In Which I Try to Talk about Divestment and Free Speech (Without Getting Bogged Down in Nuanced Political Issues On Which I am Unqualified to Speak)Wednesday, May 12th, 2010
The Israeli/Palestinian conflict once again became a heated issue on campus when the possibility of a divestment bill nearly reached the ASSU Undergraduate Senate last week. As that happened, people started writing about Israel, Palestine, and the idea of divestment: (in chronological order–take a deep breath, here goes): op-ed here, op-ed here, op-ed here, an overview here (recommended), a news article here, an op-ed here, an op-ed here, a news article here, an op-ed here, and an op-ed here, and this. On top of all this, people actually utilized the comments section of some of these articles–most notably Linda Hess’s piece (op-ed the third)–and went on to add to the dialogue a mix of comments ranging from interesting to hateful to hilarious.
After reading all of the above and talking in-depth with members of the ASSU and students who support (strongly) both sides of the issue, one thing is extraordinarily clear: whatever your view on divestment is, or on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, it is absolutely clear that this is not a topic in which the ASSU should have any involvement.
Luckily, and to my cynical-self’s surprise, the leaders of the primary pro-divestment group (Campaign Restore Hope) and anti-divestment group (Invest for Peace)* have come together and agreed that the ASSU should not be the arena for the divestment debate. I have no idea how this occurred, but I cannot commend the leaders in this discussion enough: this is a victory for any hope at actual progress and helps diminish the likelihood of the campus devolving further into an unproductive flame war with heavily negative consequences for many students on campus.
What this last concept–negative consequences of this debate–brings to light is that much of the divestment discussion is intimately linked with free speech. But free speech, like Israeli/Palestinian politics, is a much more nuanced issue than most people want to acknowledge.