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Hampshire College Does the Right Thing By: Alan M. Dershowitz
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, March 03, 2009

A substantial majority of students at Hampshire College, as well as a majority of the vocal faculty, apparently still believe that Israel is the only country in the world from which Hampshire and other universities should divest. They seem not to care about the great abuses of human rights that are occurring in Iran, which routinely hangs children and dissidents; in North Korea which tolerates no dissent; in Zimbabwe which imprisons opposition candidates; in China which occupies Tibet; in Russia which engages in brutality against Chechnya; in Venezuela and Cuba which are ruled by dictators; in Belarus which is a throwback to Stalin’s time; in Saudi Arabia which practices gender apartheid; in Egypt, Jordan and the Philippines which routinely practiced torture against dissidents, and in so many other countries around the world.

This is not surprising coming from the Hampshire student body, many of whom have long been characterized by political correctness and group think, as well as by the vocal faculty dominated by knee jerk hard left throwbacks to the 1960s.

Life is difficult on that often intolerant campus for students who dare to express support for the Middle East’s only democracy that is fighting for its life against Iran-inspired terrorism and the threat of nuclear annihilation. I have received numerous emails from students, parents and alumni recounting horrible treatment of students who dare challenge the anti-Israel group think.

But to its credit, the Hampshire administration has done the right thing. Though it did it quite belatedly, and largely in response to threats of a counter-divestment campaign, the president and chairman of the board have finally made it crystal clear that they are not divesting from Israel and that they will not divest from Israel. Indeed, they have agreed to buy stocks in companies that do business with Israel, even those on the hit list prepared by the virulently anti-Israel group which calls itself by the misnomer Students For Justice in Palestine. The last thing this group is interested in is justice. Its express goal is to end “the occupation of Palestine,” which its leaders define to include all of what is now Israel. If they were interested in justice for Palestine, they would be seeking divestments from Hamas, which is murdering Palestinians and denying them any possibility of statehood.

In negotiations with the Hampshire administration over my call for a counter-divestment campaign against the school, I insisted that the following three conditions be met:

1. Publicly buy back the two stocks that the SJP demanded you sell that do not violate the Hampshire policy but that do business with Israel, and announce why you are buying them back.

2. Announce clearly that Hampshire rejected and will continue to reject the SJP efforts to single out Israel for divestment.

3. Announce publicly what you have said in your letter to me that those students and faculty who are claiming that Hampshire has divested from Israel are not telling the truth, are misrepresenting their authority to speak for Hampshire, and that no other school should use Hampshire's actions as a precedent for divesting from Israel.

The Hampshire administration agreed to these conditions, and I have issued the following statement:

"Hampshire has now done the right thing. It has made it unequivocally clear that it did not and will not divest from Israel. Indeed, it will continue to hold stock in companies that do business with Israel as well as with Israeli companies, so long as these companies meet the general standards that Hampshire applies to all of its holdings. As I previously wrote to President Hexter, if Hampshire did the right thing and made its position crystal clear I would urge contributors to continue to contribute to this fine school. I now do so. Indeed, I plan myself to make a contribution to Hampshire and to urge that my contribution, and perhaps others, be used to start a fund to encourage the presentation of all reasonable views regarding the Middle East to the college community. Debate about the Middle East is essential and criticism of any of the parties, when warranted, is healthy. What I condemned and continue to condemn is the singling out of Israel for divestment, unwarranted condemnation or any other sanction. I look forward to working together with Hampshire to assure that the marketplace of ideas remains open to all reasonable views on this important issue, and that students feel comfortable expressing views that may not represent the majority view on the campus."

The matter is now closed between me and the Hampshire administration, but it is still very much open between me and the majority of Hampshire students and faculty who still support the bigoted singling out of Israel for divestments. I recently offered to send a small contribution to Hampshire to encourage open and balanced dialogue on campus about the Middle East. I hope Hampshire will invite me to participate in that dialogue. The Hampshire campus can sure use some real debate about the Israeli-Arab conflict, instead of dumbed-down brainwashing that passes for education in so many colleges and universities today. I would love to confront students and faculty who have hijacked the human rights agenda in their efforts to discredit the Jewish state. Let the student body hear all sides of these divisive issues and let them think for themselves and decide based on facts, not on propaganda.

Alan M. Dershowitz is a professor of law at Harvard. He is the author of many books, including, most recently, “The Case Against Israel’s Enemies.”

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