.
“Behind this proposal is a black-and-white schematic view of what’s going on in the Middle East, when in fact there are many more complexities,” Teller said.
Instead of divesting, which he argued would make the University “partly responsible for outbursts of violence” in the Middle East, Teller said that an effective solution to the conflict could only come from negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
Teller said that he finds the claim that divestment “will reduce the social harm felt by Palestinians to be ridiculous and to have no value.”
Professor of History and Classics Kenneth Sacks also argued against divestment. Though he acknowledged that the Israeli occupation of Palestine caused social harm to Palestinians, he could not support the proposal because “it is absolutely contributing to antisemitism.” He said that pro-Israel students and faculty “feel marginalized by the fact that they are Jewish, not the fact that they are Zionists.”
As one of the faculty members who signed an open letter in support of Brown Divest’s referendum in April, Professor of History and Modern Middle Eastern History Beshara Doumani P’22 presented an argument for divestment. Doumani disagreed with Teller, saying that the proposal “does not need to be disguised as just a complex issue.”
“This is a clear case of systematic discrimination and violence by one powerful party against another that has been going on for decades,” he said. “When students and faculty say we would like to … right a wrong we see, that is not complicated.”
Professor of Comparative Literature and Modern Culture and Media Ariella Azoulay called upon other Jewish people as well as ACCRIP to support the divestment proposal, even if it cannot fully put a stop to human rights violations in Palestine.
“I insist on our right as Jews to support and to take responsibility towards the catastrophe that is happening on a daily basis in Palestine,” she said. “It’s true that it will not solve the Palestinian catastrophe, but it will be what students can do today. Even if it is small, it is significant.”
Alumni ACCRIP member David Mueller ’81 P’17, said that to move to a vote on divestment during yesterday’s meeting “without the committee having any chance to … deliberate this question is really irresponsible.”
ACCRIP staff representative Christina Fournier responded that it was “kind of insulting” to assume that committee members were unprepared to take a vote.
“The onus is on us to do our own research, and it sounds like we’ve done that,” she said. “All of us independently are saying we feel comfortable pursuing a vote, it’s alright if you don’t.”
At the end of the meeting, Hai put the motion to a vote because there were“significant numbers of ACCRIP members” who were comfortable with the motion.
US Ivy League school advised to divest from firms facilitating Israeli occupation
Committee on corporate responsibility calls on management at Brown University to withdraw investments from companies involved in subjugation of Palestinians
3 December 2019 18:08 UTC | Last update: 3 weeks 5 days ago
An advisory committee set up to monitor and recommend the investment policies of Brown University in Rhode Island has voted to divest from companies participating in the continued subjugation of Palestinians.
The successful passing of the resolution by the university’s Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policies (ACCRIP) on Monday paves the way for activists to pressure the university to withdraw support for companies "facilitating the [Israeli] occupation and its human rights abuses in the West Bank and Gaza".
In a statement released by Brown Divest, a coalition of undergraduate students that has been at the forefront of the call to divest from companies operating in the occupied territories, the group said they were "elated that the university committee responsible for divestment has finally joined the calls for divestment from human rights violations in Palestine".
“Today, ACCRIP made Brown the first Ivy League University to officially call for divestment from companies that are facilitating the occupation and its human rights abuses in the West Bank and Gaza. We look forward to other universities joining the movement for dignity and human rights for Palestinians,” the statement read.
. @BrownUniversity Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policies voted in favor of divestment from companies facilitating human rights violations in Palestine
This comes after a student referendum in which 69% of students voted in favor of the same motion
11:42 PM - Dec 2, 2019
According to the statement, the advisory committee - made up of faculty, students, staff and alumni of the University - voted on the following motion:
“We recommend that the Brown Corporation exclude from Brown’s direct investments, and require Brown’s separate account investment managers to exclude from their direct investments, companies identified as facilitating human rights violations in Palestine,” the resolution read.
“In addition, the Investment Office will share with all investment managers the University’s desire to adhere to this investment philosophy. We recommend that the Corporation and Brown’s separate account investment managers maintain the withdrawal of investments from said companies until they cease to engage in social harm … ”
A Divest Brown spokesperson told MEE that given that the ACCRIP recommendation is the official channel for divestment, for the recommendation to be implemented, Brown Corporation - which is how the university's governing body is referred to - has to approve it.
