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The Harvard Divestment Scare
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At first it appeared that a pro-Palestinian group had succeeded in convincing another American university to end investments in Israel. And it wasn’t just any university. It was Harvard, no less.

The Israeli business publication Globes reported Friday that Harvard had notified the Security and Exchange Commission that it had sold its nearly $38.7 million investment in five Israeli companies and that it offered no explanation for the move.

That news was soon followed by a statement from Hind Awwad, coordinator of the Palestinian Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee. He was quoted by the website Media Line as saying: “We welcome Harvard’s decision and encourage all academic institutions in the U.S. and elsewhere to follow its lead, to invest in socially responsible investments and divest from Israeli war crimes.”

Alarmed by the reports, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations contacted Harvard and was told the university was simply rebalancing its portfolio.

But Malcolm Hoenlein, the group’s executive vice chairman, said his organization “expressed concern to the president of the university that a perception was created and that a clarification was important so that others would not use it as a pretext for similar action.”

The Harvard Management Company, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Harvard that manages its endowment and financial assets, issued a statement Monday said it has “not divested from Israel.” 

It explained that it had sold its investment in the five Israeli companies — including the pharmaceutical giant Teva — only because Israel had been part of its emerging markets portfolio and that when the country’s status was upgraded to developed market, it had to sell those holdings.

It adding that Harvard continues to have holdings in “developed markets, including Israel, through outside managers in commingled accounts and indexes.”

There was no immediate response from the pro-Palestinian group.


Last Update:

08/18/2010 - 16:06
Harvard University, investments, pro-Palestine groups
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Divestment seems to be the best strategy to bring apartheid states into compliance with basic democratic rights. Since Israel has decided to occupy, annex and incorporate the land of Palestine without the people, it is engaging in what are plain and simple war crimes under the Geneva Conventions. Israel as an ethnic state in a multi-ethnic land is apartheid, also illegal under international law and a true crime by any measure since these were the same legal and political crimes committed against Jews in Europe. If the political class is too compromised to take any humane stand, then civil society must act by truly isolating the apartheid regime. When the land from the Jordan River to the sea is a democratic, secular state -- then we will all be better people. Let that land be a crossroads of the world, not an ugly racist garrison. I'm not holding my fingers for Harvard -- but this issue is only going in one direction: towards a just solution. I refuse to let the crimes of Israel be done in the name of the Jewish people, as my family has known peace and security exactly through democratic principles and multi-ethnic society. Jews are no more responsible for Zionism than any other people for ugly ethnocentrism committed in their name.
For the public record, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East was active in seeking the clarifcation of story and your readers can see our statement at The SPME BDS Task Force, led by Edward Beck, Alan Dershowitz and included Nobel Laureates Steven Weinberg (University of Texas) and Roger Kornberg (Stanford) , as well as Judea Pearl (UCLA), Ilan Troen (Brandeis), Jonathon Cohn (Thomas Jefferson University) and along with SPME Board member Awi Federgruen ( Columbia University) and other members of the Task Force and Board were instrumental in getting a public statement from Harvard Management Corporation and clarification of the issue.

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