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Divesting from Israeli bonds is morally wrong

On March 3, Joe Kimball reported that a local group asked the Minnesota State Board of Investment to divest from Israeli bonds held in the state’s portfolio. Divesting from the State of Israel, the only true democracy in the Middle East, one of our nation’s strongest allies and an important trading partner for the State of Minnesota, is morally wrong. This action would place Israel on the same level as Sudan and Iran, two autocratic nations which Minnesota divested its state pension funds from in 2007 and 2009 because of their recognition by the United States State Department as state sponsors of terrorism.

With its free press, vigorously contested elections, fiercely independent judiciary and guarantees of religious freedom, Israel is very similar to our own imperfect democracy.  Accordingly, divesting from Israel because of a disagreement with any given Israeli government or policy makes as much sense as boycotting the United States because of opposition to the president or the party controlling Congress.

Marginalizing Israel will make it impossible to reach a peaceful and just accord to the Arab-Israeli conflict as it makes it more difficult for Israelis to feel secure in making the risky and painful concessions that will be necessary to achieve a two-state solution.

Advocates ignore conflict’s complexity
Divestment advocates deliberately ignore the complexity of the Arab-Israeli conflict. With their rigidly one-sided views, divestment advocates seek only to punish Israel while not effectively demanding that the Palestinians and Arab states take concrete steps toward peace with Israel or an end to the violent terrorism and incitement perpetrated against Israel.

Divestment advocates focus on alleged Israeli human-rights violations, but ignore the genocide in Sudan, and the miserable human-rights records and status of religious minorities, women and gays in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Egypt.

While good public policy should never be exclusively driven by popular opinion, the fact remains that the vast majority of Americans across the political spectrum understand that Israel is an American ally and maintain a strongly favorable opinion toward Israel.  According to a Gallup poll in February 2010, Israel enjoys extremely high levels of public support amongst the American people.

We must all work for the realization of a two-state solution — a safe and secure Israel side by side a free and democratic Palestinian state. Those who support divestment from Israel are not working toward this goal.

Steve Hunegs is the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas.

Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 03/07/2011 - 05:08 pm.

    However, the WikiLeaks cables show clearly that Israel is not really interested in reaching any kind of resolution. Palestinian leader Abbas offered Israel compromise upon capitulation, only to be told again and again by Israel that it was “not enough.” Palestinians who read of these offers became extremely angry.

    P.S. “Alleged” war crimes??? As in the destruction (twice) of Beirut and the destruction of Gaza’s infrastructure and economy and the ongoing refusal by Israel to let construction materials for rebuilding into Gaza?

    This weekend, Israeli warplanes were used to destroy a university under construction in Gaza. I haven’t heard why, but I’d guess it was in “self defense.”

    Defunding Israel by any means may help it to see that it cannot continue on its current path if it ever wants to be part of a peaceful Middle East. Peaceful for everyone, not just Israel.

  2. Submitted by Gary Green on 03/07/2011 - 05:49 pm.

    Steve Hunegs’ comments are to be commended. Thank you Steve for expressing the views of the vast majority of Minnesotans and Americans with clarity and brevity.

    As we know, this is the time when voices like yours are needed to counter the voices of the enemies of Israel who are stepping up their campaigns to de-legitimize Israel through an international network of NGO’s dedicated to advocating economic and academic boycotts of Israel and divestment in companies that do business with Israel while at the same time urging the United States to stop its military support of Israel.

    I urge Minnesotans to continue to support Israel through their private prayers and their public voices.

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