Harvard Divinity School professor Paul Hanson, an ELCA member, and 70 other professors at Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., signed a petition last spring favoring divestiture of university stock in companies that do business in Israel. The Chronicle of Higher Education (Oct. 4) reported that 56 professors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology also signed the petition, which cited "human rights abuses against Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli government."
The petition (www.divest-from-israel-campaign.org) was blasted by critics, including Lawrence Summers, Harvard's first Jewish president. In September, Summers warned of an "upturn in anti-Semitism" worldwide (www.president.harvard.edu/speeches). Signing the petition unfairly singles out Israel, he said, and is "anti-Semitic in effect, if not intent."
Petition supporters said Summers' speech unjustly correlated their protest with racism. Some professors are concerned that students and others won't express their views now, fearing they will be called anti-Semitic.
Hanson said the danger of a rise in anti-Semitism exists, but "it's really wrong to use such terms as anti-Semitism in such a loose manner." He told the Harvard Crimson (Sept. 19) that the petition protested only "the Sharon government, the Bush government and their policies. ... The same moral convictions that underlie my feelings against anti-Semitism underlie my position on the right of the Palestinians to their own land."
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