"We will continue to hold the University and the Brown Corporation accountable to the will of the students and the ACCRIP committee to divest from these holdings. In the past, ACCRIP has recommended divestment from genocide in Sudan and the tobacco industry, following which the Corporation divested from complicit companies," the spokesperson said.
Brian E. Clark, a university spokesperson, clarified that the resolution was not binding.
"The committee is an advisory body. It was a vote to submit to the Brown University president a recommendation on divestment. There has been no Brown University decision or action to divest from companies 'facilitating human rights violations in Palestine'," Clarke told MEE.
A student at Brown associated with the activist group Social Justice with Palestine (SJP), told MEE that although the development was significant, it was anticipated that it would be harder to get the resolution passed by the university's governing body than previous resolutions targeting companies complicit in human rights abuses in Sudan.
"The Brown Corporation is accountable to itself ... some of the members of the corporation are from the biggest industries in the US," the student who asked to remain anonymous, said.
"We have literally people who are on the executive boards of weapons manufacturers, huge banks and as we know, these types don't have an incentive to see the rise of a broader BDS or a divestment movement," he added.
ACCRIP's vote made Brown the first university in the Ivy League to call for divestment from companies that facilitate the Occupation and its abuses of the human rights of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
We expect the @BrownUniversity Corporation to divest from these companies (including Caterpillar, Motorola, Boeing, Raytheon, and more). In March, 69% of undergraduate student voters voted for divestment, and now Brown's corporate responsibility in investments committee has too.
10:10 PM - Dec 2, 2019
News of the vote was immediately lauded by activists and academics who have long argued for a Boycott Divestment and Sanction (BDS) campaign against Israel on US campuses.
Student activists associated with Students for Justice in Palestine at Harvard University and Columbia University in New York told MEE separately that the move was significant because it would set the tone for similar resolutions at other universities around the country.
Palestine Legal, an organisation that provides support and advocacy for Palestinian rights activists in the US, passed on their congratulations and said they were “committed to supporting students around the country in their pursuit of justice for Palestine.”
Moreover, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), the Jewish-American organisation that works for an end to the Israeli occupation, said they found the student activism inspiring.
A spokesperson for Divest Brown told MEE that ACCRIP would now work towards implementing the resolution.
"We already provided the list of companies (along with our research on them) that ACCRIP will review, which include Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, Oaktree Capital Management, AB Volvo, Motorola, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, United Technologies, and G4S," the spokesperson said.
Monday’s vote comes eight months after 69 percent of students at Brown University had voted for a call to end the university’s investments in companies that violate human rights through their work in Israel.
"This referendum not only represents a decisive stance on this issue, but a years-long mobilisation and unification of a diverse coalition of student groups around this campus," Divest Brown said.
At the time, Brown joined Swarthmore, NYU, UCLA, George Washington University and others who have had similar successful campaigns.
Following the vote in March, Christina Paxson, Brown’s University President, said that “Brown’s endowment is not a political instrument to be used to express views on complex social and political issues.” More than 90 faculty staff released a statement defending students for their activism.
While a number of university student bodies have passed resolutions calling for divestment, only Hampshire College has so far implemented the said resolutions.
Top University Votes to Divest From Companies ‘Facilitating Human Rights Violations In Palestine’
“From the Gaza Strip, under Israel’s occupation and siege, we salute the students with Brown Divest and all those involved in this victory. It represents an important US university precedent.”
A Brown University committee voted on December 2 in favor of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement which seeks to eliminate financial support and ties to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. The committee, called the Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policies (ACCRIP), voted in favor of the university’s divestment from companies “facilitating human rights violations in Palestine.”
Six members of the ACCRIP voted for the motion, two alumni voted against, while one abstained. The vote comes on top of eight months of deliberations that began in April of this year when 69 percent of voters in a Brown undergraduate referendum voted in favor of the same motion.
What is BDS?
