Selective divestment at Hampshire College. Dershowitz brings administration to their knees.

Recently the Students for a Justice in Palestine (SJP) at Hampshire college were instrumental in getting the board of trustees to disinvest in the State Street mutual fund as part of a campaign to divest from companies that benefit from Israel’s 40-plus year occupation of Palestinian Territories. Not surprisingly, right-wing defender of Israel’s occupation, Alan Dershowitz, immediately threatened not only the SJP, but Hampshire college with destruction by starting an international campaign to disinvest from the college.

(You can write a letter of support to HampshireSJP@gmail.com)

Howard Friel has written a an in-depth (and thoroughly footnoted) analysis of Dershowitz’s pattern of scorched earth tactics in his unending efforts to destroy critics of Israeli policies, starting with campaign to bring Hampshire to its knees,  to the extent of even trying to extract a promise to punish the students in the SJP for bigotry ( it should be noted, included leader Matan Cohen, a young Isareli who lost partial vision in one eye after an Israeli soldier shot him with a rubber bullet at a nonviolent protest in the Palestinian town of Belin.)

In his “Double Standard Watch” column in the Jerusalem Post on February 15, 2009, Dershowitz referred to the SJP students at Hampshire as “a rabidly anti-Israel group,” “the virulently anti-Israel group called Students for Justice in Palestine,” “the anti-Israel group,” “the anti-Israel students,” and “the anti-Israel student group.” Meanwhile, Dershowitz invoked “bigotry” six times as the underlying motive of “the anti-Israel students,” while demanding that the college punish the SJP students for their “bigotry.” Here is what Dershowitz wrote in this regard: “There must be a price paid for bigotry”; “singling out only Israel for divestiture is bigotry plain and simple”; “this bigoted resolution” (describing the Hampshire students’ divestment initiative); “Students and faculty [at Hampshire] too must understand that bigotry has its cost”; “decency cannot survive with the kind of double standard bigotry directed only against the Jewish state”;

and:

Hampshire is a small college without much influence. But those who are conducting the national [divestment] campaign see their “victory” at Hampshire as an opening wedge with which to get other more influential universities to follow suit by adopting similarly bigoted proposals. This is a cancer that is threatening to spread around the world, and it must be stopped where it began—at Hampshire.

The “cancer” here is the nonviolent SJP campaign to divest from businesses that contribute to Israel’s four-decade occupation of Palestinian territories in violation of international law.

Rather than defend the Hampshire College students from the charge of anti-Israel bigotry to which they were subjected, Hampshire’s Hexter and Roos began their letter to the Jerusalem Post as follows: “Dear Alan: We begin by affirming our high esteem for you, both as a legal scholar and a powerful voice against anti-Semitism.” And in response to Dershowitz’s incitement against the students—stating that “there must be a price paid for bigotry”—Hexter and Roos sought to reassure Dershowitz that the Hampshire administration will take “disciplinary action” against the students:

But we are also clear, and urge you to understand us clearly, when we say that students do not speak for the college and may not willfully misrepresent the school. It will be, and must be, the college’s task to undertake any disciplinary action, according to its established rules and procedures. Discipline is an internal process that is not shared with the public.

If “discipline is an internal process that is not shared with the public,” as Hexter and Roos wrote, why would they pledge to sanction the SJP students in an open letter to Alan Dershowitz, in order to pacify Dershowitz, but who is obviously not an administrator at Hampshire College? And immediately after ominously signaling that the Hampshire students would be thrown under the bus, Hexter and Roos concluded with a final plea for a stay of execution from the despotic Dershowitz:

Your good opinion matters to us; it matters, yes, because you are an influential public figure, but it matters even more because we count you as one of the Hampshire family, and hope that you will think of yourself that way, too.

Hopefully, Hampshire will not bow to outside pressure and maintain its institutional integrity.  Your calls and letters will help.  Its important to counter the efforts of people like Dershowitz particularly at this time when selective divestment efforts are hopefully picking up steam.

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