Rules Out Divestment
By DAVID H. GELLIS
Crimson Staff Writer
The University [Harvard] will not sell off holdings in companies
that do business in Israel, University President Lawrence H. Summers
said in a statement released last night.
Divestment from Israel became an issue on campus over the last
two weeks as 64 Harvard professors have signed a petition calling
for the University to withdraw from investments in Israelestimated
at more than $600 million. Meanwhile more than 350 professors have
signed a counterpetition asking the University to denounce the call
In his statement, Summers said for the first time explicitly that
Harvard has no intention of divesting from Israel.
Members of our community are free as individuals to express their
diverse views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Summers said.
The University protects that freedom, and affirms its proper role,
by resisting calls to issue institutional judgments on that conflict
through the act of divestment.
Harvard should not be an organ for advocacy on an issue as complex
as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Summers said.
Opponents of divestment lauded Summers statement.
As far as a response from the president of the University, this
is appropriate and what we were expecting, said Avram D. Heilman
03, the outgoing president of Harvard Students for Israel. We werent
really expecting him to describe divestment in the terms of its
morally offensive qualities, as we do.
Heilman and others said they had hoped for a public statement against
divestment sooner but had been encouraged by comments Summers made
at House study-breaks last week that had led them to believe the
president would oppose the movement.
At Dunster House last Wednesday, Summers affirmed the right of
professors, students and staff to advocate divestment but indicated
he thought the movement was misguided.
The suggestion that [Israel's] defense against terrorist attacks
is inherently immoral seems to me to be an unsupportable one, he
said. It would be one I would be acutely uncomfortable with.
Supporters of divestment said that they disagreed with Summers
public statement but that it did not mean defeat for the movement.
I disagree with President Summers characterization of the role
of the University, because I feel it also has a responsibility to
examine its own role [in the conflict] through its investments,
said Faisal I. Chaudhry, a second-year Harvard Law School student
who helped organize the divestment drive. Its not simply a neutral
Chaudhry compared the current movement to the push for divestment
from apartheid-era South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s.
The South African divestment movement took a number of years, at
the end of which the University selectively divested, Chaudhry said.
Others said the petition succeeded in raising awareness of the
issues related to the Universitys financial involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian
This is a campaign that has succeeded in raising awareness, and
it is a campaign that must continue, said Law School student Najeeb
N. Khoury, another petition organizer.
Staff writer David H. Gellis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.