Afterthoughts on DePaul Divest

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When I was growing up, one of my favorite movies was Pocahontas.  I liked it for many reasons, but what I loved the most was the change of heart that John Smith has after falling in love with Pocahontas and talking to Grandmother Willow, as well as the change of heart within the whole crew.  In this movie, there are clearly ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys.’ Governor Ratcliffe was certainly bad, leading a crew to dig non-existent gold, and Pocahontas was definitely good, saving John Smith from death as well as helping to create peace between her tribe and Smith’s crew.

What I loved about this movie was not based in factual history. The movie had glossed over Pocahontas’ capture by the English in 1613 and her death at age 22. Real life is not that simple.  This idea of ‘Good vs. Evil’ penetrates tons of movies and literature.  It was instilled in my mind from a very young age, which is why the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is more than confusing for me.

For those of you who don’t know what the BDS movement is, I will sum it up quickly.

The BDS movement wants three things:

1)     “Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall;
2)     Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
3)     Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.” (BDS Movement)

On DePaul’s campus, the main goal of the BDS movement was to achieve these three objectives and divest—un-invest—from different companies that were said to be committing human right’s violations, such as Hewlett-Packard, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Caterpillar.

The Anti-Divestment side makes three main points:

1)     “There is no comparison between Israeli policy and apartheid South Africa; there is no Israeli ideology, policy or plan to segregate, persecute or mistreat its Israeli Arab citizens.
2)     Divestment advocates ignore the complexity of the conflict.
3)     Israel is being unfairly singled out for human rights violations.”  (Anti-Defamation League)

In other words, they wanted to prevent the divestment from these companies.

The campaigns have become more complex and complicated than these main talking points, yet these are their missions at the core.

As a college student who identifies herself as part of the Jewish community, I was immediately expected to be part of the Anti-Divest campaign. Why would I not help fight for Israel?  How could I not support the Jewish state which has given a home and hope to so many people like me?  I agreed, saying I would hand out “Vote no” fliers, although I had no idea exactly what I was telling people to vote no for. As soon as I put on the Anti-Divestment shirt, I was on one side, and people’s reactions made that apparent.  For example, as I was talking to one of the students– we both were kind of deciphering what each side was basically arguing– a Pro-Divestment woman came up to me, turned to a student and said, “she is against us.”  Immediately, she had decided that I would not listen to her ideas, and that my ideas were not worth listening to.  Another extreme reaction I got was from the many people who listened to my spiel, and said, “OK, I’ll vote no!” without any apparent thought.

And isn’t that the problem?  These people were taking my uncertain advice, or the advice of the opposing side and voting an uninformed ‘yes’ or ‘no’ because they were told to.

When students had the ability to vote on the issue, they voted on the DePaul’s Webpage.  Every student was prompted this question:

“Through its mutual funds, DePaul University invests in corporations that manufacture weapons and provide surveillance technology to the Israeli government, army, and prison services. Companies like Hewlett-Packard, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Caterpillar profit from Israel’s violation of the human rights of Palestinians and minorities within Israel. They violate people’s rights to life, movement, healthcare, education, and freedom.
Do you think that DePaul should follow socially responsible investment practices and divest its funds from companies that profit from Israel’s discriminatory practices and human rights violations?”

Without trying to sound harsh, it’s pretty obvious that someone from a particular side wrote this question. This question was worded poorly and students were not provided with resources to see both sides.

I am not preaching to one side, I am solely explaining my experience with Divest on my campus.  Information is the most valuable resource in situations like this.  Anyone can play games with words to create a good side and a bad one.  In this past week, I have found that there is not always a clear Governor Ratcliffe and Pocahontas in every situation.  Although it is easy to follow what a friend or fellow citizen of a cultural group says, that’s not always the right answer.  Everything, including this conflict, and every person is infinitely more complicated than it may seem. Preaching and hiding behind somebody else’s words prevents true dialogue and change, and creates sides and separation.  The only answer is to continue to think critically and openly, and get educated; this can create change in minds and hearts.

“To generalize about war is like generalizing about peace. Almost everything is true. Almost nothing is true…”

-Tim O’Brien, “The Things They Carried”

 

Jones_Autumn_Bio
Autumn Jones: Francophile, psychic, and mother of dragons. Can say “Where’s the Taco Bell?” in five languages (including emoji).