According to their website, the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Movement, (BDS) is a Palestinian-led movement for freedom, justice and equality. BDS upholds the simple principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity.
BDS argues Israel is occupying and colonizing Palestinian land that is supported by governments and corporations that fail to hold Israel accountable. The movement calls for boycotting companies that are “engaged in violations of Palestinian human rights”, the divestment of banks, churches, financial institutions and other organizations from investments in Israel, and sanctions on the state of Israel.
“BDS is now a vibrant global movement made up of unions, academic associations, churches and grassroots movements across the world. Thirteen years since its launch, BDS is having a major impact and is effectively challenging international support for Israeli apartheid and settler-colonialism,” states the movement’s website.
Though support for BDS has grown in the U.S. in recent years, there has also been a recent backlash against the movement. In January of 2019, the Intercept reported
that a bipartisan group of Senators was pushing a bill to punish boycotts of Israel. Months later in April, Texas courts struck down a Texas law
that had required government contractors to not participate in the BDS Movement.
Brown University Responds
In response to the April student vote, President of Brown University, Christina Paxson, addressed the Brown community in a letter to the voters, stating, “Brown’s premises is not a political platform for expressing views on complicated and political issues”. Though, Paxson added that she does promote peace, prosperity and stability for all those, who live in the region.
Following Paxson’s apparent dismissal of the student vote, over 100 faculty members at Brown University signed a letter in support of the student vote leading to months of deliberations.
According to a Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) press release, the vote on Monday came following multiple presentations before the ACCRIP from both supporters and opponents of the BDS movement. Afterward, a motion was put forth for the vote on whether the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories constitutes social harm. Seven committee members voted yes while two abstained.
At the end of the meeting, voters adopted the recommendation “that the Brown Corporation exclude from Brown’s direct investments, and require Brown’s separate account investment managers to exclude from their direct investments, companies identified as facilitating human rights violations in Palestine. In addition, the Investment Office will share with all investment managers the University’s desire to adhere to this investment philosophy. We recommend that the Corporation and Brown’s separate account investment managers maintain the withdrawal of investments from said companies until they cease to engage in social harm…”
Brown University’s support of divestment from companies with ties to the Israeli occupation of Palestine makes the university the first Ivy League school to support the BDS movement.
According to the JVP press release, the companies identified for divestment include Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, Oaktree Capital Management, AB Volvo, Motorola, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, United Technologies and G4S.
A non-binding vote
Speaking to Middle East Eye (MME), Mr. Brian E. Clark, a spokesperson for Brown University, clarified that the divest vote was not binding.
“The committee is an advisory body. It was a vote to submit to the Brown University president a recommendation on divestment. There has been no Brown University decision or action to divest from companies ‘facilitating human rights violations in Palestine’,” Clarke told the MME.
Brown Pro-Israel Students Condemn Vote
In reaction to the vote, the Brown University student group Brown Students for Israel expressed concern over the consequences of the vote, posting on their facebook page a message strongly condemning the vote.
“We are appalled by the disregard and disrespect to which anti-Divest students, faculty, alumni and even ACCRIP members, were subjected in the course of today’s meeting,” said the group.
According to the Middle East Monitor, Brown Professor of History and Judaic Studies, Adam Teller, argued that the divestment proposal by the student group Brown Divest was too vague to address the Israel-Palestine conflict.
BDS National Committee Praises the Motion
Commenting for Citizen Truth on the Brown University’s divestment vote, Mr. Abdulrahman Abunahael, who is the Gaza-based coordinator for the Palestinian BDS National Committee, praised the Brown vote in an email with Citizen Truth.
“From the Gaza Strip, under Israel’s occupation and siege, we salute the students with Brown Divest, and all those involved in this victory. It represents an important US university precedent, and a significant step towards divestment at Brown University, in support of our movement for freedom, justice and equality for Palestinians. This is yet another sign that, despite Trump’s alliance with Israel’s apartheid regime, grassroots support for Palestinian rights is growing in the US.”
Brown University Committee Votes to Divest from Companies "Facilitating Human Rights Violations in Palestine"
The Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policies voted 6-2-1 in favor of divestment.
