By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
[New York Times Op Ed Page - 16 October]:
The Washington Post recently reported that students and faculty at a growing number of universities are pressuring their schools "into selling their holdings in companies that do business with Israel, prompting a counter-campaign among Jewish groups that consider the effort part of a creeping tide of anti-Semitism on campus." Here's what I would say to both sides on this issue:
Memo to professors and students leading the divestiture campaign: Your campaign for divestiture from Israel is deeply dishonest and hypocritical, and any university that goes along with it does not deserve the title of institution of higher learning.
You are dishonest because to single out Israel as the only party to blame for the current impasse is to perpetrate a lie. Historians can debate whether the Camp David and Clinton peace proposals for a Palestinian state were for 85, 90, or 97 percent of the West Bank and Gaza. But what is not debatable is what the proper Palestinian response should have been. It should have been to tell Israel and America that their peace proposals were the first fair offer they had ever put forth, and although they still fell short of what Palestinians feel is a just two-state solution, Palestinians were now prepared to work with Israel and America to achieve that end. The proper response was not a Palestinian intifada and 100 suicide bombers, which are what brought Ariel Sharon to power.
It is shameful that at a time when some Palestinians are writing that they made a historic mistake in not nurturing the Clinton peace offer, pro-Palestinian professors and students in America and Europe pretend that the only reason the occupation persists is because of Israeli obstinacy. This approach will never gain the Palestinians a state, and those who dabble in it are simply prolonging Palestinian misery.
You are also hypocrites. How is it that Egypt imprisons the leading democracy advocate in the Arab world, after a phony trial, and not a single student group in America calls for divestiture from Egypt? (I'm not calling for it, but the silence is telling.) How is it that Syria occupies Lebanon for 25 years, chokes the life out of its democracy, and not a single student group calls for divestiture from Syria? How is it that Saudi Arabia denies its women the most basic human rights, and bans any other religion from being practiced publicly on its soil, and not a single student group calls for divestiture from Saudi Arabia?
Criticizing Israel is not anti-Semitic, and saying so is vile. But singling out Israel for opprobrium and international sanction — out of all proportion to any other party in the Middle East — is anti-Semitic, and not saying so is dishonest.
Memo to Israel's supporters: Just because there are anti-Semites who blame Israel for everything that is wrong does not mean that whatever Israel does is right, or in its self-interest, or just. The settlement policy Israel has been pursuing is going to lead to the demise of the Jewish state. No, settlements are not the reason for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but to think they do not exacerbate it, and are not locking Israel into a permanent occupation, is also dishonest.
If the settlers get their way, Israel will de facto or de jure annex the West Bank and Gaza. And if current Palestinian birth rates continue, by around the year 2010 there will be more Palestinians than Jews living in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza combined. When that happens, the demand of the college anti-Israel movements will change.
They won't bother anymore with divestiture. They will simply demand: "One Man, One Vote. Since Israel has de facto annexed the territories, and there is now just one political entity between Jordan and the Mediterranean, we want majority rule." If you think it is hard to defend Israel on campus today, imagine doing it in 2010, when the colonial settlers have so locked Israel into the territories it can rule them only by apartheid-like policies.
This is not a call for unilateral Israeli withdrawal. This is a call for everyone who wants Israel to remain a Jewish state — and not become a binational state — to urge President Bush to renew the U.S. push for a two-state solution. If you think the Bush team is doing Israel a favor with its diplomacy of benign neglect, if you think the only campaign Jews need to be involved in today is with hypocrites on U.S. college campuses — and not with extremists in their own camp — you too are telling yourselves a very big and dangerous lie.