On January 10, Georgetown University’s Committee on Investments and Social Responsibility (CISR) announced that it would consider a controversial new proposal to drastically alter regulations on university investments. A campus pro-Israel group, however, has condemned the proposal for promoting a “narrow and hateful anti-Israel agenda.”
The proposal seeks to prohibit Georgetown from investing in companies that participate in the private prison industry and support the “violent Israeli occupation of Palestine.” These changes would eliminate university investments in some of the largest American companies from all sectors including banking and defense. The proposal argues that by cooperating and investing in these companies, Georgetown violates its core Jesuit values.
The campaign for divestment is organized by the group Georgetown University Forming a Radically Ethical Endowment (GU F.R.E.E.), an organization led by seniors Eman Abdelfadeel (COL ’17), Sophia Bauerschmidt Sweeney (COL ’17) and Salma Khamis (SFS ’17).
The organization’s goals align with the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) Movement that is spreading across college campuses in the United States. The movement has various chapters across the country but has been frequently criticized as being a front for an anti-Israel movement, rather than a humanitarian one.
GU F.R.E.E. denies these claims.
“We are pro-human rights, both at home and abroad,” said representatives of GU F.R.E.E in an interview with The Georgetown Review. “We affirm our right to express this position by calling for the divestment from corporations that infringe upon the human rights of marginalized communities here in the U.S., and Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.”
The proposal has been criticized by the Georgetown Israel Alliance. The group disagrees with GU F.R.E.E. on the issue of divestment and claims that any move to divest is simply part of a “narrow and hateful anti-Israel agenda.”
According to Georgetown Israel Alliance vice president Sean Lerner, the group is in the process of organizing an official response calling for a rejection of the proposal.
“We are hosting events throughout the semester to show support for Israel, present a range of opinions and demonstrate that there is a significant opposition at Georgetown to this proposal,” said Lerner.
While the divestment from companies involved with Israel has stirred controversy, this represents only one aspect of what the proposal and GU F.R.E.E. stand for. Environmental rights, too, are listed on GU F.R.E.E.’s website as one of their points of divestment.
“Many people at Georgetown may be in favor of divesting from the private prison industry,” said Lerner. “However, by grouping the two issues together, it is impossible for most Jewish and pro-Israel students to be able to back this proposal.”
Representatives from both organizations indicated a willingness to come together and discuss the proposal; yet, both groups also expressed skepticism about whether the issue could be approached from a point of understanding and openness.
Correction: A previous version of this article referred to the Georgetown Israel Alliance as a Jewish group; the organization is more accurately described as a pro-Israel group.