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Saturday, August 8, 2020

Brown University Committee Votes to Recommend Divestment from Israel

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A Brown University committee voted on Dec. 2 to recommend the university divest from companies that conduct business with Israel.

The Brown Daily Herald reports that the Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Practices (ACCRIP) voted with six in favor, two against and one abstaining. The recommendation stated that the university needed to stop investing in “companies identified as facilitating human rights abuses in Palestine.”

Brown Students for Israel condemned the committee vote in a Facebook post.

“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,” they wrote. “We continue to support measures that promote cooperation and dialogue, not measures that promote division and demonization.”

Brown alumnus Jeffrey Liss wrote in a letter to the Herald that ACCRIP engaged in an act of hypocrisy.

“What about companies identified as facilitating human rights abuses in, for example, China (one million Muslim Uighurs held for forcible indoctrination in internment prisons, and then there is Tibet), Myanmar (one million Rohingya forced to flee the country), India (actions against its Muslims), Pakistan (actions against its Hindus), Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq?” Liss wrote. “Silence.”

He argued that such a double-standard was anti-Semitic.

“The vote mirrors the dramatic, ugly rise in anti-Jewish sentiment and actions throughout Europe,” Liss wrote. “For Brown University to go along with that? For shame.”

StandWithUs Executive Director of Research and Strategy Max Samarov said in a statement to the Journal, “All this committee has done is harm its own credibility by standing on the wrong side of history. Divestment efforts like this one are ultimately about ending Israel’s existence, not stopping ‘social harm’. It is now up to the Brown administration to prevent this from harming the reputation of the entire university. We are proud of the leadership of Brown Students for Israel, who worked tirelessly to educate committee members, administration, and their peers on why Divest’s proposal is harmful to the Brown community. This vote will not deter them from supporting Israel on campus.”

The Brown University Divest student group tweeted that they were elated about the ACCRIP vote.

“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,” they wrote. “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.”

University spokesperson Brian Clark told the Journal in an email that the university is not going to render a decision on the recommendation until it’s presented to University President Christina Paxson.

“Our understanding is that a number of ACCRIP members had not seen the resolution prior to the vote, and therefore the committee intends some process of further review with its members before submitting to the president a report in support of a recommendation for consideration,” Clark wrote.

In March, a campuswide referendum calling for divestment from companies that conduct business with Israel passed with 69% in favor. Paxon stated at the time saying that she rejected the referendum.

“In 2013, when a number of academic associations called for academic boycotts of Israel, I made it clear that Brown would not support academic boycotts of Israel or any other country, since doing so would inhibit the open scholarly exchange that is critical for the advancement of knowledge,” Paxson said. “The previous year, I had rejected a recommendation from Brown’s Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policies to initiate dialogue about possible divestment from companies that do business in the occupied territories, expressing the same view that the endowment is not to be used to assert views on contested social and political issues.”

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