WASHINGTON - On December 2nd, 2019, the Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policies (ACCRIP) at Brown University voted in favor of divestment from companies “facilitating human rights violations in Palestine.” The committee voted six in favor, with two alumni voting no, and one abstaining from the vote.
The vote comes after eight months of deliberation, starting in April 2019, when 69% of student voters in a Brown undergraduate referendum voted in favor of the same motion. Following a statement by the Brown University president criticizing the referendum, over 100 faculty members authored a letter in favor of the student referendum. Since then, members of the Brown Divest student coalition have presented their case to ACCRIP on multiple occasions, as have Brown Students for Israel. Brown Divest is a coalition of student groups including Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine, as well as other groups.
Brown Divest states: “We are elated that the University committee responsible for divestment has finally joined the calls for divestment from human rights violations in Palestine. Today, ACCRIP made Brown the first Ivy League University to officially call for divestment from companies that are facilitating the Occupation and its human rights abuses in the West Bank and Gaza. We look forward to other universities joining the movement for dignity and human rights for Palestinians.
“Going forward, the Brown community expects the Brown Corporation to divest from companies facilitating human rights violations in Palestine, as demanded by Brown students, who voted for the University to divest, as has ACCRIP, the committee responsible for recommending University divestment.”
One member of Brown University Divest said: "As a Palestinian student at Brown, I can't feel comfortable on this campus knowing that my university is literally profiting off the suffering of my family. When Brown invests in companies that provide materials that help demolish their houses and promote an apartheid regime against them, I cannot be silent about this. I cannot be complicit in the suffering of my very own family."
Tal Frieden, another member of Jewish Voice for Peace and Brown University Divest, said: “As Jews, as US citizens, as Brown students, and as people of conscience, it is our responsibility to speak up for Palestinian human rights and to denounce complicity in Palestinian suffering. We will continue to hold the University accountable to this vote.”
On December 2nd, nine members of ACCRIP met at Brown University and heard presentations from faculty opposed to divestment, as well as those in favor. After the presentations, a motion was put forth to vote on whether the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories constitutes social harm. Seven members voted yes, while two alumni abstained. At the end of the meeting, members of the committee motioned to vote on the following language:
“We recommend that the Brown Corporation exclude from Brown's direct investments, and require Brown's separate account investment managers to exclude from their direct investments, companies identified as facilitating human rights violations in Palestine. In addition, the Investment Office will share with all investment managers the University’s desire to adhere to this investment philosophy. We recommend that the Corporation and Brown’s separate account investment managers maintain the withdrawal of investments from said companies until they cease to engage in social harm”
For the final vote on divestment, six members voted in favor, two opposed, and one abstained. Companies that have been identified for divestment based on their involvement in social harm in Palestine include Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, Oaktree Capital Management, AB Volvo, Motorola, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, United Technologies, and G4S.
Jewish Voice for Peace members are inspired by Jewish tradition to work together for peace, social justice, equality, human rights, respect for international law, and a U.S. foreign policy based on these ideals.
JVP opposes anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim, and anti-Arab bigotry and oppression. JVP seeks an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem; security and self-determination for Israelis and Palestinians; a just solution for Palestinian refugees based on principles established in international law; an end to violence against civilians; and peace and justice for all peoples of the Middle East.
March 21, 2019
Dear Brown University Community,
It is with immense honor and excitement that we announce the successful passing of the Brown Divest referendum today on March 21st, 2019. The referendum passed with 69% of the vote, and the voter turnout today was one of the highest in the history of elections held by the Undergraduate Council of Students: 3,076 students voted. Today is a historic day for Brown as we take an emboldened and clear stand against the university’s complicity in human rights abuses in Palestine and in similar systems of oppression across the world.
Today, we join other universities such as Swarthmore, NYU, UCLA, George Washington University, and others who have had similar successful campaigns. We also become the first Ivy League university to pass a divestment referendum on Palestine and look forward to seeing others follow our lead.
This referendum not only represents a decisive stance on this issue, but a years-long mobilization and unification of a diverse coalition of student groups around this campus. This campaign would not have been possible if we had not united as a community.
