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February 18, 2016

JCRC Opposes Israel Divestment Efforts at the University of Minnesota

Minneapolis, MN — Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC), issued the following statement in response to efforts at the University of Minnesota to divest from corporations with business ties in Israel:

"The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC) opposes the recent efforts by student groups at the University of Minnesota calling on divestment from Israel. The JCRC also deplores the Feb. 18 editorial by the Minnesota Daily supporting divestment efforts for which a letter to the editor in response and opposition will soon be submitted. The JCRC is committed to a better way forward for Israelis and Palestinians. In contrast to the divisive vision of the proponents of divestment, the JCRC believes that peace will only come through investing in the people of Israel and Palestine in support of two states for two peoples.

"The argument for divestment is based on the zealous and ahistorical belief that the world's only Jewish state and the Middle East's sole democracy is an apartheid-ethnic cleansing-racist nation. The global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement is committed to the elimination of Israel and its replacement with a single, Palestinian Arab state. This is a zero-sum strategy, where in order for Palestinians to achieve their right of self-determination, Israelis must lose theirs. The BDS activists maintain that the only way Minnesota can assist Palestinians is by persecuting Israelis.

"Committing to investment and rejecting divestment is not just the JCRC's view, but is one we are proud to share with other moderate, practical voices working toward a two-state solution. For example, in December 2014, the highly respected Palestinian American Chamber of Commerce ended its inaugural American 'Road Show' in Minnesota with the exact same message.

"Further underscoring the importance of the Palestinian American Chamber of Commerce Minnesota visit, its leaders wrote a formal letter to Governor Mark Dayton, stating 'through economic development and mutual cooperation, it is our hope that we can play a constructive role in the establishment of an independent State of Palestine alongside the State of Israel. To that point, while we do not oppose American or Minnesota's investment in the economy of Israel, we do ask that under your leadership, Minnesota will explore ways in which it can invest in the Palestinian economy as well.'

"Americans and Minnesotans would be well-advised to follow the example of the Palestinian American Chamber of Commerce and to stop looking at Palestinians as secondary objects, seen only through the lens of Israel and the conflict. Specifically, the delegitimizing of Israel through boycotts, divestment, and sanctions is a demonstrably unproductive way to improve the lives of ordinary Palestinians or bring about the creation of an independent Palestinian state.

"By contrast, through a more positive mindset, Minnesotans can play our part in tapping the tremendous potential within the Palestinian people. Through investment, we can isolate the extremists on both sides. In turn, the JCRC aims to create the conditions which make it possible for Palestinians and Israelis, equally indigenous in the land which they both call home, to commit to the painful concessions necessary to arrive at a sustainable two-state solution."

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As the public affairs voice of the Jewish community, the JCRC fights anti-Semitism and prejudice, advocates for Israel, provides Holocaust education, promotes tolerance and social justice, and builds bridges across the Jewish and broader communities.