No to Divesting

March 31, 2003


President Nannerl O. Keohane rejected a call from a student-faculty group for the university to divest from companies with military ties to Israel. In her statement, Keohane said the tactic of divestment was "was not well designed" for the purpose of resolving the complicated issues of the region.

" It is of course appropriate for members of the Duke community to express their opposition to the policies of the government of Israel, and for others to make clear their own support for those policies. But divestment is not the right response; it is too blunt an instrument to use in a situation where there are good arguments to be made about responsibility and complicity on both sides of this conflict."

The campus group, DukeDivest, had called for university divestment from companies providing military assistance to Israel as a way, it says, to pressure the Israeli government to work toward peace in the region. A Duke student organizer told The Chronicle that its effort would go on. "We will continue to make the call for divestment through teach-ins, rallies, and meetings with the president," junior Yousuf Al-Bulushi said.

Organizers had compared the effort with similar initiatives in the 1980s to force universities to divest from South Africa. But in her statement, Keohane noted there were significant differences between the two: "In the case of South Africa, where many people came to believe that divestment was warranted, there was an extraordinary level of moral clarity about questions of responsibility. There were also well-developed mechanisms in place to ensure that connections were made between actions on campuses and results in South Africa. And finally, the complicated issues around whether and how ethical investing policies can override our fundamental duties of fiduciary responsibility to our institution had been thoughtfully worked through at many institutions. None of these factors is present in this situation.

" The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is far too multi-faceted to treat as a simple issue of Israeli responsibility and non-compliance; the divestment petition targets only one side in this tragic situation. There is no question, however, that a serious, thoughtful discussion of this conflict on campus will give all of us a chance to understand these issues better and to form our own well-founded judgments."