The members of Brown Divest view this referendum neither as a beginning nor an end of our struggle for justice. We will continue this momentum and come together as a community to hold the administration accountable to the outcome of this referendum.
Until then and with love,
Brown University Divest
The Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policies (ACCRIP) considers issues of ethical and moral responsibility in the investment policies of Brown University. Committee members include students, faculty, staff and alumni of the University. ACCRIP examines all proxy resolutions concerning issues of social responsibility that are presented to the University as a shareholder, and has developed guidelines for voting on such resolutions.
Meetings are open to all. Groups or individual members from the Brown University community -- students, faculty, staff, alumni -- are encouraged to bring to the attention of ACCRIP ethical and moral issues or issues of alleged social harm with respect to the activities of corporations in which the University is an investor. (For details on the jurisdiction of the committee, see the committee's charter.)
As a first step, such groups or individuals should contact the committee's chair and clearly identify in writing the issue(s) that they would like ACCRIP to consider. This narrative should also indicate what action(s) the individual or group would like to recommend to ACCRIP and be accompanied by documentation that substantiates the claims and recommendation included in the narrative. Normally such individuals or groups will first meet with the committee's chair in preparation for a presentation before the full committee. ACCRIP may recommend divestiture and/or other actions when they will likely have a positive impact toward correcting the specified social harm.
By BROWN UNIVERSITY FACULTY MEMBERS OP-ED CONTRIBUTORS
Tuesday, April 2, 2019
We, the undersigned Brown faculty, wish to express our concern about the content and tenor of President Christina Paxson P’19’s letter to the Brown community March 22 in response to the overwhelming support for a student referendum that called on the University to “divest all stocks, funds, endowment and other monetary instruments from companies complicit in human rights abuses in Palestine and establish a means of implementing financial transparency and student oversight of the University’s investments.” Following weeks of campus debate which produced a higher-than-average turnout in a much-watched election, 69 percent —1,939 out of 2,810 voting students — voted in favor of the referendum.
Paxson’s response, issued to the entire Brown community the day after the referendum results were announced, diminishes the divestment vote as “polarizing” and something that would “detract from the inclusive, intellectually-vibrant community we aspire to be.” Belying her own claim that the University does not take sides on contested issues, Paxson also took this opportunity to reiterate her opposition to the global Boycott, Divest, Sanctions movement, even though the movement itself was not explicitly on the ballot. These strong statements can have the political effect of stifling student activism. They can also be read as an admonishment of students who organized the referendum and, implicitly, of all those who voted in favor of divestment.
We write in defense of student activism and against making Palestine an exception to the right of free speech on campus. Regardless of one’s position on divestment, the roughly two thousand undergraduate students at Brown who, exercising their democratic right, voted in favor of the referendum deserve better than the unfounded accusation that they are politically polarizing an otherwise neutral campus. All students deserve respect, protection and a fair hearing when they exercise their legitimate right to pose questions and vote. That must include those who voted against the President’s views.
We are deeply concerned by Paxson’s statement that “instead” of calls for divestment, the Brown community should “engage in productive discourse on this issue through our teaching, research and contributions to diplomacy.” This statement unacceptably narrows the range of legitimate activism by students and other members of the Brown community. By using the phrase “on this issue” it also sets up a double standard, in that it seems to apply only to activism that is critical of Israeli government policies. The 1968 Black Student Walkout, the 1975 student vote to strike in favor of budget transparency, the 1987 Students Against Apartheid demands for divestment from South Africa and more recently, the 2015 student organizing against university inaction on racial and class representation on campus were also entirely peaceful and democratic forms of activism that sought to challenge indifference or political gridlock that existed at the time. Ultimately, they made Brown a better place.
It is precisely such examples of student activism for social justice that have inspired supporters of Brown Divest. The numerous public events they organized during the six months prior to the March 21 referendum contributed positively to informed and lively debate on campus and reaffirmed that all groups, without exception, are entitled to basic human rights. Through the referendum vote, many students have made clear their view that the Israeli government’s policies towards Palestinians are diametrically opposed to Brown University’s self-proclaimed values, enshrined in its strategic plan, Building on Distinction, which calls for “Creating Peaceful, Just, and Prosperous Societies.” And they are not alone. Similar divestment referendums have passed in student government bodies at other campuses such as Stanford University, New York University, Barnard College, the University of Minnesota and George Washington University, among others.
