Inside University of Michigan's Israel Divestment Debate

Letter from Ann Arbor

A Campus Divided: Students at the University of Michigan called on their school to divest from companies that they say contribute to human rights violations against the Palestinians.
Adam Glanzman/Michigan Daily
A Campus Divided: Students at the University of Michigan called on their school to divest from companies that they say contribute to human rights violations against the Palestinians.

By Yardain Amron

Published March 30, 2014.
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The resolution itself called for the university to investigate its investment portfolio and divest from companies whose sales to Israel allegedly tied the firms to human rights violations against the Palestinians. SAFE identified United Technologies, General Electric, Heidelberg Cement, and Caterpillar as among these companies. The result was one SAFE expected. But Barbara Harvey, a co-founder of the Jewish Voice for Peace’s chapter in Detroit, said the night was a huge victory.

“This was the first significant exposure [this campus] has had to the Palestinian narrative,” enthused Harvey, whose group supports the divestment drive.

Sophomore Erica Mindel, president of I-LEAD said she was upset because she felt inhibited from expressing her feelings at times.

“Any time that anybody in our community would say that we’re trying to understand your narrative and we accept your narrative as legitimate, that wasn’t reciprocated in any way,” Mindel said. “It’s scary to be targeted like that, and scary to know that how you’re feeling won’t be accepted as legitimate by other people on this campus.”

Her sentiment could be heard, in mirror image, on the other side. SAFE supporter Joel Reinstein said of the pro-Israel students, “They just clearly weren’t listening. They were continually speaking for Palestinians. They were continually ignoring the arguments we were putting forward in terms of their responses. They were ignoring these incredible heartbreaking Palestinian narratives.”

As a journalist for the campus daily, I found it a very hard week. I have friends on both sides of the conflict, and while I’m Jewish and come to the issue with a bias, I found myself swaying back and forth throughout the week. I saw students stretching towards compassion and I saw students angry and full of hate. I’ve been a part of this issue since I was born, but have never felt so torn between the sides as I do currently.

They say college is over before you know it. But this past week is one that will define many students’ experience here.

Yardain Amron is a staff reporter for the Michigan Daily, the campus newspaper of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

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