Letter to the Editor: Northwestern should invest in peace

Joey Becker, Evan Fox, and Ariella Hoffman-Peterson

Last week, our campus saw a call for Northwestern to divest from six corporations linked to Israel: Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Caterpillar, G4S, Elbit Systems and Hewlett-Packard. In its letter to the editor, NU Divest told us that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process has already failed and that the NU Divest agenda, as part of the larger Boycott Divestment Sanction (BDS) movement, provides the alternative. We believe that the peace process is not over, and that investment in conversation and open dialogue that will lead to action, rather than divestment, is our responsibility as NU students.

According to NU Divest, BDS can serve the same purpose as the peace process. But unlike the peace process, BDS focuses exclusively on trying to punish Israel by implying that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one-sided. This is false. In 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip and in the Olmert-Abbas talks of 2008, Israel offered to withdraw from over 90 percent of the West Bank. Both sides showed an effort to come together, but in this case, it was the Palestinian Authority (PA) that rejected the proposal. The nuance of the situation is beyond what BDS can accomplish by solely blaming Israel.

The reality of the situation is complicated. There are, at minimum, two conflicting narratives with two conflicting perspectives, both of them valid. We strongly acknowledge that the Palestinian narrative is valid and must be heard, and that the Israeli narrative holds equal validity. We want to come to the table to discuss the challenging reality Palestinians face in their everyday lives, the question of settlement construction in occupied territory and the feasibility of a two-state solution. We want to find commonalities and create a united front on which we can push for real change together. We can’t do this when the conversation surrounds BDS.

NU Divest suggests that “supporters of NU Divest do not need to have a historical background on the conflict, nor do they need to be in support of any particular nation or political solution. Rather, those who support human rights for all, including Palestinians, should support NU Divest.” This is deeply troubling to us as NU students. We are taught to make well-informed decisions, socially, politically and academically. This rhetoric attempts to minimize the value of inquiry and knowledge in making decisions and unjustly monopolizes the idea of “human rights,” because to stand with us and support a two-state solution is to support human rights for both peoples.

We call for a Northwestern Coalition for Peace that stands for equal human rights. A coalition that recognizes the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state alongside a sovereign and strong Palestinian state. A coalition that aims to bring open conversation and an appreciation of nuance. A coalition that condemns NU Divest for distorting the conflict. We ask that you ask questions. Go to events hosted by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), J Street U and Wildcats for Israel (WFI). Research social change organizations on the ground and talk to professors on campus versed in the conflict. Peace is a process that is worth investing in.

Northwestern Coalition for Peace