It is not surprising that many Brown undergraduates resorted to a referendum in order to make their voices heard. As she acknowledges in her March 22 letter to the community, Paxson in 2012 rejected the recommendation of Brown’s Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policies to initiate dialogue about possible divestment from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian Territories. Indeed, Brown Divest students have worked diligently through University processes and have sought dialogue rather than confrontation. In this, they have shown extraordinary courage in the face of not only Paxson’s record of rejection on this issue, but also aggressive national campaigns of intimidation and censorship aimed at college students and professors who dare to speak out against Israeli government policies, as well as attempts by President Donald Trump’s administration to conflate legitimate criticisms of Israeli policies with anti-Semitism.
It is vital to recognize that students active in Brown Divest have consistently called for upholding the human rights of all people. They have repeatedly condemned anti-Semitism along with any other form of racism and bigotry. Many attended vigils in honor of Jewish and Muslim victims of recent terrorist attacks by white supremacists in Pittsburgh and New Zealand. Several, also, responded constructively to the arguments of students who opposed the referendum — whose voices should and are being heard — in a succession of spirited op-eds in this newspaper. These exchanges highlighted the diversity of opinions among Jewish students on divestment, many of whom supported the referendum. While these students have engaged in productive discourse, Brown’s senior administration has yet to condemn egregious blacklisting websites, such as Canary Mission, that have threateningly listed Brown students and professors who criticize the Israeli government’s actions and speak up for Palestinian human rights.
At a time when there is as dire a need as ever for moral clarity, transparency and democratic participation in our country, we call on our University administration to take seriously our students’ concern about injustices in which our institution may be complicit. Is Brown University a beneficiary of investments in companies that profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestine? That is the still unanswered question at the heart of last week’s campus vote. It is not a question we or anyone else should admonish our students for asking. Rather, let us support and honor all our students — and with it Brown’s renowned tradition of rigorous, conscientious and engaged scholarship — by organizing campus-wide discussions and debates on that question and others like it. If principled inquiry is our method and the pursuit of knowledge for a better world is our goal, what do we have to fear?
Aliyyah I. Abdur-Rahman, Departments of American Studies and English Faiz Ahmed, Department of History Umer Akbar, Department of Neurology Nadje Al-Ali, Department of Anthropology and Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs Leticia Alvarado, Department of American Studies Iradj Anvar, Center for Language Studies Ariella Azoulay, Departments of Modern Culture and Media and Comparative Literature Timothy Bewes, Department of English Leslie Bostrom, Department of Visual Art Lundy Braun, Departments of Africana Studies and Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Palmira Brummett, Department of History Mari Jo Buhle, Departments of History and American Studies Paul Buhle, Department of American Studies Caroline Castiglione, Departments of Italian Studies and History John Cayley, Department of Literary Arts Tamara Chin, Departments of Comparative Literature and East Asian Studies Nitsan Chorev, Department of Sociology and Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs Mirena Christoff, Center for Language Studies Mark Cladis, Department of Religious Studies Joan Copjec, Department of Modern Culture and Media Denise Davis, Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women Kelly Dobson, Department of Modern Culture and Media Fulvio Domini, Department of Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences Beshara Doumani, Department of History Emily Drumsta, Department of Comparative Literature Paja Faudree, Department of Anthropology Masako Fidler, Department of Slavic Studies James Fitzgerald, Department of Classics Scott Frickel, Department of Sociology and Institute at Brown for Environment and Society Lina Fruzetti, Department of Anthropology Leela Gandhi, Department of English and Cogut Institute for the Humanities Alex Gourevitch, Department of Political Science Matthew Guterl, Departments of Africana Studies and American Studies Matthew Gutmann, Department of Anthropology Yannis Hamilakis, Department of Classics and Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World Françoise Hamlin, Departments of History and Africana Studies Alla Hassan, Center for Language Studies Juliet