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.