Portland University Passes pro-BDS Measure
Near-unanimous vote draws links between black and indigenous civil rights activism and pro-Palestinian efforts.
JTA Oct 27, 2016 12:53 PM
Portland State University’s student senate passed a resolution on Monday urging divestment from companies that “profit from human rights violations” by Israel against Palestinians.
The resolution passed with 22 votes in favor, two against and one abstention, according to the meeting notes, the conservative news and opinion site The College Fix reported. The measure draws links between black and indigenous civil rights activism and pro-Palestinian efforts.
The resolution, authored by student senator Phoenix Singer and Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights, calls on the university to divest from companies harming Palestinians by working with the Israeli military. It also alleges that Israel has been occupying Palestinian land since its establishment in 1948.
The text mentions several companies by name, including Caterpillar, G4S, Hewlett Packard and Motorola, all of which it says “profit from human rights violations against Palestinian civilians by the Israeli government.”
It also calls on the university “to put in place an internal investment screen which prohibits investment in any company that provides weapons or equipment used” to harm Israeli or Palestinian civilians, conduct Palestinian home demolitions, build or maintain settlements or the Israeli West Bank security fence.
In a statement released in June, Portland State President Wim Wiewel called the resolution “divisive and ill-informed.” Since the university’s funds are managed by the Oregon state treasurer together with other public university funds, the resolution in itself “has no practical effect,” Wiewel wrote.
The Israel advocacy group StandWithUs condemned the resolution in a statement that noted the vote took place on the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah.
“[T]he claim that Israel’s mere existence is an ‘occupation’ makes it clear that the purpose of this resolution is to promote bigotry, not justice or human rights,” said StandWithUs Pacific Northwest coordinator Noa Raman.
Neocon-Bashers Headline Koch Event as Political Realignment on Foreign Policy Continues
May 18 2016, 6:21 p.m.
In the latest example of how foreign policy no longer neatly aligns with party politics, the Charles Koch Institute — the think tank founded and funded by energy billionaire Charles Koch — hosted an all-day event Wednesday featuring a set of speakers you would be more likely to associate with a left-wing anti-war rally than a gathering hosted by a longtime right-wing institution.
At the event, titled “Advancing American Security: The Future of U.S. Foreign Policy,” prominent realist and liberal foreign policy scholars took turns trashing the neoconservative worldview that has dominated the foreign policy thinking of the Republican Party — which the Koch brothers have been allied with for decades.
Most of the speakers assailed the Iraq War, nation building, and regime change. During a panel event also featuring former Obama Pentagon official Kathleen Hicks, foreign policy scholar John Mearsheimer brought the crowd to applause by denouncing American military overreach.
“We need to pull back, stop fighting all these wars. Stop defending rich people who are fully capable of defending themselves, and instead spend the money at home. Period. End of story!” he said, in remarks that began with a denunciation of the dilapidated state of the Washington Metrorail system.
“I completely agree on infrastructure,” Hicks said. “A big footprint in the Middle East is not helpful to the United States, politically, militarily, or otherwise.”
Chas Freeman, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, decried U.S. thinking on toppling foreign governments. “One has to start questioning the basic premise of regime change, whether it is to be accomplished by invasion and occupation or by covert action or the empowerment of NGO activity on the ground or other means,” he reflected. “Frankly, it generally doesn’t go well.”
“If you want to know why our bridges are rickety … our children are educationally malnourished, think of where we put the money,” concluded Freeman, pointing to the outsized military budget.
Over lunch, Stephen Walt, the Foreign Policy columnist and Harvard realist foreign policy scholar, said the presidential election is providing evidence that the military-restraint camp is starting to make progress. “On the campaign trail, both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have gotten receptive audiences when they questioned certain aspects of foreign policy. Really, Hillary Clinton is the only candidate defending the status quo,” he boasted. “I think those public doubts are not surprising because … our current policy has been a costly failure.”
Walt dubbed his own prescription for foreign policy “offshore balancing” — a middle ground between full-scale military engagement and isolationism, where the U.S. would engage diplomatically and economically first and foremost, and retain the capacity to militarily intervene only when major power imbalances occur, where one state would be able to threaten global security.
Mearshiemer, Walt, and Freeman are particularly despised by neocons, and not simply for their starkly different policy prescriptions. Walt and Mearsheimer’s 2006 book The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy was critical of the U.S.-Israel relationship, arguing that it was overly influenced by domestic interest groups. Freeman’s nomination to an intelligence post in the Obama White House was derailed by behind-the-scenes accusations that he wasn’t sufficiently pro-Israel.
Bloomberg View columnist Eli Lake, a hawkish supporter of Israeli government policies, expressed horror at their appearance on institute panels in a column on Wednesday, writing that “the Kochs have stayed away from the uglier fringes that blame Israel and its supporters for hijacking U.S. foreign policy. That is, until now.”
The lone prominent hawk among the panelists was Michael O’Hanlon, the Brookings Institute scholar and liberal interventionist. But perhaps in deference to the audience’s skepticism of nation building and sustained military engagement, even O’Hanlon said we need to be “very selective about when we actually employ military force,” insisting that he preferred utilizing economic sanctions rather than war in possible future confrontations with Russian and Chinese spheres of influence.
Still unresolved is whether the institute intends to take on neoconservative orthodoxy on a regular basis. “Part of what the Charles Koch Institute can do is to help increase the range of arguments on the table, have that marketplace of ideas, so the best ideas can win so that our country can flourish,” said William Ruger, the institute’s vice president for research and policy. Ruger told The Intercept that numerous additional foreign policy-centric events are planned.
“I certainly think we’re uneasy with the status quo. It doesn’t seem like the status quo is making us safer, especially given the cost of this to our soldiers, especially given the high expense in terms of our fiscal situation. Also in terms of some of the ways it affects our civil liberties as well as our standing in the world. We want to make sure that we’re not missing opportunities for ideas to be added to this conversation.”