Hooker, Department of Political Science Lung-Hua Hu, Department of East Asian Studies Evelyn Hu-Dehart, Departments of History and American Studies Jose Itzigsohn, Department of Sociology Lynne Joyrich, Department of Modern Culture and Media Tamar Katz, Department of English William Keach, Department of English Adrienne Keene, Department of American Studies and Ethnic Studies Michael Kennedy, Department of Sociology and Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs Nancy Khalek, Department of Religious Studies Daniel Kim, Departments of English and American Studies Brian Lander, Department of History and Institute at Brown for Environment and Society Robert Lee, Department of American Studies Mary Rebecca Leuchak, Center for Language Studies Evelyn Lincoln, Departments of History of Art and Architecture and Italian Studies Catherine Lutz, Department of Anthropology and Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs Amanda Lynch, Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences Sreemati Mitter, Department of History and Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs Elias Muhanna, Department of Comparative Literature Monica Muñoz Martinez, Department of American Studies and Ethnic Studies Rebecca Nedostup, Department of History Laura Odello, Department of French Studies Adi Ophir, Cogut Institute for the Humanities and Middle East Studies Emily Owens, Department of History Samuel Perry, Department of East Asian Studies Kevin Quashie, Department of English Thangam Ravindranathan, Department of French Studies Marc Redfield, Departments of English and Comparative Literature Syed Rizvi, Department of Neurology Daniel A. Rodriguez, Department of History Ellen Rooney, Department of Modern Culture and Media Christopher Rose, School of Engineering Tricia Rose, Department of Africana Studies Philip Rosen, Department of Modern Culture and Media Nidia Schuhmacher, Department of Hispanic Studies Robert Self, Department of History Thomas Serre, Department of Cognitive Linguistic and Psychological Sciences Naoko Shibusawa, Departments of History and American Studies Elena Shih, Department of American Studies and Ethnic Studies Daniel Jordan Smith, Department of Anthropology Kerry Smith, Department of History Victoria Smith, Department of Hispanic Studies Susan Smulyan, Department of American Studies Patricia Sobral, Department of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies Silvia Sobral, Department of Hispanic Studies Suzanne Stewart-Steinberg, Departments of Italian Studies and Comparative Literature Lulei Su, Department of East Asian Studies Mark Suchman, Department of Sociology Peter Szendy, Department of Comparative Literature and Cogut Institute for the Humanities Nina Tannenwald, Department of Political Science Peter van Dommelen, Department of Archaeology and Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World Lingzhen Wang, Department of East Asian Studies William H. Warren, Department of Cognitive, Linguistic, and Psychological Sciences Elizabeth Weed, Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women Deborah Weinstein, Department of American Studies Andre C. Willis, Department of Religious Studies David Wills, Departments of French Studies and Comparative Literature Patricia Ybarra, Department of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies Vazira Zamindar, Department of History Asli Zengin, Department of Anthropology
An updated list of Brown Faculty signatories can be found here.
12 November, 2012
Dear President Paxson,
The Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policies (ACCRIP)
considers issues of ethical and moral responsibility in the investment policies of Brown
University. Committee members include students, faculty, staff and alumni of the University.
ACCRIP examines all proxy resolutions concerning issues of social responsibility that are
presented to the University as a shareholder, and has developed guidelines for voting on such
resolutions. Groups or individual members from the Brown University community -- students,
faculty, staff, and alumni -- are encouraged to bring to the attention of ACCRIP ethical and
moral issues or issues of alleged social harm with respect to the activities of corporations in
which the University is an investor.
For the past two years we have had an ongoing dialog with Brown Students for Justice in
Palestine (BSJP). The group raises serious allegations that major US corporations in which
Brown may be an investor, such as Caterpillar, Boeing, and others, are “profiting from the illegal
occupation of Palestinian territories.” The BSJP calls for Brown to divest from companies that
are involved in maintaining said abuse.
The documented abuses of Palestinian citizens by the Israeli Defense Force in the Occupied
Territories are deeply troubling. Israel is indisputably engaged in ongoing systemic abuses of
human rights and violations of international law, as documented by the United Nations Human
Rights Council and the International Court of Justice.
