NYU Out of Occupied Palestine released a petition signed by 130 NYU professors, calling for the university’s divestment from Israeli business partners that benefit from occupation in Palestine.
The petition takes its cue from the larger Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that is gaining momentum among student governments, especially in the University of California system. However, the aims of the NYU Out of Occupied Palestine petition are more limited, seeking only divestment from companies that are linked to Israeli operations in Gaza and the West Bank, targeting corporations like Caterpillar, Motorola and Hewlett-Packard.
The petition alleges that NYU is likely to have investments in companies that play a supporting role in the continued Israeli presence in Palestinian areas.
“There is good reason to believe that NYU is invested in companies which contribute to or profit from — and thus help perpetuate — Israel’s ongoing occupation and illegal settlement of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, its military and economic siege of Gaza and its denial of the most basic human and civil rights to the 4.5 million Palestinians who live in these occupied Palestinian territories,” the petition reads. “We therefore believe that NYU must divest itself of any holdings it may have in such companies.”
NYU Out of Occupied Palestine describes itself on the petition’s webpage as a coalition of NYU faculty and students that believe NYU should not invest in companies that give money to and profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Professor Jeff Goodwin, one of the petition’s signatories, said he sees no reason why universities should devote funds to companies that allegedly support illegal occupation in Palestine.
“I don’t think anyone should have money invested in corporations that are doing bad things,” Goodwin said.
Goodwin also said he was not aware of any organized faculty effort behind the petition.
“A lot of faculty have signed it, and that’s all I know,” Goodwin said.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, an outspoken pro-Israeli activist, leveled charges of prejudice and hypocrisy at the professors who signed the petition. In February, he criticized NYU Hillel for refusing to support a speech by Israel’s U.N. ambassador Ron Prosor. He also rejected the comparison between Israel and apartheid-era South Africa.
“Any professor who calls Israel an apartheid state is guilty of ignorance, moral blindness and an assault on the sacred memory of Nelson Mandela, who they are of necessity comparing to Yasser Arafat,” Boteach said. “Mandela was a man of peace who brought together people of different races in harmony and equality. Hamas, however, is dedicated in their charter to the genocide of Jewish people wherever they may be found.”
Professor Harvey Molotch, however, largely concurred with the comparison. He cited the disparity in living conditions between Israel and Palestine as a major factor in his decision to sign the petition.
“The two societies are dramatically stratified and unequal in terms of material resources, political rights and access to the outside world,” Molotch said. “So in that sense, the analogy holds water.”
NYU Out of Occupied Palestine plans to continue its already existing allyship with NYU Divest and the Coalition for Fair Labor at NYU to ask for more transparency when it comes to the university administration.
A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, April 15 print edition. Email Ned Harrell at [email protected]