This has led to ongoing discussions within our committee about the best way forward. We
recognize that the conflict between Palestine and Israel is many faceted and deeply divisive from
both personal and institutional perspectives, but the relevant evidence suggests that Brown may
be invested in firms whose products and services are being used to commit human rights
violations in Palestine.
The committee wishes to facilitate further campus dialogue on this issue before making a
recommendation. We respectfully ask that you consider initiating a forum for broader
exploration. The University should consider the implications of its investment in companies
perpetrating human rights abuses, and whether or not divestment is an option in dealing with the
issue. In light of whatever discussion ensues, the committee will return to this issue in the next
Christopher Bull, Chair, for the committee,
Fredric Alper, ‘60
Sean Dinces, Graduate Student
James Dunn, Staff
Stanley Griffith, ‘68
Daniel Moraff, Undergraduate Student
Sandra Seibel, Investment Office
Anne Sharp, Investment Office
Naoko Shibusawa, Faculty
Ian Trupin, Undergraduate Student
Vazira F-Y Zamindar, Faculty
Cc: Brown Students for Justice in Palestine
OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT
Box 1860. Providence, RI 02912. USA
T 401.863.2234. F 401.863-7737
Christina H. Paxson
Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policy
November 23, 2012
Dear Members of the Committee:
Thank you for your letter of November 12, 2012, advising me of your discussions with Brown
Students for Justice in Palestine (BSJP) regarding their assertion that U.S. corporations in which
Brown may be an investor "are profiting from the illegal occupation of Palestinian territories"
and calling for Brown to divest from such companies. You indicated that further campus
dialogue on this matter would be useful to the Committee, and you asked me to help foster this
dialogue by establishing a forum for discussion.
As you note, the conflict between Israel and Palestine is deeply troubling, complex and divisive.
The current circumstances in this region highlight just how intractable the problems are, and they underscore the need for the concerted diplomatic efforts of many countries to resolve the conflict and establish the lasting peace that all of us would like to see.
It is vitally important that, as a university, we have forums for civil, inclusive and open discourse on serious and sensitive matters such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I agree that members of the Brown community will benefit from conversations that help us understand the difficult human rights and security issues that undermine peace in the region, and determine how as a community we should to respond to them. Fortunately, a forum for discourse already exists. The Brown University Community Council (BUCC) was established with goal of fostering dialogue on matters of deep concern to members of Brown's community. All members of the Brown community are able to bring matters of concern to the BUCC, and this may be a fruitful venue for discussion for your Committee and/or the BSJP.
The BUCC is not the only venue for campus dialogue. I am glad that, this winter, Brown will
host the second annual Ivy League Intercollegiate Leadership Colloquium on the Israeli-
Palestinian Conflict, which will provide students with an opportunity to engage in conversations
on these issues. Brown centers and programs such as the Watson Institute, the Janus Forum, and
the programs in Middle East Studies and Judaic Studies are well-positioned to work with the
BSJP and other campus groups to provide additional opportunities for constructive discourse.
As you know, although it is important for the Committee to understand the views of the campus
community, this is not the only factor the Committee should rely on as it considers this issue.
When it comes to divestiture, ACCRIP has the narrow charge of applying a well-defined set of
criteria to the facts of each case brought to its attention. Specifically, ACCRIP's charter indicates that the committee should:
"recommend divestiture (keeping in mind the fundamental principle of sound financial
policy, the legal responsibilities of the Corporation to sustain fiscal soundness and
stability of the endowment fund, and the kinds of balanced judgment called for above)
when divestiture will likely have a positive impact toward correcting the specified social
harm, or when the company in question contributes to social harm so grave that it would
be inconsistent with the goals and principles of the University to accept funds from that
ACCRIP was set up precisely because community discussions, although extremely valuable, are
unlikely to provide the fine-grained analyses and the consistent application of criteria that must
underlie any recommendation made for or against divestiture from a specific company or
The Committee has the important charge of making recommendations to the Corporation of
Brown University on issues of moral responsibility in its investment policies. The careful
judgment and reasoned analysis you are called upon to make is not easy, and I thank you for
undertaking this work.: